Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2011

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.

Farewell to a BCA Legend

I have been asked to write an obituary for the late Jack Horrocks.

I thought long and hard before accepting this invitation. No, not in any way in deference to Jack for whom I had the utmost admiration both on and off the chessboard. My hesitancy was due entirely to the fact that when I notified the user group of Jack’s death, only one person chose to respond to the news, and one other member contacted his ex-wife by phone. On his death, Jack requested donations to go to the BCA, but as I understand it only three donations were received. The question has to be raised whether such a response is worthy of such a BCA legend?

Jack died on 26th March this year, and I was privileged to be asked to say a few words at his funeral, at which there were only two BCA members in attendance (25 percent of those present), his ex-wife Freda and myself. Born in Sheffield on 27th December 1932, Jack didn't see much of his parents and was brought up by an uncle. On reaching working age he came to London and got gainful employment as a computer programmer in the Civil Service.

Throughout his life Jack would try his hand at anything, even though most of his ventures failed. I well remember Jack taking up metal detecting in the firm belief that he would find his pot of gold buried beneath the ground. He never did. Then there was some involvement with supermarkets where he would buy in bulk and sell at a slightly higher price. Alas, that venture soon failed.

However, there was one project which Jack did take up and at which he was outstanding. That project was the game of chess. He represented the UK in nine Olympiads and played in several World Cup matches for his country. Always gracious in defeat and modest in victory Jack was much respected by all his opponents.

There are two abiding memories I have of Jack concerning chess. The first is that on one occasion he turned up for an away league match, sat down at the table and politely shook his opponent's hand. He then got his board out of his bag and dipping into his bag again for his pieces found there were no pieces there. Undaunted by this, Jack simply played the game in his head. Needless to say he won.

Then there was the time when a junior member turned up at his first BCA tournament feeling naturally extremely nervous. After he had lost his first game he was seen in a corner in some distress. Jack simply went over to him and assured the young lad that with his enthusiasm he was sure he would become one of the strongest players in the association. How right Jack was. That junior, now a senior, is an automatic choice for our Olympic team. That kind of action sums up Jack's entire outlook on life.

I would hope that members have taken the trouble to read this article. No, not because it is written by me, but to give one of the BCA's legendary members the respect he so richly deserves. I hope that the relative lack of a response to Jack’s death compared to the death of other members does not signify the end of the friendly, caring, respect-for-others association which I joined in the mid-1960's.

Sean O’Brien.