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Chris Fox's Chess Section

Inter-Club Matches

Players who join a chess club may have the chance to play for that club in league and cup matches.

The number of teams a club can field will depend on the number of members in the club and on the size and availability of the playing room; team size will also be a factor, but that is constant for any particular league or cup competition. It may be thought that the number of teams can be obtained by dividing the number of members by the size of a team, rounded down to a whole number if necessary. But that assumes everyone is available to play in any evening, Clubs therefore need to assign to each team not only a full team of players, but also a few spare players; I would recommend that the number of spare players equal at least half the team size.

A player should be a member of the club for which he plays. Each player will probably only be allowed to play regularly for one team, but there may be rules allowing him to play a limited number of games as a reserve in his club's other teams.

There may be club members who are reluctant to play in matches, possibly because they believe they are not good enough. But leagues and cup competitions are open to players of any ability; so if one can play, that is good enough, especially for a team in the lowest division of a league. Furthermore, official games provide a way to test one's chess skills, especially in such matters as handling the clock and writing the moves; this may lead to improvement. In any case, if a team captain cannot otherwise raise a full team, a weak player is better than a vacancy, not least because a vacancy cannot do anything but lose. In order to encourage members to participate, clubs could introduce awards, for example for the highest percentage score in official games or for the most official games played.

There are two ways to decide the date of a match. Either the entire schedule of a league or cup competition is decided in advance; or the date of each match is decided between the relevant captains, with the away captain selecting from a choice of dates offered by the home captain. Captains will need each other's contact details, both to arrange a match - if applicable - and to reschedule it if that becomes necessary.

I know of one captain who frequently told his opponents his own team could only play on one particular date, even though the rules stated that the home captain must offer a choice of two dates. If the home captain does this, the away captain has the right to ask for a second date, then to accept it if possible; however, it is best not to do this every time, because the home captain may then offer his preferred date as the second date. If the away captain tries to decide the date of the match unilaterally, and his preferred date was not one of those the home captain was going to offer, the home captain can press his original choice of dates: who would believe the away captain if he then said his team could not play on either of them? If there is genuinely only one date within the relevant playing period on which the home team can host the match, the alternative date offered can be one on which the match can be played at either the away team's venue or a neutral venue: I know of two cases where this was done.

Some time ago, one organisation decided that captains must contact each other verbally. In defence of this decision, it was said that although letters and E-mail messages would still be allowed, there would be no guarantee that they arrived; a captain would then be unable to claim the match if he did not receive a letter or E-mail, because he could not be sure it had not been sent. However, the problem with relying on verbal communication was shown when I turned up for one away match and found out the home captain had told his own team that the match was scheduled for the following evening; as the away captain could not prove that it was scheduled for the date on which the away team turned up, he had no choice but to reschedule the match.

Captains are supposed to contact each other directly. However, I know of one occasion where the home captain asked the League Secretary to forward a choice of dates to the away captain. The League Secretary could, and probably should, have told the home captain to contact his opponent directly, but instead he forwarded the message. The away captain refused to reply on the grounds that the home captain had not contacted him directly. Both captains claimed the match, but it was decided that both teams would lose by default.

Captains must ensure they can be contacted. On one occasion, a cup match was declared lost by both teams because the home captain had been unable to contact his opponent. However, when the home captain appealed, the meeting was satisfied that he had actively tried to contact the away captain, and his team was given a win by default. But by that point, the cup had progressed another two rounds, so the home captain withdrew his team from the cup. Some time earlier, a university-based club was expelled from an organisation's leagues and cup competitions (and possibly from the organisation itself) because its captains could not be contacted. Back then, most students, including the captains, lived in halls of residence, and other students found it too inconvenient to forward telephone messages. Later, however, captains were more likely to live in student houses, where that problem did not arise.

Having set a date for a match, a captain will need to select players for the team. The team should be ranked in descending order of grade, with any (expected) vacant places below players, although a player may be permitted to play above one with a slightly higher grade. Ungraded players may be permitted to play above graded ones, although the team is still expected to be ranked in order of ability. Should it emerge after the start of a match that a listed player will not be playing, those due to play below him do not have to move up; but if a spare player is available, that player may be permitted to fill the vacancy as a substitute. As with reserves, there will probably be constraints on the players who can be used as the substitute, and a limit on the number of times each player can be used as a substitute.

When a team plays away, the captain will need to get the team to the match. To do this, he can either give the other players directions to the venue, or arrange to meet them somewhere so they can travel to the venue together. In the latter case, the captain could also ask other players to turn up in case any of the first choice players have to drop out; however, players may not want to turn up as spare players unless they live near the meeting point.

The home captain is responsible for setting up equipment for the match - although others may of course help him - and for deciding the seating arrangement. If the match is not scheduled for a normal club night, he will also need to book a playing room.

The seating arrangement decided by the home captain is the objective one. If anyone tries to dictate a different arrangement, and to sit somewhere other than his own place, his opponent still has the right to start the game when the match starts. Furthermore, if a player is in someone else's place after the match starts, he is interfering with that other game; if he still refuses to move, he can be expelled from the room - by force if necessary - and therefore from the match.

Rules on such matters as colours and time limits will be set by the organisation running the league or cup competition. After the match, the captains must send the results to that organisation. It is best to require both captains to submit the results: if one result sheet fails to arrive, there is still the other one; and if there is a discrepancy between the two sets of results, the organisation can ask to see individual players' scoresheets.

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