Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2016

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.

Words from the Whitehouse

The committee held a meeting on 21st November; here’s my usual summary of the key points covered at that meeting. Other matters were discussed, but they are covered elsewhere in the gazette.

A key part of my work at this time of year is to produce our annual Trustee’s Report and a new three-year Business Plan if I think that any changes to the previous plan warrant a new one. I did think a new Business Plan was appropriate this time, partly because of changes to the international tournament schedule and also because of our likely involvement in the newly reformatted National Club Championships. You can find the Trustee’s Report and Business Plan on our website.

Talking of the National Club Championships, we’ll be participating again this year. The championships are scheduled to take place at the Birmingham Airport Holiday Inn from 9th -10th April. At this writing I’ve had expressions of interest from Phil Gordon, Voldi Gailans, George Phillips, Dan Rugman, Bill Armstrong and Steve Burnell. To remind people, funding arrangements adopted by the committee were that we would meet travel costs and pay for bed and breakfast, but dinners were at the individual’s expense and we would ask for a £50 contribution from participants.

We looked at the feedback to our recent questionnaire on the format of the British. We got 18 responses; we might have wished for more. Please see Norman Wragg’s article on BCA British Championship for a detailed summary of the results. We have decided to look at hotels other than the Auckland and are investigating the Old Swan in Harrogate, the Livermead House Hotel where the Paignton Congress is held and the Holiday Inn in York used by Peter Cloudsdale for his Jorvik Congress. The committee is sharing the responsibility for working out the appropriate venue and would welcome expressions of interest from someone who would like to become the organiser for this event.

Before leaving our domestic tournament agenda, I’d also draw people’s attention to the change in booking procedures directing those entering events to send queries to the organiser and not to Gill; she has begun to feel that people are sending her enquiries which really ought to be dealt with by the main organiser mentioned in the Forthcoming Events section of the gazette.

The committee noted that correspondence chess in its traditional form did seem to be in something of a decline. On the day of the meeting we only had thirteen people entering the next league competition. There had hardly been a game, maybe even none at all in the ladder competition for months. By way of contrast our email competitions were flourishing and other forms of internet chess such as Skype tournaments were also popular. The committee isn’t absolutely sure whether this decline is permanent and I should emphasise we have no plans to scrap either the league or the championship; I merely mention it now to make members aware that the committee have noted the relative popularity of the two types of correspondence chess and that we suspect most people are no longer attracted to playing by tape or sticking small bits of Braille paper with a move on into envelopes.

Turning to publicity, we ran a stand at the most recent London Sight Village event. Plenty of leaflets were taken and we got expressions of interest, but the feeling at the meeting was that it was time to give exhibiting a break and just send bag inserts to all the events. Looking back at our experience of exhibiting, we felt we’d had some success but nothing like what you’d hope for given the numbers of people who actually come through the door. There’s also a suspicion that the majority of visitors are really only interested in the technology on offer.

The most promising contact made at this year’s event might be with the RNC in Hereford. It seems there are six or so enthusiastic players who organise their own chess activities, added to which there is a conference centre we might use for a weekend event. Staging something at the RNC might be a natural way of making contact with the chessplaying students already there. I’ve taken an action to find out prices and make other necessary enquiries.

Voldi is liaising with East London Vision who have had expressions of interest from up to 12 people even though at this writing the flyers haven’t been sent out. Roy Smith of Metro also gave a donation for which we are obviously grateful, and so this might be an opportunity to spread the word amongst Metro members. The committee felt we’d probably do better to try and make something of these contacts than direct our energies into exhibiting at more Sight Village events, at least for now.

If you have bought a BCA polo shirt, please do wear it when you are at an event. Gary did at Harrogate, and a couple liked it enough to send us a gift! And if you haven’t bought a shirt, you could always mention it to your friends ahead of your next birthday…

We are looking at boosting our presence online. At the British Computer Association of the Blind’s last AGM I heard about an online forum called TeamTalk. Apparently there are quite a few visually impaired people on there. Our Facebook page is getting quite a few “likes” and we want to increase the number of people who tweet for us.

Our junior development programme continues and we plan to stage our next Junior Championship in April next year. What with Haaksbergen, the National Club Championships and our top players’ involvement in the 4NCL April is getting a crowded month! Sadly one of the Surrey schools has had to pull out of the programme Owen Phillips was running. We did have an expression of interest from a school in Reading, but at the moment we can’t make that work practically. We are sending bags with the BCA logo on them to the next Junior Championship so that all participants will have something to take away.

Finally finance and fundraising: Julia Scott raised a magnificent £34,900 for us in the last financial year! We’d also like to express our gratitude to Apex Credit management, the company where David Hodgkins was working when he died, for adopting us as their charity of the year in 2015. We’ll be inviting a couple or more Apex Credit Management guests to the AGM.

Gill has completed the 2014/2015 accounts and sent them off, and we’ve ratified our reserves and investment policy for another year. And so what with the completion of the Trustee’s Report, from an administrative point of view, it’s roll on 2015/2016!

Guy Whitehouse