Suffolk’s Bob Jones has been awarded an ECF President’s Award for Service to Chess, an award that recognises outstanding personal contributions to chess over time.
The chairman of the ECF awards committee, Stephen Greep, noted that the committee were impressed with what Bob has achieved.
A formal presentation of the glass trophy which accompanies this award will be made once it has been received from the ECF.
A copy of the citation submitted to the committee, along with a supporting statement from Kevin O’Connell, are below – along with some picture evidence below of Bob’s work within Suffolk chess.
“Bob Jones is an excellent candidate for the President’s Award for Service to Chess.
As a junior growing up in Suffolk, Bob was always very supportive of the local chess players. He organised many events including the hugely successful Bury St Edmunds Congress. I have played in many of Bob’s events over the years and he will bend over backwards to help chess players of all ages and abilities.”
GM Nicholas Pert – sent the day after finishing on 5.5/9 at the 2023 British Chess Championships.
Bob Jones has been the heart of Suffolk chess for well over three decades, with an influence that extends well beyond those borders.
Bob became Suffolk Junior Chess organiser in 1987, and soon followed a golden age of Suffolk junior chess.
Bob found sponsorship and contacted over 360 schools, with clubs subsequently beginning in many of those schools. In the same year, Bob began the ‘Suffolk Junior Chess Newsletter’, promoting and advertising chess locally and reporting on items of interest.
Independent junior clubs formed in Ipswich and Stowmarket. Bob himself ran Stowmarket Junior Chess Club. At its strongest, Stowmarket JCC often saw 50 weekly attendees – a very impressive feat for a modest market town. When Bob left to found Bury Knights Junior Chess Club, it took five volunteers to share his responsibilities.
During this time, Bob began compiling local rating lists. The calculation and publishing of monthly Elo ratings was seen as a key motivator for the development of juniors, and soon printed rating lists containing accurate ratings for several hundred players were devoured by juniors eager to see their improvements recognised on paper.
A circuit of weekend junior tournaments emerged, including Grand Prix style qualification into national events. Suffolk Junior Championships, with Bob as the Tournament Organiser, were held annually and rapidly grew, attracting 400+ players and exceeding the capacity of the cavernous main hall in the Ipswich Corn Exchange.
Not only did participation in local chess explode, but national success also followed. Structured coaching plans were developed and implemented for promising juniors to learn from experienced adult coaches. Suffolk’s Under 9 team twice won the Inter-Association Championships – in 1990 and in 1992. Within ten years of Bob assuming control of organising junior chess in Suffolk, Suffolk’s Under 18 team had achieved two second place finishes and in 1997 won in the National Counties Championship.
In 1994 Ipswich School won the National Schools Chess Championships boasting several players who were part of Bob’s setup.
Despite stepping down from the role of Suffolk Junior Chess organiser, Bob still remains the most vital part of local junior chess. He still runs the Bury Knights JCC which he formed over 25 years ago, which is the largest chess club (junior or adult) in Suffolk.
Alumni from Bob’s time in Suffolk Junior Chess include brothers GM Nicholas Pert and IM Richard Pert, IM Alan Merry, and Timothy Kiddell CBE.
Bob’s reach has not been limited to junior chess. To this day, Bob is involved in the management of Bury St Edmunds Chess Club and social chess in Bury St Edmunds. After many years as Suffolk County Chess Association President, Bob remains part of the SCCA committee as county u1850 captain.
I have been unable to locate any information on Bob’s introduction to Suffolk chess prior to 1987. I have been told that Bob was instrumental in Stowmarket Chess Club winning the BCF Club of the Year in 1988, but I have been unable to evidence how he came to be in a position to influence it.
Somehow amongst all this he still finds time to play 40+ rated games per season in local leagues and 4NCL!
The potential of Bob’s peak strength as a player if he had focused his efforts into his own game rather than the promotion of chess and others is unknowable, although at least one future GM and one future IM have been caught by him in a trap in one of his various dangerous opening weapons – the Fajarowicz variation of the Budapest Gambit.
Bob’s drive and determination to promote the game of chess remains unwavering. His energy and love of the game, and desire to grow participation and playing of the game are truly extraordinary.
Bob’s personal contributions to chess over this time are outstanding, and whilst he is a modest man I can not imagine how anyone could be more deserving of the recognition by the ECF of his service.
In 1987, junior chess in Suffolk was moribund. If I remember correctly there were just 13 Suffolk juniors playing chess outside of school. BUT, and it was a very big ‘but’ Bob Jones had just taken over as Suffolk Junior Chess Organizer.
At the time I was a senior member of FIDE’s Qualification Commission, which was responsible for FIDE Titles and Ratings.
In discussions we agreed to institute a rating system for Suffolk juniors with the objectives of providing a stimulus, one which would reflect the actual progress juniors were making. At the time, few junior games were ‘graded’, such that even an active junior would have to wait literally years before his or her grade bore any resemblance to reality, a not insignificant disincentive to development. The system we established was that ratings for all Suffolk juniors were calculated using all available games. Bob would take care of the publication of a monthly rating list, thus the Suffolk Junior Rating List was born and the first issue published in June 1988 with just 53 names on the list, but a huge fourfold improvement on the BCF list.
Bob was the organizer, the fixer. He did all the work of duplicating and distributing the Rating List. He maintained the enormous database of the 600 or so juniors on the list by mid 1990, together with their Suffolk chess titles (Suffolk Master, Club Master, Junior Master and Candidate Junior Master), Player of the Month awards and much more.
FM & FIDE Senior Trainer