Changes to the Big Events structure

Author: Mark Kaprielian  

June 2001

This document contains a summary of the discussion points and conclusions reached in a review of the structure of the clubs twice a year “big” events.  The discussion was held, primarily via email between 

Neil Cousin, Program director 2001-2002, 
Michael Barry, Program Director 1995–2001 
Mark Kaprielian, President, 1995–2002

With the poor turn out for the Open section in April, and typical questions be asked by members about the structure of the event, we felt a revisiting of the organization of the big events was in order and that perhaps it was time to make some changes.

I.                    Historical information about current structure

A.           The number of sections for the event has been a much-discussed topic in the past five years and other topic summaries exist to document those discussions.  A brief list of relevant items are:

1.            In 1999, the event was changed from a one-section event to multi-section.  The primary motivations and points were

a)     Avoid discouraging lower rated players from skipping the event.

b)     Any player can choose play up if they want their shot at the big prizes or to play the Masters.

2.            The attendance for the Open section since becoming a multi-section event are as follows:

a)     April 2001   20 players in Open, 64 total in event

b)     Nov  2000   30 players in Open, 76 total in event

c)      April 2000   26 players in Open, 71 total in event

d)     Nov  1999   26 players in Open, 70 total in event

e)     April 1999   26 players in Open, 52 total in event

II.                  Collection of typical questions and issues raised about the current format and the responses given to them.

A.           Why are we subsidizing the Open section

1.            The original intent was to attract new and stronger players to the event so that after having attended one of our big events, the player would get a chance to see how the club was run, just how bad or not so bad the commute to the club would be, and then, choose to come back to play in our regular events.

2.            We believe this strategy was moderately effective for the first two years or so after it was introduced.  Since then, the number of new players coming to the club for just these events has been very few.  The number players showing up for the big events and then continuing to come to regular events has been close to zero for the past several years.  We believe this can be explained in part by the fact that by now, the active tournament population is well aware of the club and what it has to offer.

B.           Why don’t we have more prize money for the lower sections?

1.            The prize fund selected to make the event break even based on a projection of the turnout that we can reasonably expect.

2.            The amount available to the Open section was selected so that we could get to the 30 Grand Prix point level, which would make the event one of the largest Grand Prix events in the area.

3.            The Prize fund is designed such that 60 paying players are required to break even.  Our planning projections for the event are as follows:

a)     4 TDs who play for free

b)     3 New to USCF / Club playing for free

c)      4 Masters playing for free

d)     Over the last 4 years, we've hit 70 or more total players 4 out of 7 times.  This means that at best we are breaking about half the time.  The small profits made from other events during the year subsidize the big events when they do not break even.

III.    Our Reasonings

A.        Even with the large prize fund for the Open section, we had a particularly poor Open section turnout for our 2001 April event.  There didn't seem to be any particular reason, such as other events before, during or after that might account for this.  One possibility is the currently “poor”economy but not data has been collected to evaluate if this is a viable explanation.

B.           One of our somewhat regular “big guns” Mr. Kudrin has moved away.  This leaves the only consistent visiting master as Mr. Ivanov.

C.          We have two resident masters, Mr. Curdo and Mr. Foygel.  We examined if they make more or less because of these visiting Masters attending than they would if it were a regular event where they would not expected to be present.  We concluded that generally, our resident masters stand to make less when the event is well attended, especially when a large pool of strong players are present.  The reason is that the 1st place prize will generally be won by a stronger visiting master and that because the section is bigger, there will be more players sharing second and third place.  Of course, if the event is smaller, they stand to make more but the club certainly will lose more.

D.          At the time of the decision, we did not discuss the benefit to our top players of having more stronger players in the event.  Is it a benefit to our resident masters?  If they are motivated by the prize they are likely to earn, then no.  If by the competition they may face, then if there is a small turn out they may have more difficult competition.  If there is a large turnout, then they are less likely to face the other masters and strong players.  If we have a large turnout and strong players and we do accelerated pairings, which appears to be not popular (we asked them), the masters are less likely to face each other.  We have only used accelerated pairing once before.

E.           We recognize that there is greater prestige to the club in having visiting masters attend.  We do question if this prestige manifests itself in any tangible benefits.  We feel it may have helped to attract some players the first few years but no longer has much impact.

F.           Examining the rating demographics for the region, we concluded that the 1400 to 1700 range has the greatest potential for attracting new club members.

IV.         Conclusions

A.           We feel that the club has matured out of the fundamental need for growth and now needs to shift its focus to be one of maintaining the viability of the club for the long run.

B.           We feel that retention of the current pool of MCC players in the middle and lower sections must have greater importance that we have ascribed to it in the past.  For the past several years, the midway point of the club has been under 1500.  As of July 2001, two-thirds of the members are under 1600.  The shift downward has been occurring for several years and has happened with essentially no change what so ever in the format of our events, in either the large or the regular events.  The chess environment is changing around us.  If we fail to retain the players we have, our regular events will have to be scaled down to maintain a solid financial outlook to achieve our long-term goals of survival.

C.          The central reasons and the effectiveness of the current structure appear to no longer be effective in achieving the intended goals that we now consider important.

D.          By restructuring the event to increase the prize fund in the lower and middle sections, we feel we can achieve what we believe to be two new and important goals:

1.            Increasing participation by current or recently past existing members.  The pool of players who attend for a while and then stop attending is in the middle and lower sections.  By having potentially two events a year that they have a shot at a bigger prize might re-activate their interest and get them to attend more regularly.  This addresses two of the general criticisms; that of subsidizing the Open section and increasing the prize fund for the lower sections.

2.            This restructuring moves our prize funds closer to those of the equivalent sections of the typical weekend events held in the area.  This we hope may have the effect we were searching for originally with the Open section, which is to draw players to the club with the hope of retaining them for our regular events.  Based on the sheer number of players, we feel this will have a much greater success than we achieved with the Open section.

E.           We deliberately chose to keep the total prize fund approximately the same.  We wanted to avoid any perception that we were scaling back.  The break-even point is still 60 players.  We feel attracting more mid-level paying players will improve on our making the break-even point.

F.           We do not see the change in the next big event, as having any significant negative impact other than the possible non-attendance of Mr. Ivanov while the potential for significant retention and growth we feel, is strong.