Friday, June 29, 2007

Amateurs Only In London League Chess?

"Moves are afoot to outlaw professional players in the London League," reported Malcolm Pein on Wednesday in The Daily Telegraph.

"The matter may be discussed at the league’s next AGM. Several teams have fielded Grandmasters and International Masters over the years and most recently your correspondent’s team Wood Green, who won the London League 2006-2007 have had as many as five Grandmasters playing in crucial matches."

Read the whole thing here.

This raises more than one intriguing question. Is anti-professionalism good for a chess scene? Is there an official mechanism for determining who is paid to play in a chess match, and who not? How did Malcolm Pein find out about this story? Who are the mysterious unnamed movers attempting to do this? Is this as surprising to you as to me?

(PS. Thanks go to a very busy Jonathan B for the tip-off.)

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that anyone should be allowed to play in the London League. Although Wood Green make it a no contest, I am sure they make other strong players keener to play in the league. Also you would have tremendous problems figuring out who was a professional and who wasn't- and if they were getting paid for the match- what if they just got free transport, beer and a curry each time they played- would you need the waiters to check up to see who paid the bill. Also as I have said before, about 50 people make their living from chess despite having grades ranging from 50-200. These players will be banned aswell? In summary I see this as unworkable and have no desire to see it implemented even if it was workable.
Andrew

ejh said...

I personally see it as an incentive to the opponent. I took great pleasure in taking Desmond Tan to two full sessions the season before last in the knowledge that somebody with more money than sense had paid him a decent wad of cash for playing against me.

To my mind the situation with Wood Green is a bit silly but there's not much that can be done about it even if the the cures were not worse than the disease. I do dislike "ringers", and I wouldn't want to see teams avoid relegation or gain promotion in the last match by jettisoning the players they'd used already in favour of a one-off set of hired guns. But the London League has rules to prevent that.

Jonathan B said...

I find this whole thing a bit odd.

Firstly why anybody feels the need to pay someone to play in the London League it totally beyond me. If I end up playing in a competition (albeit on bottom board as a last minute replacement) it's clearly not that big a deal.

That said, I don't have a problem with people being paid if somebody wants to throw their money away.

As has been pointed out, how is this going to be enforceable in practice?

Jonathan B said...

PS:
Isn't Malcolm Pein connected with Wood Green?

Anonymous said...

It's worse than suggested in Pein's article: Wad Green had a GM playing on board 10 in their match vs. Cavendish.

I don't understand that point of paying players - £70+ each, I've heard - to play. You may win the league, at great cost, but so what? What do you get out of it?

Angus.

Anonymous said...

I also wonder that Angus but I also wonder what people get out of paying far greater sums for strong 4NCL sums? How much would it cost to get a top 10 player over from Europe for 2/3 matches. Expenses must be about £400 before any appearance fees.
Andrew

ejh said...

Ha, Wad Green, very good.

Presumably either somebody's made a proposal to an AGM, or talked about doing so? And presumably the Wood Green players don't like it, hence the Pein piece?

Jonathan B said...

So why now for the proposal for banning professional players?

I may be wrong here but I seem to remember reading somewhere that by winning the London League this year Wad Green (nice one Angus) have equalled a record set by Cavendish for the most consecutive league titles.

So if they win next year they'll set their own record.

So Cavendish would rather WG didn't have access to professional players?

Anonymous said...

The closest I can get to GMs in competition is most likely a simul for which I would have to shell out funds. The idea that someone would pay a GM seventy pounds to play me is both deeply flattering and hysterically funny. A fool and their money are soon parted. If it makes income for the GM, I'm for it. I would learn something from the game.
Banning professionals is a silly idea - and would make us engage in the hypocrisies of Wimbledon in the 50's and 60's when they did the same thing and then decided it was unworkable.
Chris

Anonymous said...

Some further thoughts:

1. Perhaps WG's rivals, Cavendish, are unhappy and feel that the LL title has been "bought".

2. I don't think I care that much. If I was fortunate enough to play a titled player then great. I'll almost certainly lose - though I'll try my damnedest not to - and will view the experience as a free lesson. (This echoes Chris's point.)

3. What happens when the money runs out? What is left of the club? If I recall correctly, Hampstead and Charlton both used to pay players to play for them in the London League. Where are they now? I believe Hampstead CC no longer exists (certainly there's no team from the club in the London League) and Charlton have merged with non-neighbours Beckenham.

Angus.

Anonymous said...

What a stupid idea (and I wouldn't be in the least surprised if Cavendish are the source). Everyone should welcome people putting their money in to chess for whatever reason, whatever the reason that they do so. Because the more strong chess players that there are, the stronger the game as a whole in the country. Everything has a knock on effect. If strong players cannot make a living at the game then they will at worst give up, at best not play very often and not become as strong as they could. It is no coincidence that England's performance in Olympiads has suffered dramatically as the professional game in this country has been slowly dying. Anything which accelerates this process even further can only make things worse.

As it happens i am a strong player who plays in the London League (and for a team that could hope to win if Wood Green didn't exist).

Anonymous said...

Ilford are the obvious alternative source

Anonymous said...

A minor point, but I assume the proponents have a ready made replacement for the Secretary of the League as well!

ejh said...

Everyone should welcome people putting their money in to chess for whatever reason, whatever the reason that they do so.

Whatever the reason? That's asking a bit much.

In general, I think too much is made of the absence of patronage and sponsorship. I don't mean that I don't think it matters - I mean that it's looking at things the wrong way round. The reason there's not enough money in chess isn't that not enough effort is made to find sponsorship - no doubt things could be done better, but it wouldn't make a substantial difference.

The real problem is it's that currently there is not that much interest in chess. This is a problem of culture and one that's difficult to address, but what we should perhaps be doing is working out how to address that.

Anonymous said...

A number of good points have been made. I have to agree with Andrew and Justin's initial posts, i.e. I don't see the problem with (semi-)professional players being paid to take part in the LL although I draw the line at getting somebody in for a relegation/ promotion play off. Anyway, I can't add anymore to the comments already posted, but Justin's final post is pretty interesting: why isn't there much interest in chess in the UK? I remember going to Russia in 1994 and EVERYBODY played. Do you think it's a legacy of the traditional state-sponsorship of chess?
Antony

Tom Chivers said...

I think interest in OTB chess is declining - but perhaps being replaced by interest in online chess. I for one didn't play chess OTB for a few years, but kept going on the internet, at least casually...

ejh said...

I think it's because of the failure to see chess as a sport and conceivably also a general suspicion of overt intellectual activity within Anglo-American culture?

Anonymous said...

what a load of rubbish! outlaw professionals from the london chess league? then what will it become? a pile of trash where only patzers play.

for instance if we didnt have the rooney, ronaldo,drogba, gerrard etc in football, then surely everyone would lose interest in the game, because it would become boring?

The better players, the more interest you will get from these leagues, although im a strong player myself (not IM-GM level by the way), and dont play in the london league, it would make me want to play in it, to get a chance to play against these top-notch professionals, its exciting.

i dont see a problem with paying good players to play either, they actually deserve alot more credit than they get, considering they put there heart and soul into the game, i respect them, respect them alot.

although how do the people who are paying them, ever gain profit, or at least break-even ? because of the lack of money in chess.

so i say this now - CHEER UP YOU BUNCH OF OLD SODS , stop trying to kick the best players out of the league, because you want to grill your own satisfaction in it.

P.S. we CAN get alot of pleasure from playing these guys - even if we do get stuffed in the game.