The Southern Counties Chess Union (SCCU) is one of the five English chess unions affiliated to the English Chess Federation (ECF). Founded in 1892, the Union has for most of its history been an organisation whose membership consisted exclusively of the County chess associations within its geographical area. This area, and the number of affiliated Counties, has varied over time, with certain Counties that were once in membership now belonging to the West of England or East Anglian Chess Unions which were founded in 1957 and 1983 respectively.
At present there are seven County members - Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.
At the 1998 Annual General Meeting, the General Rules were changed in order to enable chess organisations other than County Associations to be admitted to membership and to enjoy appropriate rights of representation. Currently there are six non-county members: Berkshire Junior Chess Association; Chess in Schools and Communities; Hastings International Congress; Oxfordshire Juniors; Richmond Junior Chess Club and Thanet Chess League. The Union has a continuing goal to enhance the number of members.
The Union fulfils a number of functions:
- It acts as a link between its member organisations and the ECF. By virtue of its status as a constituent unit of the ECF, the Union has the right to place motions on the agenda for ECF Council meetings. This enables issues of concern to be raised at a ECF level, and information on ECF developments to be disseminated downwards.
- It organises qualifying events for the national competitions. The County championships are well supported, with up to 30 teams or more participating in the five divisions. The Union has three qualifying places for the British Championship which it allocates to appropriate Swiss Opens each year, one of which also hosts the Union Championship.
- In addition it organises three events, which are now open to teams from both county and non-county members:
(a) one or more Under 18 events, held annually on a jamboree basis
(b) a season-long team competition for players aged under 14 and graded under 130
(c) Annual U185 and U150 jamborees
- It organises events to fill gaps in the programme of activities that would otherwise exist within its geographical area. Tournaments to provide opportunities for obtaining international ratings have been successfully organised in the past. In 2010 it organised the National Counties Rapidplay Championship on the ECF's behalf.
- It provides information on chess in the area through the SCCU Website. The Website is the successor to the long-standing SCCU Bulletin (founded 1958), which still appears once a year as a hard-copy digest of the Website.
- It can mobilise resources for the benefit of one or more of its member organisations. This may involve the organisation of a team or the provision of a means for resolving disputes.
The governing body of the Union is its Council, which comprises the elected officers, two representatives of each member County, and (normally) one representative of each non-County member. An Annual General Meeting is held in late June or early July and there is provision in the general rules for Special General Meetings to be convened.
The general management of the Union is carried out by the Executive Committee which comprises the elected officers, one representative of each member County, up to five representatives of the non-County members and up to three co-opted members. Executive Committee meetings normally take place in September and March and (briefly) before and after the Annual Council Meeting. Between meetings, the President can take decisions on matters relating to Union affairs after consultation with appropriate officers.
In common with most other chess organisations, the Union is indebted to its officers, who are all unpaid, for making their time available to deal with Union affairs, in many cases as part of a much wider role within the chess community. For the organisation to continue to flourish, it is important that there should be a regular emergence of fresh volunteers willing to take on one of the existing posts or to develop completely new activities under the auspices of the Union. The President would be pleased to discuss with any individual willing to put something back into the game by getting involved with Union activities in any role that he or she might be able to play.