Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2015

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

Obituary for International Master Colin Crouch

Colin Stamford Crouch PhD passed away at home in Harrow in April 2015, following a brain haemorrhage. He was 58 years old. Members of the chess community from far and wide were shocked and saddened by the news of Colin’s death and many fine tributes have been paid to him in newspaper columns and on chess websites. The following piece does not attempt to replicate those articles by chronicling all of Colin’s many and varied achievements. Instead, it gives a summary of his accomplishments, before focusing on his activities in BCA circles. The details of Colin’s life before he joined the BCA are drawn from a short autobiography that Colin circulated by way of introducing himself on joining a UK/USA visually impaired team playing in a German email competition. I am grateful to the team captain, Paul Benson, for making this information available.

Colin was born on the 14th of October, 1956. At the age of seven he learnt chess from his father and four years later he joined Harrow Chess Club where he started playing in the London Junior Championships. In 1972 he won the British Under 16 Championship with 10.5/11 and he followed up by winning the Under 18 Championship in 1974. Colin modestly recalled that players such as Speelman and Mestel, who were the same age as or younger than Colin, were already playing in the main British Championship at that time. Nevertheless, few could have doubted that Colin’s performance in the age restricted events was remarkable.

A true intellectual, Colin studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge then completed a PhD at Durham, where he wrote on “The Economic Geography of Recession in the UK: the early 1980s and historical perspectives”. During the 1980s, Colin played a lot of weekend chess in Britain as much because he enjoyed looking around different towns and cities, rather than thinking seriously about chess. Colin joked that his most unlikely achievement was in winning the Scottish Grand Prix one year, even though he was living in northeast England at the time!

Colin wrote that he began to play chess a bit more seriously in the 1990s and decided that it was about time to become an International Master. He was duly awarded the title in 1991. Travel still interested him. He played in western Europe and, once the Iron Curtain had fallen, in eastern Europe. He also competed further afield in India. He considered that he was a little late in trying to become a GM, but nonetheless he had beaten many Grandmaster opponents, including Valeriy Neverov from the Ukraine, Murray Chandler from New Zealand and Mihai Suba from Romania.

Colin remained a loyal member of Harrow Chess Club, where he coached juniors. He also penned highly acclaimed chess books and maintained a website about thinking, both in a chess context and more generally.

In 2004, Colin suffered a severe stroke which left him with no sight in his right eye and only partial vision in the left. Demonstrating true strength of character, Colin set himself the task of regaining the FIDE rating that he had had immediately prior to his stroke.

At the end of 2006 Colin joined the BCA and entered the British Braille Championship in Bournemouth in 2007. As is always the case with newcomers to our association, he was warmly welcomed and quickly made friends. Colin lost no time in offering to guide people who had less sight than he did. He also gained tremendous respect among the membership by winning the championship with a compelling seven points from seven games, thereby earning the right to represent Great Britain at the IBCA European Championships, hosted by the BCA in St. Aidan’s College, Durham University later that same year. In Durham, Colin scored six points from nine games and finished in joint 5th place. Also in 2007, Colin shared first place with Graham Lilley and Chris Ross at our 75th Anniversary Tournament in Solihull. After this impressive first year with us, Colin went on to lead our team on board one at the IBCA Olympiad in Heraklion, Crete 2008, where he secured the Board 1 Silver Medal with a score of 6.5 from 9.

In 2009 in Weston-super-Mare, Colin successfully defended his title of BCA Champion, narrowly beating Chris Ross on tie-break. At the IBCA Olympiad in Chennai, India, in 2012, Colin put in another Silver Medal winning performance on Board 1, this time with 7.5 from 9. He also played for several seasons on the top board of BCA teams in the 4NCL and the British Correspondence Chess League, as well as making valued contributions to our gazette and attending a few BCA weekend events, where he made many friends and was held in high esteem.

In 2013, with a FIDE rating of 2384, Colin achieved the rating he had just before his stroke. He wrote that he felt this was a personal success, which many would regard as an understatement.

Colin’s funeral was attended by family members and numerous chess friends, including Chris Ross and Mike Murphy from the BCA. The event was a warm celebration of Colin’s life, where people shared their memories of this greatly respected and well liked man, who will be missed by many. RIP Colin

Julie Leonard

The following game, played at the Hastings Challengers 1991-92, is widely considered to be among Colin’s finest.

Neverov, Valeriy (2540) v Crouch, Colin S (2365)

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxc4 5. e4 c5 6. d5 Be7 7. Bf4 Nxe4 8. Nxe4 exd5 9. Ng3 O-O 10. Nf3 Bf6 11. Qd2 Nc6 12. Be2 Bg4 13. O-O Bxf3 14. Bxf3 Nd4 15. Bg4 a5 16. Nh5 a4 17. Rae1 Nc6 18. Re3 a3

19. Bc7 Qxc7 20. Nxf6+ gxf6 21. Bf5 Rfe8 22. Rg3+ Kf8 23. Qh6+ Ke7 24. Re1+ Ne5 25. f4 Ra6 26. fxe5 fxe5 27. Qg5+ f6 28. Qh6 Kd8 29. Rg7 Re7 30. Rg8+ Re8 31. Rg7 Re7 32. Rg8+ Re8 33. Rxe8+ Kxe8 34. Bxh7 axb2 35. Bg6+ Kd7 36. Qg7+ Kc6 37. Qxf6+ Kb5 38. Qf5 Rxa2 39. h4 Ra1 40. Qf2 Ka6 41. Bb1 Qa5 42. Qf1 Qd2

43. h5 Ka7 44. Rd1 Qe3+ 45. Kh1 c3 46. Qb5 e4 47. Kh2 Qf4+ 48. Kh3 Qf5+ 49. Kh4 d4 50. Bc2 Qf6+

51. Kh3 Qb6 52. Qf1 Rxd1 53. Qxd1 d3 0-1