- It's claimed that professional chess is in a crisis in England. Is this actually true, or are there in fact more professionals than ever?
- How does the current performance compare to most historical periods and should the period roughly 1975-1995 be seen as a "blip" rather than the norm? If so, why did it happen and can those conditions be recreated?
- Is there any reason to think England significantly different to Western Europe as a whole? Where are the new Hubners and Timmans and Anderssons? Doesn't elite Western European chess - Adams aside - presently rest basically on one Danish prodigy, who is an exception more or less by definition? Is England therefore not typical rather than exceptional?
- Haven't most leading English players always been amateurs and haven't there always been many strong English players who've given up the game? Does Matthew Sadler's retirement actually point to some crisis or isn't it in fact completely normal? Didn't Michael Stean give up at the height of the boom? Or Ray Keene, for that matter? Doesn't this happen in most Western European countries?
- Does this not suggest that there are structural and cultural reasons for the inability of England and other Western European countries to produce world-class chessplayers or to provide a comfortable living for people playing a little below that level?
- Isn't the major reason for the so-called decline of English chess the fall of the USSR and the subsequent emergence of a great number of strong chessplayers from the former Soviet bloc? Are there not so many of these because chess culture was promoted so heavily in the Soviet years and chess therefore became far more prominent and widespread in those countries than in the West?
- Moreover are living standards not rather lower in these countries, making alternative careers to chess less attractive - but also meaning that prize money in Euros goes much further?
- Didn't the chess boom that took place during my schooldays originate with just a couple of major phenomena? I don't mean that they were enough on their own (of course a lot of people did a lot of work) but that without them, it just couldn't have happened? One of these was of course, the Fischer v Spassky match. But wasn't the other the TV show The Master Game? Isn't it likely that that show was far more influential in creating chessplayers than anybody has ever appreciated?
- Does this not mean that if people want the public to follow chess and take it up, it absolutely has to be on telly?
- Isn't it very probable that chess entrepreneurs in the UK have in fact been trying to get chess on TV, probably in the Master Game format or similar, but have failed? (I don't know this - I don't know some secret you don't know! - but I'm speculating.) Wouldn't you wonder whether the reason it's not been on telly would be the difficulty in finding TV executives who think that there would be any viewing audience for chess?
[10a. Have the ECF ever contacted BBC News Online and asked them why they have no regular chess coverage in a news service which is otherwise probably the most comprehensive in the world?]
PS This post originally appeared on Tuesday 24 July but as it was overtaken by other news that day, we've bumped it back to the top.....