Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2005

Sponsored by The Leeds Hospital Fund Charitable Trust
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.


3rd-12th November 2004, Tarragona, Spain

by Julie Leonard

Teams representing thirty-three countries from four continents gathered together in the resort of La Pineda near Tarragona on the Costa Dorado to compete in the XII IBCA Olympiad. Our group comprised players Graham Lilley, Colin Chambers, Bill Armstrong, Les Whittle and Norman Wragg with guides Geoff Ward, Barbara Chambers, Moira Whittle and Pauline Wragg. I tagged along and my husband, Olly, joined us half way through.

After a tiring journey, we quickly settled into the comfortable hotel and sampled the wide range of dishes on offer in the buffet restaurant. The first day’s business was not complete until the players had elected their captain. Colin was given the honour, perhaps because he had played in no less than eight previous Olympiads (just one more than Graham).

The next day, Colin, Norman and I attended the technical meeting in which each country formally declares their team in playing order and various rules relating to how the tournament will be run are explained. The chess commenced that afternoon. Great Britain was drawn against Spain in the first round and graciously conceded a victory to the host nation by three points to one.

After that, we established a routine that was followed for the next seven days. Bulletins were collected after breakfast and used to prepare for that day’s opponents. Pauline and I read whichever games were required. When the preparation was over, some of the group often went for a walk. Being out of season, the resort was largely closed and it was a little too cold to swim from the beach which was usually quite deserted. However, there was a wide promenade along which to stroll and enjoy the autumn sunshine.

Each evening the next day’s pairings were published by about 10 o’clock, and as Great Britain was fortunate enough to have a reserve player, the squad would then discuss who was to be in the team for the following day. The captain ensured that players were rested when they needed to be and attempted to balance colours for the whole squad.

Over the first three rounds a distinct pattern developed in Great Britain’s results. The 1-3 defeat by Spain was followed by a 3-1 win over Switzerland and a 1-3 loss to Macedonia. We hoped that the sequence would continue in round 4 when we played Turkmenistan, but whilst the score line was indeed 3-1, the result was not in our favour. At the top of the table, Russia and Poland were now neck and neck on 13 points, ahead of Lithuania on 11.5.

Rumours were now beginning to circulate about Les’s new chess set, which he had purchased earlier in the year. He had now played ten games on it without defeat and it was suggested that the set might have been enhanced with an invincibility charm, or that it might not have been crafted by mere mortals at all! Les was convinced that his success was all down to the new set though some attributed it to the glass of wine that he had become accustomed to drinking at lunchtime.

In round five, the top of the table clash between Russia and Poland resulted in a draw. Great Britain gave a fine performance against South Africa resulting in a 4-0 victory. Les’s enchanted board had dominated once again! (Incidentally, I still have some of these sets available for purchase – though magical properties cannot be guaranteed!)

Round six saw Great Britain paired with Kazakhstan, and World Champion Zhunusov playing against Graham on board one. After a brave fight, all four games were lost. Even Les’s magic chess set had been overpowered. Apparently, the e1 square had a previously undiscovered defect, which allowed Les to place a rook there even though this move led to defeat. Meanwhile, Poland had now taken the lead after a 3-1 win over Ukraine. Russia had beaten their Spanish opponents by only 2.5 to 1.5.

In round 7, Poland extended their lead to a full point with a 4-0 win over Spain, whilst Russia could only manage 3.5 to 0.5 against Macedonia. Great Britain lost 2.5-1.5 to France.

With one round to go, Russia were just half a point behind Poland again after taking 3.5 points from Romania while Serbia and Montenegro managed to win a full point against the Poles. Great Britain reverted to our customary 3-1 score line with a win over Norway, giving us a total of 14.5 points. However there was great concern in the camp that this was not enough for us to avoid the bye in the last round. Although we were in joint 24th-26th place at this stage, all the countries on fewer points than us had already had the bye. We waited for the pairings with greater anxiety than usual that night, but were relieved to find that we were drawn against Greece for the final round.

At last it was time for the long awaited rest day. In the morning there was an excursion to Tarragona with a guided tour around the impressive Roman remains. The IBCA congress was held in the afternoon. We are much indebted to Norman and Pauline who attended the meeting on all our behalves. It turned into a marathon session, lasting well into the evening.

In an exciting finish, Russia vanquished Croatia with a clean sweep whereas Poland dropped half a point against the Czech Republic, leaving the two top teams level on 28.5 points. Great Britain ended the tournament in fine style, scoring 3.5 against the Greeks. Overall our team scored 18 points from 36 and this placed us joint 15th to 18th, a few places above our seeding of 22. Our excellent guides contributed a great deal to the team’s performance, keeping morale high and supporting the squad through thick and thin.

Graham was the only British player to compete in all nine rounds and he scored an impressive 50% on the top board. Colin took his duties as captain very seriously and included himself in the team for many of the toughest clashes. Nevertheless, he scored 2 out of 6 on the second board. Bill had the distinction of playing the longest games of any of the British players but his efforts were not in vain! Despite the gruelling six hour playing sessions he notched up 4 points from eight games on board three. Les had never played in an Olympiad before, but it certainly didn’t show! He scored an outstanding 6 out of eight on board four. This had also been Norman’s first Olympiad but he too gave a fine account of himself, finishing on 1.5 out of five (unaided by an enchanted chess set!)

At the prize-giving, it was announced that Poland had won the gold medals on tie-break. Russia took silver and the bronze went to Ukraine. We reserved our loudest cheers for Les, who won a silver medal for having achieved the second best performance on board four, and also for Ernie McElroy, BCA member from the Republic of Ireland, who was awarded the board three bronze medal.

Finally, here are two games. It goes without saying that many others are worthy of publication, but it is impossible to include them all here.

Whittle (G.B.) v Kostadinovsky (Macedonia)

Round 3

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 Bd6 4. Bxd6 Qxd6 5. c3 c5 6. e3 Nc6 7. Nbd2 f5 8. Bb5

(Normally I would play 8 Bd3 but I was influenced by the pawn formation.)

8 … Bd7 9. Bxc6 Bxc6 10. Ne5 Nf6 11. 0-0 0-0 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. f4 cxd4 14. cxd4 c5 15. Nf3 cxd4 16. Qxd4 Rfc8 17. Rac1 Rc7 18. Qe5

(Preventing my opponent from controlling the open file.)

18 … Qxe5 19. fxe5 Rxc1 20. Rxc1 Ng4 21. Rc3

(I was quite happy with my position at this stage.)

21 … Re8 22. h3 Nh6 23. Rc7 a5 24. Ng5 f4

(A dubious pawn sacrifice but obviously intended to reactivate the knight.)

25. exf4 Nf5 26. Kf2 h6 27. Nf3 a4 28. g4 Ne7 29. Nd4 Ng6 30. Kg3 Nf8 31. Nc6 Kh7 32. b3 axb3 33. axb3 Ra8 34. Nd4 Rb8 35. Ra7 Rc8 36. f5 exf5 37. gxf5 Kg8 38. e6 Nh7 39. Kf4 Nf6 40. Ke5 Rc3

(I was happy to sacrifice a couple of pawns for an overwhelming position.)

41. h4 Re3+ 42. Kd6 Re4 43. Ra4 Rxh4 44. Nc6 Rh3 45. Ra8+ Kh7 46. e7 Re3 47. Ne5 Rxb3 48. Ng6 Rb6+ 49. Kc7 Black resigns.(There is no way to prevent the mate.)

Chambers (G.B.) v Schmeisser (France)

Round 7

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. c3 e6 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 d5 6. 0-0 b6 7. dxc5 bxc5 8. c4 Be7 9. Nbd2 0-0 10. cxd5 exd5

(The hanging pawn strategy. The idea is to restrict the opponent's pieces and eventually break in the centre to create a dangerous passed pawn.)

11. b3 Be6 12. Bb2 Qd7 13. Ne5

(When faced with hanging pawns, it is often best to avoid congestion by exchanging some pieces and then attempting to undermine the pawns.)

13 … Nxe5 14. Bxe5 Bh3 15. e3 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Rfd8 17. Qf3 Qe6 18. Bb2 Rac8 19. Rfc1 c4

(The thematic break in the centre. However, the push usually involves d4 and I am not convinced that this approach is good.)

20. Bd4 Ba3 21. Rc2 Ne4 22. Nxe4

(I agonised over 22 Bxa7 for a long time. There were several interesting continuations and one went 22 … Nxd2 23 Rxd2 c3 24 Rc2 Bb2 25 Rb1 Qa6 26 Bd4 Qxa2 27 Rbxb2 cxb2 28 Rxc8 Rxc8 29 Qg4! However, I was not convinced. Consequently, suspecting that my opponent wanted to liquidate the Queen's side pawns, I pinned my hopes on the inherent trap.)

22 … dxe4 23. Qe2 cxb3 24. axb3 Qxb3

(The trap! My opponent thought he was going into a drawn ending but overlooked the thunderbolt.)

25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. Qa6! Qe6 27. Qxe6 fxe6 28. Rxa3 Re8 29. Rxa7 e5 30. Ba1 Black resigns.