Spirit of Atticus


Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008

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Capital of Culture 08 - Latest News



3rd April 2006 - Capital of Culture & Chess in Liverpool, 2006-2008 and beyond - Dave Robertson


As we near the end of the season, I’d be grateful if colleagues involved with chess in Liverpool and Merseyside could read this long-awaited (and rather long) announcement. By all means copy to relevant individuals not included here. It would be helpful if club secretaries could inform their club members at forthcoming AGMs as well. The more local players know, the better. What follows will be welcome news to anyone committed to chess, locally and nationally. Copies of this statement, and updates over the summer, will be posted on the Atticus CC website at:






In the wake of a strategy supported by a business plan that I submitted in June 2005, the Board of the Capital of Culture company (CoC) agreed last November to fund a series of international chess events and related local developments in Liverpool for 2006 through to 2008. The events are underpinned by plans for local community involvement; and crucially by a strategy to position Liverpool as a 21st 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 bodies.


The events


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 Championship.


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.


Local developments


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, low-rent city.


What next?


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.

best wishes
Dave Robertson
Professor David Robertson
Public Policy Institute
Liverpool John Moores University
e: d.j.robertson@livjm.ac.uk (univ)
e: david.robertson18@blueyonder.co.uk (direct)
t: +44-0151-733-9984
m: 09780-211-130


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