century city, via the catalyst of chess, as a city of
intelligent endeavour and high achievement, showcased
globally through the media and the internet
An informal group, the
‘committee of Daves’, has been meeting since September to
move matters forward. Those attending have been, in addition
to myself: Dave Welch (international Arbiter); Dave James
(Welsh international & FM); and Dave Farley (Wallasey CC &
MCA). Several meetings have been with CoC; some with other
The first of the planned
events takes place this autumn when Liverpool, agreed by the
European Chess Union, hosts the "European Union Individual
Open Championship", September 6-15, followed by the
Liverpool Congress, September 16-17. Both events will be
hosted free-of-charge in splendid accommodation by
Liverpool’s World Museum in a gallery overlooking St John’s
Garden. The CoC has agreed £40,000 for these chess
activities in 2006; the World Museum and The Mersey
Partnership are also confirmed partners; and further
partners are being sought.
We will scale up the
following year by organising a yet more prestigious event.
The CoC has earmarked £100,000 for chess activity during
2007, and I have been exploring whether Liverpool can win
the tender to host the full "European Individual
Championship", a larger and more prestigious event than the
"EU Individual". Liverpool faces daunting competition from
Dresden and Budapest, and we may be outbid. If so, I will
turn our attention to other world-class opportunities such
as a series of Grandmaster matches, including perhaps some
of the q-finals in the candidates series of the World
In Capital of Culture
year, 2008, we plan the biggest chess tournament in Britain
for generations. The CoC has agreed a minimum £600,000 in
organising costs and prize fund to support a truly
world-class GM tournament involving players from the world
Top 10 including the World Champion plus Mickey Adams and
others. If Kasparov returns from retirement, we’ll get him
too. The Board of the CoC is adamant that this event should
be as prestigious as we can make it, incontestably a great
tournament of historic standing. In addition, we also plan
to host the 2008 British Championship itself, probably in
St. George’s Hall from July 27-August 9.
The strategy and business
plan, as agreed by the CoC Board, also spells out a
commitment building community involvement. First, steps are
in hand to appoint a Chess Development Officer for
Liverpool. This post is designed to work with local schools;
liaise with the clubs; coach Liverpool junior teams; and
facilitate chess development over the medium-term. An
initial three-year appointment is being sought.
In addition, we plan to
restore the Liverpool Easter Junior Congress; build a league
for primary schools; and re-establish chess clubs in a
number of secondary schools. Our own clubs are involved too.
As part of a ‘giving back’ policy for the local chess
community, we are seeking to establish a weekend Liverpool
Chess Academy, supported by club volunteers, to train and
improve the most promising juniors.
It goes without saying
that the elite events, named above, serve as centrepieces
for clusters of local events.
Prospects and Problems
What are the real chances
that all of this will happen? In my opinion, the prospects
are excellent. The CoC Board reacted "with great enthusiasm"
to my strategy and proposals; and individual Board members
including both Vice-Chancellors have been assiduous in
helping me move matters forward within the CoC. We will hit
snags and meet some resistance as we go along, but I’m
confident we can work around this. Of course, everything
does require the active involvement of our ‘volunteer army’
of chess-players in supporting these efforts.
I won’t pretend the CoC is
an easy organisation to work with. The Board is fine; no
problems there. But the day-to-day operations side of CoC
can be slow and frustrating. It’s not clear at that level
they fully understand that the chess community employs no
staff; receives no grants or subsidies; and depends entirely
on voluntary effort. Yet they are ill-prepared to take any
of the organisational load off those of us with day jobs.
This may change of course.
Not everyone yet
understands the strategy either. Some may think that £0.75
million is a huge amount to spend on a ‘geekish pastime’.
Yet the Board of the CoC, the main policy-making body,
completely understands the social and economic advantages to
Liverpool of expenditure on a ‘chess strategy’. It’s
important that we, the chess community, retain some
perspective too. The strategy is to harness the reputation
of chess for precision and intelligence as a means of
creating an appealing image of Liverpool as a ‘Smart City’.
By focusing both on chess development in schools, and on
public images of quality and high intellectual achievement,
we hope to sponsor the impression that Liverpool really is a
player in the Knowledge Economy. In the medium-term, perhaps
we can help lay to rest images of Liverpool as a low-skill,
The ‘committee of Daves’
has begun to parcel out some responsibilities. I remain
responsible for negotiations with CoC and civic agencies;
for moving on the overall strategy; for communications,
press & PR. Dave Welch will be Tournament Director
responsible for all organisational matters, and for dealing
with ECF (BCF); Peter Purland will be controller of the 2006
event; Dave Farley will oversee finances. And Steve Connor
will be website manager. We need volunteers for other
matters too. Interested parties should contact Dave Welch.
We are likely to set up a
Liverpool Chess Trust, or Foundation, with a properly
constituted Board, to ensure accountability and financial
control. I have this in hand currently.
Finally, we need to raise
our own game in the chess community. We are all volunteers
doing our best, but with the eyes of Britain and the world
likely to turn towards us, ‘our best’ needs to get better.
I’ll offer thoughts on how we might do this in a future
mailing. For now, we have lots to look forward to over the
next few years! It's a great opportunity to make a
worthwhile contribution, and to change things for the
better. I hope you agree.