Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People


Two people playing chess while two more follow the game
Richard Harrington and Mark Hague play while their coach (Mark Kirkham) and Lea Ryan follow

These week long holidays give visually impaired players a chance to enjoy some time away without the pressure of a formal rated tournament. Of course, it wouldn’t be a BCA event without some chess but it takes the form of informal coaching offered by some of our stronger players. There is also a rapid play tournament where the stronger players have less time to make their moves and therefore level the field.

Young woman playing chess
Abi playing chess

Of course there is no obligation to play in the tournament or take the coaching. Some of our members come to this event just to get away from it all and enjoy some like minded company. In fact, the social side of this event is one of its greatest attractions and a wide range of entertainment is laid on for attendees.

The first theme break was held in 1994 and was organised by Peter and Celia Gibbs at the request of the BCA. You can read Peter and Celia's memories of the theme breaks here. They ran the event for twenty-eight years but after the 2020 event, decided to hand the reins over to the BCA committee. The event is now coordinated by our Gazette editor (Julie Leonard).


The event begins with two days of coaching where players are paired with coaches for four two hour sessions. This coaching is especially valuable to novice players who get the kind of coaching that would typically cost around £240 for the full eight hours. The day after the coaching is usually reserved for trips in the local area and the following two days are given over to the tournament. On the final day, a player who is strong enough to play all the trainees at once gives a so called “simultaneous display”. They don’t always win every game and there has been the odd upset where a master gets pulled down a pawn or two!

People playing musical instruments
Antoine (guitar), Thuy (ukelele), Tanvi (piano).jpg

Entertainment is provided on every evening except for the one night where the members themselves take the spotlight. The “Soirée” has become a regular staple of the event and some members spend more time rehearsing for the extravaganza than they do improving their chess.


Members who give or receive coaching are eligible for a £50 grant.