Sunday, June 01, 2014

League retrospective and suggestions for the future

Belated congratulations to Fisherwick for winning the Silver King for the fourth time in a row and to Bangor for lifting the Strawbridge Cup. The general consensus is that this has been the most interesting League campaign in some time. I agree with that sentiment - everyone will have their own views about exactly why this was so, but for me the reasons were:
  • the exciting tussle for the Division 1 title (despite - or maybe even enhanced by the bizarre events of the last two weeks);
  • the arrival of a new powerhouse in the East (Lindores) and an enhanced and rebadged stalwart (Muldoon's) putting extra pressure on the imperious Fisherwick;
  • the general increase in strength on the top boards of a number of teams, with a number of strong local players tempted out of retirement and an influx of foreign talent;
  • the extraordinary and continuing ability of Ballynafeigh to add extra numbers to the overall equation (some of the other clubs are catching on here too);
  • the revival of second teams at the coaxing of the League Controller.
The temptation might be to leave things exactly the same, but there is a danger that the success of this season means that we have outgrown the current format. The League season consisted of 25 weeks of play, which might well make it into the Guinness Book of Records. There was talk early in the New Year of having some extra team events in the Spring but, not surprisingly, these never eventuated. It was therefore not that surprising either that there were a few defaults late in the season.

So here, for what they're worth, is a set of proposals for the Belfast and District Leagues 2014-2015: 
  • League competition again to be between all the Belfast and District clubs, but over a single round and with no split into two Divisions for the rest of the season. Each club would have to list five designated players. 
  •  Therefore this competition would end about the end of January and the winner would receive the Silver King (Division 1 Championship). 
  • Alongside the competition for the Silver King would be a revamped Strawbridge Cup which would be contested between reserve teams. As some clubs would not be able to field a team in this, the format would probably be a double rounder but whatever format was used, this also would finish approximately end-January. A club could play all but its five designated players in this subsidiary event. 
OK, we all know that, due to the way many of our clubs are organised, there is a considerable appetite for a lengthy League season. So what happens when February arrives? Here's part two of NI Chess News' prospectus. 
  • The top four teams in the Silver King would take part in a new competition - let's call it the "Top 4" or maybe the "Premiership" - in a double rounder over 6 weeks of competition. Not dissimilar to the part 2 of the League as presently organised, but with all the teams starting from scratch. Maybe we could make this over 4 or 6 boards just to change the dynamic a little bit. 
  • The remaining clubs (plus perhaps any second teams from the Top 4) would compete in a separate competition. We could perhaps revive the "UCU Plate" name and trophy, last played for about a decade ago, for this. 
  • Finally, to accommodate the increasing numbers of newbie adult players and also to help existing lower-rated "reserve" players, we could add a second subsidiary event for all clubs - an under 1500 Cup, limited naturally enough to players rated under 1500 (and unrated ones). 
  • So that clubs would be encouraged to enter these new competitions without worrying about having the numbers to fulfill fixtures, players would be able to compete without restriction in all three competitions (except - with the aim of creating a reasonably level playing field - for the designated players in the Premiership). Also, we might arrange these "sub-Premiership" competitions into 4 player events to assist with numbers. 
  • Finally - as I've probably cut off at least 6 weeks of the season - if there's sufficient appetite for it, we could make good use of the remaining time by reviving some sort of province-wide Cup competition.
So, if you haven't lost your way, or the will to live, through all these suggestions, I encourage the UCU universe to have a look at these ideas. Any improvements or alternatives are welcomed.


Damien Cunningham said...

Hi David,

Agreed a new format is needed with the extra teams and players, but the format was passed at an AGM and i'm not sure how much power the League controller has in changing the phase system (but i would and i would also support its changing to a newer format)

Muldoon's 1 Fisherwick Belfast South 1 BNF 1 BNF2 Lagan Bangor Lindore's should be selected by executive board to compete for silver king though perhaps a bolstered Civil service and a Fruithill with Holmes and Delaney should be added home and away 18 games

the rest should form a second division Muldoon's 2 BNF3 BNF4 BNF5 Civil service 2 Belfast south 2
Should be a cup open to any team from Ulster ideally played on a saturday for teams like omagh players under 1500.

The rules state you have to have a squad list this is done every year this year was no different NO BALLYNAFEIGH 3 SQUAD list PLAYER PLAYED FOR 2 TEAMS UNTIL AFTER SPLIT when they were given permission (grrr)Tanya Jones, Bill Lavery, Martin Naughton, James Weir, Iza Bujak, Kenny Millen (put in 6 cos we didn't know what iza was doing between us and lindores

David McAlister said...

Hi Damien

You are quite right that the system of a single preliminary section which then divided into separate divisions (with points already won being retained) was decided upon at the 2010 UCU AGM. Which means my suggestions could not be implemented without a proposal being passed at a General Meeting of the Union (too late for season 2014-5 unless someone wants to squeeze in an EGM).

Another decision from that 2010 AGM is that we can't return to a two-division set-up unless more than 14 teams enter (or possibly 15 - the AGM minutes are a bit unclear).

Hopefully we might get 15 or 16 teams next year (which would mean 14 weeks of fixtures in two Divisions). That would then leave plenty of time for extra team events.

I'm intrigued by your squad list for BNF3. A quick look at the results confirms that none of your 5 (leaving aside Iza who ended up not playing for anyone) played for any of the other BNF teams before the divisional split.

However, only Bill Lavery could get away with being called a regular BNF 3er (with 4 appearances in 10 matches). Weir, Jones and Naughton only played 1 game each on counting boards (the latter 2 managing one game each on the extra boards below Board 5, which don't tie you to a team anyway). Millen didn't play even once. So that's a total of 7 games played by the registered BNF3 players out of a possible 50. This allowed the real BNF3 regulars to play for BNF1 and BNF2. Not quite in the spirit of the Rules - the new League Controller must deal with this (ahem) imaginative ploy by inserting a rule that requires registered players to play a minimum number of games.

Damien Cunningham said...

Well we didn't know how many Ram Rajan would play, or Stu who ended up not playing any or Paul Devlin, Poric Ward, Paul Carson, or Gregor Zapazovitch (probably not even close to the correct spelling) Zhao Phang and Billy

I admit we did intentionally keep a lot of chomping at the bit players as floaters this is true, but this was done so they could play for BNF 1&2 against stronger players it was a disadvantage to BNF 1&2 and an advantage to rest of league because they were all either newbies or 1000-1200 so hardly a tactic for gain

Ballynafeigh is a chess club looking to expand and improve chess inside and outside the club, we are not a chess team in a crusade for a title or acolades our reward is number of new people coming through the door and the rapid improvement of lower ranked club players

Thus I would say we stayed within the rules not only leagally but morally also, we would never adopt the same principles in a pure divison 2 or 3 league because that would be gaining an unfair advantage and would be quite wrong morally