Too many Indians in the Commonwealth?

7/23/2003 – The 2003 British Championships has started in Edinburgh, with close on one thousand entries. Unfortunately the flagship event is being boycotted by all England's top players, due to the BCF regulation permitting any Commonwealth master (especially Indians) to play in the Championship. They are castigated for it in this Daily Telegraph article.

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The BCF must go

by Malcolm Pein

(Filed: 21/07/2003)

The 2003 Smith & Williamson British Chess Championships start today at the George Heriot School in Edinburgh with events for all ages and playing strengths. Close on one thousand entries are expected for twenty three tournaments ranging from the British under eight championship to the Seniors. Spectators are welcome each afternoon to watch the top games and listen to expert commentary from IM Andrew Martin.

Unfortunately the flagship event the British Championship is under a cloud after what is effectively a boycott by all England's top players.

Only two of England's twenty seven Grandmasters have entered and this is undoubtedly due to the ridiculous BCF regulation permitting any Commonwealth master to play in the Championship. Players, journalists and others have been calling for a change in the rules for many years. There were renewed calls for change in this column after the relative unknown RB Ramesh made the last Championship ' an Indian takeaway' and scooped the £10,000 first prize in the face of limited opposition. Even as far back as 1999, GMs John Emms and Chris Ward submitted a well supported with a petition calling for reform.

There are no fees offered to the titled players and England internationals are not even offered expenses and with so many strong foreign players in the field the tournament is highly unlikely to be worthwhile for a professional English player. They have voted with their feet. The highest ranked Englishman at Edinburgh is Nick Pert who is the English number twenty three after that comes GM Peter Wells at number twenty six.

As usual there are plenty of players from India, I counted thirteen in the Championship many of whom have sponsorship and can afford to come and play and they will make off with much of the prize fund. The situation is made even more absurd this year with the top seed being a Cypriot, GM Vasilios Kotronias who recently entered the Commonwealth when he left the Greek Chess Federation. The majority of entries to the British Women's Championship are from India.

The congress is always run in a friendly and efficient manner by volunteers and arbiters headed by Neil Graham and it is a tribute to their efforts that it proves to be so popular each year.

It is such a shame that the so called British Championship should be reduced to what is effectively a fusion of the Indian and Scottish titles combined with fifty amateur players who have qualified at events throughout the year and deserve a better reward than this.

BCF has institutionalised inertia and the acronym could well stand for 'Basically Cannot Function' - I can only echo Nigel Short's call in the Telegraph. The British Chess Federation is an anachronism and would be best disbanded and reconstituted as the English Chess Federation with a new charter and some new personnel. Very little apart from Junior Chess works well but for the past ten years I think most players have been content to let it bumble on. Now we have no sponsor for our national team and the national championship has become a travesty.

Malcolm Pein's column appears in the Daily Telegraph Chess section.
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