Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 2001

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.


We regret to announce the sudden death on February 1st of Willie Breen who was well known to many BCA members. At 83 years of age (84 in March) Willie was still a very formidable opponent respected by all.

Willie was only three years of age when he contracted trachoma, and much of the next six or seven years were spent in the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, in an effort to save some of his rapidly failing vision, but alas, to little or no avail. Willie learned how to play chess from a work mate

while he was an apprentice at the work shops for the blind in Dublin. He joined the BCA in about 1936 and remained a member until about 1980. Some of the more senior players in the BCA played Willie continually for over thirty years. In those days Willie won practically every prize the BCA had

on offer, including the 9th Championship. His analytical prowess did not go unnoticed either, for the BCA appointed him as one of their adjudicators for best played competitions and the brilliancy prize competition.

In 1953 Willie had a very serious car accident in which he was extremely lucky to survive. Having made a complete recovery, he married two years later, but bringing a lull in his over-the-board chess until 1960 when the O'Hanlon chess club for the blind was founded. Willie allied himself with

renewed enthusiasm, playing board 1 for the club, where he acquitted himself with remarkable distinction.

Willie also represented Ireland in four chess Olympiads and up to the time of his death was still an active member of the Braille Chess Association of Ireland and Phibsboro Chess Club. He will be sadly missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Philip Doyle.