Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2006

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

Stephen Eastwick-Field Memorial Tournament 2006

Peter Price writes: This was held at the Preston Sands Hotel at Paignton from 20th-27th May.

How to enjoy ourselves during one of the wettest weeks in recent memory was amply displayed when we visited Paignton for the above tournament. Our party of 37 members descended on the family-run hotel on Saturday afternoon. The family did go some way to meeting our requirements despite the recent illness of the owner’s wife, but there was not a feeling of our being welcomed.

The hotel was clean and the restaurant service speedy, although waiting for sandwich lunches seemed interminable. Playing conditions were cramped but adequate.

For those of us on the periphery of things the week’s programme seemed to run smoothly, apart from a few time changes. Unfortunately, for those at the centre of operations who had to deal with management, they encountered reluctance, inertia and even hostility. It is questionable whether we shall ever pass through those portals again.

The first round of the six-round swiss was played on Saturday with an upper and lower group of twelve and 8 players respectively. Jim Cuthbert entered the lists in the upper echelon having distinguished himself in the minor section of the recent AGM tournament. Two new players were welcomed to the lower group: Trish Talbot and Gary Wickett, who was resurrecting his chess after a 20-year absence from the board. 100 minutes on each clock was the time limit. Results went to form, although Brian Perham (grading 67) beating David Hodgkins (grading 106) caused a murmur. Afterwards there were the inevitable discussions in the bar as to what might have been: ‘if only—‘

Sunday morning’s round 2 was accompanied by one of the loudest rainstorms I have heard for many a year: The torrents rattled down on the plastic roof of the playing area.

Coaching sessions were arranged for the afternoons, Tyson Mordue looking after the upper group and Stan lovell taking care of the lower group. Attendance at these sessions was voluntary. While they were generally approved and considered useful, some folk felt that the coaches were inclined to hurry the play along so that people sometimes fell behind and did not have time to evaluate a position. Such is the enthusiasm of the experts.

By the end of the third round there were clearly some pointers to the leading contenders. In the upper group Stan was the only player on 3-3, while in the lower group Chris Brown’s 3-3 indicated that this ever-improving octogenarian would (barring accidents) have an unassailable lead.

That evening Sheila enlivened proceedings with another of her brain-teasing 50-question quizzes. Thank you Sheila for giving us an evening of pleasure and a different kind of mental stimulation, and also for organising a subsequent raffle which raised £100 for BCA funds.

At the conclusion of round 4 Stan’s lead was now shared with David Hodgkins and John Gallagher, With George Phillips and Steve Thacker only half a point behind. The tension was mounting! In the other section Chris had lengthened her lead. Of the newcomers, Trish was on a steep learning curve, while Gary had a creditable fifty per cent score.

Wednesday was the free day and it began bright and dry. Mary Cuthbert, having collected the ticket monies, did a head count as 33 of us boarded the coach for Exmouth. A quick look around the harbour and a light lunch, and then aboard the blue and yellow-painted Tudor Rose for a 1.5 hour boat trip around Exmouth and up the more placid waters of the river Exe to Starcross and back.

We had wonderful commentary on this excursion, full of humour and relevant information on the features that we passed. What a difference such a clear commentary can make! We passed the oldest listed sea wall in the country, where the ravages of storms had undermined the footings, causing these to be replaced. The commentary referred to our passing near to the setting for the tv series the Onedin Line; and also a distant view of Powderham Castle where the oldest inhabitant had died last year at the age of 155 years – Tim, the tortoise. This was a most interesting boat tour laced with refreshments. As we left the boat the rain began to set in and what a joy it was to have the coach nearby to return us to base. Mary again took charge of us all: Thank you Mary for your efforts on an outing which had been carefully planned by Stan and Jan as part of the holiday.

Yet the day was far from over, for, at 8:30, there was a 4-round rapid play tournament in which 14 players took part. 15 minutes on each clock was the time limit. As the clocks clicked, the phrenetic atmosphere of the competition was matched by the storm of wind and rain that raged outside. Peter and Celia Gibbs, Tyson and Norman Andrews excelled themselves as they darted around the cramped conditions, watching boards, clocks, and falling flags as well as noting results. It was after 11 PM before Gallagher and Hodgkins ended up tying for first place with 3.5 points – each having drawn with Steve Thacker. Steve shared 3 points with Stan and ‘yours truly’.

The results of the penultimate round heightened the results still further with Stan back in the lead with 4 points, hotly pursued by John Gallagher, Steve Thacker and David Hodgkins. Meanwhile Brian Perham, with 3 points, looked set for the grading prize. In the other group Chris Brown added yet another point, and Geoff Patching, who was not in the best of health, was only a point behind. Bob Brown and Dorothy Hodges were tying on 3 points.

During Thursday evening, as we chatted idly in the bar, the idea began to circulate that we should have some homegrown entertainment from the party. Juliet Reeve, our entertainment manager, was quick to persuade or coerce members to contribute. Without any prepared script she did well to get the show on the road and then to link the various performances for our delight. With monologues, songs, poetry and humour, pop-star impressions and improvisations, the evening passed very enjoyably. The high standard of spontaneous talent was truly remarkable.

Mary’s stentorian recitation of Hilaire Belloc’s poem ‘Matilda’, in which a dreadful child’s repeated hoax calls of ‘fire’ lead to her being burnt to death, must have been heard by the gods: for, in the wee small hours of the following morning, the fire alarms were set off ‘by mistake’!

The sun shone on the final morning of play, and especially on Stan who forged ahead by beating Steve. David and Brian notched up respective wins; and although Jim Cuthbert was outplayed by George Plechaty, the game was described as brilliant. In the lower section Chris confirmed our prediction of a 100 per cent score, with Geoff again just one point behind.

During the week players and non-players got out in small groups to visit Paignton, Brixham, the nearby boathouse for varied refreshments, and Oldway Mansion. This nineteenth-century 100-room building with its impressive architecture had beautiful well-maintained gardens, a fascinating interior and ‘yummy’ cream teas. One could happily spend a whole day exploring such a treasure house.

Our thanks go to Peter Gibbs for controlling the event with his customary humour and efficiency despite difficult conditions. He was ably assisted by Celia, Tyson and ‘aquarius’ Norman, who plied us with welcome glasses of water. Thanks also to Christine who must have got more rain-soaked than anybody else; and to all the ladies and friends who assisted us in the dining room and gave that little touch of help whenever it was most needed. Finally a big thank you to Stan and Jan for planning and setting up what proved to be a very happy chess holiday.

Scores. Upper group: Lovell 5-6; Hodgkins 4.5-6; Gallagher and Perham 4-6; Thacker 3.5-6; Gordon, Phillips and Plechaty 3-6; Davey 2.5-6; Price 2-6; Gailans 1.5-6; Cuthbert 0-6. Brian Perham won the grading prize.

Lower group: C. Brown 6-6; Patching 5-6; Hodges and R. Brown 3.5-6; Wickett 3-6; Harrington 2-6; Dyte 1-6; Talbot 0-6. Dorothy Hodges won the grading prize.