A Matter of Time

Would it be simpler if NECL used a single time control of all moves in 90 minutes?
Should NECL clubs with digital clocks have the option to use time controls such as Fischer?
Should we adopt either/both of these, or leave things as they are?
If a club is thinking of investing in digital, such changes could affect the type of clock and the quantity affordable. These are not proposals but I do wonder what other members think about this, so please comment if you have views one way or the other?

More clubs are aquiring digital clocks which have the option to use the Fischer type of time control. Some tournaments (British Chess Championships, 4NCL..) already use Fischer, and some leagues have either adopted it as an alternative, or are considering doing so. It’s just “a matter of time” before someone proposes players have the option in NECL matches to work to a Fischer control of say 75 minutes + 10 bonus seconds per move. A single control of all moves in 90 minutes is another option that players might find simpler (than present time controls) when using either type of clock.

Analogue clocks:-  The double period time control requires a player to “fiddle about” adjusting the clock, checking the opponent agrees the target time before/after moving the hands, ensuring you both see it square-on, and maybe not saying anything if it looks half a minute out either way – all has a tendency to disrupt player’s thoughts. The single time control avoids all that.

Digital clocks:- have been around some years now but still raise more discussion (than analogue) about exactly what they will/not do with present NECL double period time controls. Whilst some players are happy with either type, many still find digital less intuitive – and this is not just because they count down instead of up or look/feel different to the familiar analogue clock.
Other reasons that come to mind;-

  • Many players are not comfortable to use them, and even less confident to set them up – because hitting the wrong button/switch underneath might put it into an obscure mode, maybe without this being immediately obvious and might be difficult to correct later.
    Did anyone need “an expert” after their first encounter with an analogue clock?
    It was all pretty obvious. You didn’t need to read the manual, and it didn’t much matter what brand and model it was either, as they are all pretty much alike!
  • Some digital clocks will add the 15 minutes after the 30th move, most will add this on after the 75 minutes.  Do we always know which type we are using?
    Not only did we have to get used to time being added in a different way, players still often need to inquire at the start “when does this add the time on” – “does it add to both at the same time” etc. – and we still often hear the need for further reassurance by players later needing to ask “has it added on yet?” – all unnecessary with analogue.
  •  If players omit pressing a digital clock for one or more moves this can cause it to prematurely flag/flash and stop, falsely indicating that the game is over because time was reached without enough moves made in the first time control, then needing an “expert” to do the resetting. Conversely, if players gave extra presses, such as an initial “check it works”, or after taking back an illegal move, it may fail to indicate if the first time control was not met. It counts presses, not moves.
  • A digital clock might give warning beeps a few seconds prior to final time control expiry – a setting available on most models. I was once caught out when a clock on an adjacent board did this. Expecting to be warned myself I paid less attention to my clock, only to discover after my flag had fallen, that it was set silent.  Nothing in the rules covers this specifically, but we might expect silent to be the normal setting because a warning beep is “assistance” – no different to an observer telling a player about their clock being low. (So maybe we should always ensure the clock is set silent, so it can’t warn you and risk your opponent making a claim on these grounds?)

Both the single time control and the Fischer time control simplify this, because the time you see is always the time you have left.

An advantage sometimes claimed in favour of Fischer timing is that FIDE Rule 10.2 (the ‘two-minute rule’, which can be problematic), is no longer applicable – though it would be within the power of a league to simply not adopt this anyway (because it needs an arbiter), so this should not be a main influence in the choice of time control. With the Fischer time control though, provided you can make a move within the bonus seconds, you should never lose on time.

The time control we adopt is a consideration for any club about to invest in digital clocks.
Are 20 or 30 modes an unnecessary extra complication if you only ever use 3 of them?
Some cheaper models are quite adequate for both Fisher and single time controls – though some do not support the present double time control.
There are many makes and models but comparing price v time-control-capability of just DGT clocks (as these are the most popular brand) all quoted from same supplier;-

Price each (for 3 or more)
incl. VAT,  excl. P&P
    DGT 2010   Y   Y  £49.99
    DGT XL  Y £59.99
    DGT 960    £23.40
    DGT Easy   Y   N £23.40
    DGT EasyPlus   £27.85

Whatever discount clubs may get for higher quantities, it is apparent that if the present double period time control were replaced by a single one, with or without a Fischer option, clubs investing in digital clocks could buy twice as many suitable ones for about the same budget.

..more on rule 22

Whilst part of rule 22 is under review this may be an opportunity for the LCM to address other aspects of it? – If allowed to do so, as it is not clear if each aspect of a same rule requires separate submission under rule 27?

Consider 22a for instance (current text quoted at the end of this article for reference)
i) Reference to BCF is outdated.
ii) It goes to the trouble of specifying that clubs submit the name of anyone who does not want their details to be kept on computer. Perhaps their name is expected to be submitted on paper instead of email, so as not to create a computer record of this fact about them!
This may anticipate an unlikely event (no-one has objected so far?),  but says nothing about the (im)practicalities of keeping someone ‘off-computer’. Perhaps this was written pre-internet, when computers were considered to be really scary, whereas now we all know they are but accept them – albeit with general reluctance to give out any data beyond that really needed for purpose – so keeping less data may reduce that concern?
iii) The text specifies that each year’s data such as members addresses and phone numbers are to be collected, though the standard form I’ve seen submitted has fields for mobiles, date of birth (not just for juniors), email addresses etc..
Whilst it is in the interests of league and club officers to publish their contact data (widely or only to other officers, as they so choose) in order to function, it does not seem essential to demand this from all members, and doing so may establish a legal requirement to be registered under the Data Protection Act. ( http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/contents )
For general contact, email addresses are often volunteered and found sufficient without formal annual re-confirmation.   Non-email colleagues are not notified about events by paper post so they already have to rely on news from the web or via club colleagues.
As a non-profit organisation one condition of exemption from DPA registration (advice at http://www.ico.org.uk ) is to “only process information necessary to establish or maintain membership”, which could be met by clubs submitting only player-names and ECF references, and that could easily be achieved with on-line NECL registration. (raised previously, noting this ensures clubs generate a new-player record so names always appear in pick lists ahead of first matches and ineligible players immediately flagged when game results are entered).

If establishing all the above (dropping ‘off-computer’ options, collecting minimum data for DPA exemption, adopting on-line registration) rule 22a, possible wording could be;-

It is a condition of membership that the following data may be kept on computer and published:-   a) Player Name and club,  b) ECF Identifying data (membership/grade),  c) Game Results. Members may optionally provide an email address to be used in distribution lists. Prior to any fixture within a season, each club shall register intended players online, or shall send the a) and b) data above to the General secretary who will mark the record on-line to confirm validity. A further condition of eligibility is that any associated player fees due to NECL are sent to the Treasurer prior to the fixture.
Clubs will maintain their officer names and contact data in the on-line directory.

Reference:  –  current text of Rule 22 (a)
At the beginning of each season each club shall submit to the General Secretary, a list of all its intended players in order of strength.
The list should indicate which players (if any) are registered with the B.C.F. at that particular time, and include addresses and telephone numbers.
The information may be stored on a computer database for purposes associated with chess.
The submitted list must state the name of any player who does not want information relating to himself/herself held on a computer database.
The list should be accompanied by payment to the North Essex Chess League of the registration fee prescribed from time to time by the Committee for each player listed.
This list and these registration fees must be received by the General Secretary at least five days before the first fixture involving the club concerned.
No player may represent a club in any one season unless his/her name has been submitted to the General Secretary and the appropriate registration fee paid within the stipulated time.
The General Secretary will acknowledge receipt of the fee(s) and list, and report on the list’s validity.

AGM / Rule 22

The next NECL AGM is on Monday 5 August 2013 at Baddow. The agenda (here) includes two counter proposals for discussion (LCM to decide) on changing registrations in section 22 of the Rules of Match Play.

1) From Witham Chess Club
Witham proposes extending the provision for a club with two teams in division 1 to field teams of more equal strength to all divisions.

2) From the General Secretary
The General Secretary proposes removing the provision for equal strength teams, but reducing the number of players listed for each team to one fewer than the number of boards.

I’ve never understood what benefit this option ever brought in the first place. Perhaps someone will expound the added virtues of each proposal?  The examples it could have been applied to in div 1 this past season were Writtle A/B, placed 2nd/3rd, and Brentwood A/B placed 4th/5th. So in these cases it would seem that the option would have made no difference to the end result!  But if the top 8 players were very widely spread in grade, why would a club wish to sacrifice chances of a stronger team coming higher in a division to achieve two mid-field results?

I think I see where Witham are coming from, in that if anything is considered good for div1, why shouldn’t it apply to any division?

On the other hand, as far as I know (can anyone verify this?) no club has ever used the option to nominate “teams of more equal strength”.   Just having such an option introduces complications and significantly extends the wording of the rules just to cover it’s provision.
Wouldn’t it be simpler to just remove this provision entirely?
I seem to agree with the General Secretary on that part.

There is a lot of provision in the current rule 22 (see below) which has probably never been invoked.  What do you think?  Would you miss this option if it just disappeared?

– – – – – – – – –
Rule 22 is rather “long-winded” (occupies more than an A4 page) and has 9 clauses (a) to (i). Some of these have other issues but I’ll avoid quoting the rule in full here, and just refer to the relevant clauses.

The above proposals relate to (b), which says;-

(b) Subject to clause (d) hereof, starting from the top of the list, the number of players equal to the number of boards in the club’s ‘A’ team shall be nominated players for that team; the number of players next on the list equal to the number of players in the club’s ‘B’ team shall be nominated players for that team, and so on. A player shall not be eligible to play in any team below the category of team for which he is nominated.
If a club has two teams in Division 1, it has the option to field two teams of more equal strength. If a club wishes to exercise this option, two of the top four registered players must be nominated for each team at the start of the season. The next four can play for either team.

As that references (d), which also mentions “more equal teams”, we need to read that too;-

(d) A club shall be allowed to revise the list at any time during the season. Such a revised list must be received by the General Secretary at least five days before the date from which the club wishes the list to operate. The club must also send the appropriate player registration fee to the General Secretary within the same time limit. The General Secretary will acknowledge receipt of the fee(s) and list, and report on the list’s validity. Players are not eligible to play unless such acknowledgement has been received.
However, if a club has exercised the option to field two more equal teams in Division 1, newly registered players in the top four must be alternately nominated for each of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Players dropping into the next four positions become eligible for either team. Players dropping out of the top eight positions become eligible to play excess games as in part (c).

And as that references (c), which also mentions “more equal teams”, we need to read that too;-

(c) The maximum number of games a player may play in the League Championship in one season is equal to five in excess of the number of matches remaining to his nominated team by the fixture list at the time when his name first appears on his club’s list of players. In this clause the ‘nominated team’ is that team to which a player is nominated by the first list submitted by his club on which his name appears.
However, if a club has exercised the option to field two more equal teams in Division 1, none of the top eight registered players may play any excess games.

AGM / minutes

The next NECL AGM is on Monday 5 August 2013 at Baddow. The agenda (here) includes a proposal to amend the constitution with a small addition concerning minutes – merely that a draft be issued in a timely manner soon after the meeting. I suggest this in the belief that early communication of outcomes is important and I hope everyone will support this.
The proposal is to add the following line to clause C(i)
“The general secretary will make draft minutes available to all members within 2 weeks after the meeting date.”

Some reasons for this;-

  1. As currently written, there is no actual requirement for minutes at all, late or early, though clearly some are expected.
  2. Past practice has been to produce minutes around 12 months later for the following AGM. Surely it is easier to write these up while things are still fresh in the mind, and the notes taken are most legible?
  3. The season following an AGM is the time during which the views and decisions on new issues are most relevant.
  4. During the season, members have generally not been aware of most issues or decisions made and had no means to look these up.
  5. With no draft available for reference during the following season it was assumed that attendees debrief club colleagues. This is neither efficient nor reliable. Raising a query via the general secretary should not be necessary and may not always be practical.
    e.g.1 “do mid-season grades dictate a team’s playing order?” Do you recall if this was discussed? What conclusion was reached? Where would you check this?
    e.g.2 “when a team plays out of grade order, there is a notion that adjacent players can be within 10 points of each other, but where is this quoted? If not in the rules, perhaps this was established at an AGM or LCM? Which one, and how would you verify this? There is no reference. etc.
  6. Approval of minutes 12 months after the event becomes almost routine as issues can then seem less important, attendees have less confidence to identify errors and less detail of discussion is remembered.

The benefits of early draft publication by the general secretary are;-
a) A more valuable reference available from the start of the relevant season.
b) Visibility to all, rather than being limiting to the attendees of the next meeting.
c) Greater opportunity for readers to check the detail, raise issues and correct errors and omissions to improve the accuracy and detail of final drafts.

A follow-on suggestion is that the general secretary file ALL AGM and LCM minutes, and any associated documents, on the NECL website, thus making them easily accessible to all members.

Keys and Contacts

The transition period between seasons is when clubs are most likely to change some officers, usually at an AGM to review how the club will best operate. Two new types of key for the NECL web site may be of interest here,
Match Captain – multi-team fixture arranging and result reporting from one login.
General Admin – combines Match Captain and secretary facilities
One of each of the above keys is available to each club, additional to the usual team keys and secretary key. Depending on how your club is organised, this may save someone from logging in and out of different team-captain/secretary keys. All key-types, can of course also enter/edit club ‘internal’ and ‘other ‘game details etc. pertaining to the specific club. Documentation relating to all club keys has been updated and combined into a general admin reference here.

A Couple of Reminders:

  1. Where the person in a role changes, the key-holder can simply pass the key to their successor.  Username, password and assignee can all be set by the key user, so a new owner can simply change and use. Contact admin though if this is not possible  e.g. if previous holder can’t be contacted, key is ‘lost’, or a new role is created – or if a key is no longer required, so it can be cancelled securely.
  2. (secretaries & general admin) Please check that the contact details shown on your NECL club page are correct. Use only the limited distribution fields for email/phone where officers prefer to limit visibility to other NECL officers (only seen via login). Details go into the respective versions of the online directory.
    Restricted email fields also form the officer, club and league-wide ‘mailto’ links used by other officers. Omitting email-addresses here may mean officers missing important emails. Help ensure the right people are contactable.