Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - July 1998

Edited by Peter Price
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.


It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Ted Williams on Sunday 12th April. Ted was in hospital, following a fall in the nursing home where he and Ivy had lived for some time. Ted underwent surgery on a broken hip caused by the fall which appeared to have been successful, and the cause of death was given as heart failure.

The cremation service took place on 24th April and was attended by Geoff and Ruth Carlin, Norman and Pauline Wragg and Stan and Jan Lovell from BCA, as well as a number of chess players from the Sheffield area along with a great many members of family and friends.

There were floral tributes from BCA and from the Sheffield Chess Association and many have been sending donations to BCA in memory of Ted.

John Edward Williams was born on 12th July 1914 in Sheffield where he lived all his life. He could rightly be described as a Sheffield man through and through.

After losing his sight due to an accident during childhood he attended Tapton Mount School for the Blind. At the age of 15 he went on, as so many blind people did in those days, to the “Blind Workshops” where he started his long career as a mat maker. Only those with similar experience will begin to understand the level of frustration felt by a man with such an intellect being directed into such employment.

Ted’s early life was hard, perhaps never more so than when he found himself looking after his young son alone and homeless. His life took a remarkable turn for the better when he met Ivy, and after a five month courtship they married in April 1950.

Those who were privileged to know Ted knew him as a man of grit and determination. You could imagine his iron will being forged from the steel for which Sheffield is famous. He could be sharp and abrasive but underlying this was his deep sensitivity. He loved literature and music and had a great knowledge of sports and particularly, like most true Yorkshiremen, he had a great knowledge and love of cricket.

Ted’s life long passion, of course, was for chess. “Chess is not a game it’s a way of life” he would say, as he gathered around him a circle of listeners ready to be regaled by his endless supply of homespun philosophy and remarkable tales.

Ted joined the Braille Chess Association in January 1932, just a few weeks after its inauguration. He was a member of the UK national team in international events for blind players and particularly enjoyed his involvement with the Six Nations Tournaments. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement amongst many was winning the British Blind Players Championship at the age of 61. Ted’s chess was not confined to events for blind players, however, and he scored many notable successes during his long career in the Sheffield League, the Yorkshire League and in a variety of chess congresses.

In 1979 Ted was run over by a lorry which killed his guide dog and left him with severe multiple injuries. Once again his grit and determination pulled him through although he was no longer able to enjoy the long walks with his guide dog which had meant so much to him.

In these days when superlatives and overstatement are the norm, meaningful assessment is made more difficult, but I believe that we have lost a remarkable man, a great personality and most of all a great friend.

Our deepest sympathy goes to Ivy, who devoted her life to Ted and who was always his greatest champion and fan, and to their sons Keith, Raymond and Graham.

Stan Lovell.