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.

BCA British Championship

Readers will recall that an article was included in the August 2015 Gazette setting out some of the issues and concerns surrounding the future of the BCA British Championship. A key point is that, at the 2014 AGM, it was decided by a large majority to continue with the Championship as a seven day event but when it came to the test there was a disappointingly low entry again this year with only 10 players and just 20 in our party. In an attempt to understand how we might attract more support for this event, the August article invited members to give us their views and we also sent a questionnaire out to the UK VI members who had attended at least one BCA over the board tournament in the last few years. There were around 40 such members who were sent the questionnaire and we received 18 responses. We are now in a position to summarise the fruits of this consultation process.

Auckland Hotel and Morecambe: Numbers were approximately equal between those put off by the choice of the Auckland Hotel and those not put off. A small majority, however, feel we should give it a miss for a while. There were about four who strongly dislike the Auckland Hotel. There also appears to be a majority who feel we should move on from Morecambe.

Time of year: No one appears to have been put off by the time of year. Most are very much against returning to August for the Championship. May/June appears to be favoured.

Seaside Resort: Only four felt it was important to choose a seaside resort.

Seven day event or weekend event: Three were put off by the seven day event. A couple more felt it might be worth looking at some kind of weekend format. Of those who gave a clear vote for one or the other, a clear majority favoured the seven day event over the weekend event by eight votes to four.

Open event or closed event: A clear majority favoured an open event by eleven votes to three. A couple of these appear to favour the open event, only because current numbers are low.

These responses point reasonably clearly to the following conclusions.

* A seven day event, open to all visually impaired players and to associate members of the BCA.

* Probably in May/June, certainly not August.

* Seaside resort: not necessary, but not excluded.

* Some place other than the Auckland Hotel, or Morecambe.

At the start of the consultation process, the BCA Committee and the Tournament Sub Committee had in mind that it might be appropriate to present to the 2016 AGM a possible weekend option for the 2017 British Championship but we have abandoned this idea in view of the questionnaire responses. However, this does not stop an individual member from putting forward such a proposal or any other proposal for that matter. Any proposal concerning the British Championship should be sent to the BCA secretary, Guy Whitehouse, by 20th February 2016.

The outcome of the consultation process does have important implications for our selection policy for international team events. Under our current policy, the players finishing in the first three places in the BCA British Championship automatically qualify for the UK team in the following IBCA Olympiad or World Team Championship. With many of our leading players not participating in the seven day British Championship, our current selection policy means that we are not necessarily able to field our best team for an international event. Some members might feel that this does not matter but, in the view of the BCA Committee there is a strong case for amending the policy, largely because of future funding concerns. Donors and sponsors would not necessarily buy into our programme when our procedures prevent us from fielding our best team. The Committee will present to the 2016 AGM a suggested amended policy in which only the top two players automatically qualify and it will be up to the AGM to come to a conclusion.

One final point: As mentioned in the August article, we would like to hear from any member who has come across a hotel they think might be a possibility for a seven day BCA British Championship. We don’t expect you to negotiate; we will do that. We feel most members will have some idea of the requirements: Sufficient rooms for up to 40 guests, with some single rooms; a function room for chess playing; suitable for VI people and for guide dogs; reasonable travel connections.

Norman Wragg