Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 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.

Maureen Jakob

Maureen Jakob, our wonderful Mum, died on 22nd January at the age of 87. She had been battling with various difficulties for some time, but was still able to sum herself up recently in a memory book given to her by a granddaughter as “a lucky, happy lady”.

Mum devoted herself for most of her life to looking after her homes and very large family, eight children and their partners, 23 grandchildren and, at the time of her death, seven great-grandchildren, with another arriving soon after. She always said that all her voluntary activities, mostly connected with the church and the local Catholic schools, gave her the fulfilment others found in paid work, but that it was easier to put them aside if anyone in the family needed her help.

Mum’s involvement with the BCA was a typical example of her willingness to help make life easier and more rewarding for me and Voldi. When their third child arrived with virtually no sight, she and Dad had thrown themselves into finding out as much as they could about schools and everything else which had to be tackled rather differently for a blind child. Mum even learned Braille so that we could read each other’s letters without an intermediary while I was at boarding-school. Though money was short and time even shorter, it was clear from all the family reminiscing that went on around the time of her death that all eight of us could cite similar instances of Mum giving the impression that she cared for each of us in a unique way. Our partners, particularly those such as Voldi whose own families are scattered, feel that Mum was also a mum to them.

We had not been married very long before we mentioned that we were putting up a couple of people who were taking part in what was then called the London Tournament. For the next five years, until the tournament began to move around the country and became the Autumn Tournament, a large contingent of visitors would be accommodated around the Forest Gate area, with Mum enlisting the help of several friends with spare beds and of Dad as chauffeur. This caused Mum to fall under the spell of the BCA and she accompanied us on the Haaksbergen trips, one of them following a week in Hamburg, throughout the 1980s.

During these years our daughters arrived, and whenever possible Mum also came with us to the British Championships and the Minor Tournaments, enabling me to give the girls bucket-and-spade holidays like those we had enjoyed as children, while Voldi slaved over a hot chessboard. Though you might imagine Mum would have had her hands full, she was always on hand to help members outside the family. She never joined the BCA, but had in common with our stalwart associate members the ability to be in multiple places at once whenever assistance was needed.

As the girls grew older and started school, there was a period when Voldi attended most BCA events on his own, but we were very pleased to invite Mum to several events towards the end of her life, when she was reunited with old friends and made some new ones. On one of her last trips, she was remembering old times with her great friends, Clive and Phyllis Hodgkins, and Phyllis recalled a lovely tribute from David. Mum had been asked to meet him at a station and escort him to the chess venue, where his parents later joined him. He was attending his first BCA tournament, aged around thirteen. Describing Mum to his parents when they arrived, he said, “As soon as you see her, you’ll like her.” They did, and, to judge from the many messages and cards we have all received, and the wonderful tributes paid by the 250 people who came to her funeral, this was a verdict with which all who knew Mum would agree.

Clare Gailans