Oh Captain! My Captain!

By our London League 4 Captain, David Lambert

I’ve only been playing competitive chess for a few years – one season for Denton whilst in Manchester before joining Hammersmith in early 2012. Back then I wasn’t thinking about captaining a team. I was happy to just turn up and play.

I remember having a conversation with my captain one day in the usual post-match post-mortem – I think he may have slipped to a disappointing draw. “Captaining a team takes 10 points off your grade” he chuckled to himself.  How could that be? It didn’t seem that hard – you just send an e-mail a few days before the match asking who wants to play? Then you toss a coin as the match kicks-off to decide colours. Easy…

OhCaptain
Oh David!

I’ve been a captain now for approaching two full-seasons so thought it might be interesting to double-back on that throwaway comment and see if it carries any weight.

I finished the 2014 season on a grade of 127, and at that time took on the mantle of captaining our team in London League Division 4.  It’d be a challenge: our team was likely to be graded in the 140-80 range and yet we’d regularly come up against teams with a 120-130 on bottom-board; a 175 on Top Board wasn’t altogether surprising either. Still, it was about getting games and ensuring that we were able to follow-through on providing league chess for our newer members.

The season was a difficult one – even factoring-in the other matches outside the league, I ended the season on 34%. My Jan’15 grade was 117 and my final-year grade was 121 – a total of 6 points lost like-for-like. But fast-forward a few months and I was back up to 126. All things considered, I’m not sure there’s much in it. The more cynical amongst you may argue I didn’t have that many grading points to lose in the first place!

Still, I wouldn’t say captaining a side is without its challenges. Even in my short tenure, I’ve had to deal with:

  • Team-mates not turning up / travelling to the wrong venue / pulling out with an hour’s notice
  • Team-mates arguing with each other / other teams
  • Opposition captains complaining about one of my players
  • Multiple wrangles with the league over player eligibility
  • Disputes over time controls / weird once-in-a-lifetime rules

Once I’m in the midst of a match, I tend to knuckle down and concentrate on my game – I’m not sure it’s much of a burden. The biggest stress I have is wondering whether my 8 players are going to turn up! That broad smile you see at 6:59pm in Golden Lane, when the last player rolls through the door, that’s a real one!!

1 thought on “Oh Captain! My Captain!”

  1. Interesting points here Dave. Never really considered that it might affect your grade as captain, great that it doesn’t seem to have done! Does sound like a bit of added stress/hassle tho.

    Carpe diem!!

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