My goodness, it has been a long time since I last blogged. There has been so much going on in terms of major chess events. I've been avidly following the action in Dortmund and Foros, but never quite found the time to comment on them. Of course there will be coverage in the August issue of BCM. One of the reasons for my erstwhile silence has been my involvement in various other chess projects.
I seem to spend huge amounts of time chatting with people on Skype. I guess most of you will be aware that this is one of a number of ways of talking to people across broadband internet. I've been using for some time but it seems to me that it has recently taken off in a big way. Personally I use it more and more to talk to chess contacts round the world, or even have business conferences. Audio quality is usually very good and the remarkable thing is that it is free (well, once you've bought a computer and paid for your fast internet connection, that is). I cannot believe that the world's telephone companies will allow this to go on indefinitely so I'm getting my (lack of) money's worth while I can. Actually, the fact that Skype is free is becoming a problem: I end up spending hours yacking with people, and suddenly the day has gone by.
As well as conducting business deals across Skype, I have also been interviewed via Skype for ChessFM's online radio show 'John Watson on Books'. I must say it was an absolutely joy being able to chat with John Watson on his show. He is one of the world's most respected chess authors and the calm, rational, good-humoured person that comes over in his books is exactly the way he is in real life. I have never met him in the flesh and we have only ever corresponded via email, but after a while I felt so relaxed talking to him that I almost forgot that our conversation was being recorded for online transmission. Our only minor difficulties were that John had to remind me that some of my British slang ("taking the mickey") fails the transatlantic test (I think John himself understood the expression but I had to explain for the benefit of US listeners that it has nothing to do with Mickey Adams) and that the elderly, obscure and out of print books which predominated amongst my selection of favourites might baffle a largely young and American audience. If you want to listen to the show, it should still be available online at the ICC until 6 or 7 July. I don't see it in their online list of on-demand programmes - you may need to download free osftware programs Blitzin or Dasher to gain access to it, and you may also need to be a member.
My only chess outing in the past few days has been to Hastings Chess Club where they were celebrating the club's 125th anniversary. I have already written this up in detail, and with photos and video clips elsewhere on the BCM website. It was very enjoyable to celebrate this occasion with Hastings CC members who are obviously immensely proud of their club - and rightly so. A huge amount of work has gone into organising their club over a century and a quarter, and without all this selfless, voluntary activity it couldn't hope to have survived so long.
Perhaps someone at Hastings could do us all a favour and write a chess book called Secrets of Chess Club Organisation. In the long run, this would be vastly more useful than 100 books on how to play the Sicilian Defence. Without legions of volunteers and helpers, competition chess would simply disappear. As someone who has played a part in trying to run a chess club (looking back I don't think I was very good at it), I know that it is damnably difficult to keep a club running for 5 or 10 years, let alone 125. Of course, there are other splendidly-run clubs elsewhere in Britain as well as Hastings but I don't there are as many of them as we need and I know for a fact that clubs can die for want of a bit of common sense in their organisation. Now that our cadre of professional players is dwindling down to a handful, it may be time for a 'back to basics' campaign so that we can attempt to rebuild British chess from the bottom up.
Incidentally, I had a look on the ECF website for something about setting up a chess club and found a link to 'advice' near the top of the left-hand column. I clicked on that and found some reasonable stuff about (for example) catering for junior players at chess clubs, and the basics of how to set up an 'event' (presumably a tournament or simul) but nothing particularly detailed about setting up and running a chess club. Maybe this is something for a website in its own right - a gap in the market for some enterprising soul...