Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - November 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.

Obituary for Steve Brown

Longstanding BCA member Steve Brown passed away in hospital on the 10th June 2016 at the age of 54. Steve’s countless friends in our association were shocked and saddened by this news. He had had health problems for some years, but had soldiered on stoically and many of us were unaware that he had taken a turn for the worse until the awful news reached us this summer.

Steve was a stalwart of the BCA correspondence chess scene for decades. He competed in every single correspondence championship that we’ve run at least as far back as the 34th in 1998-99. He has battled away in Challenger groups A and B as well as in the Premier. In the most recent championship, the 43rd, Steve was the outright winner of Group A with a perfect score! How tragic it is that he is no longer here to enjoy the promotion for which he had worked so hard. Alongside the championships, he also took part in the league, making appearances in divisions one and two. He even played an occasional ladder game!

In addition to the correspondence chess, Steve also supported the full range of BCA over the board tournaments from weekenders and rapidplays to full length championships. He travelled up and down the country to attend our events. Norfolk, Bournemouth, Grantham and Bedford were just a few of the places he went to with us from his home in Bradford. Throughout the 1990s and the first decade of this century he regularly won grading prizes. Then in 2011, Steve truly found his form and notched up success after success for several years! He tied for first place in the Minor section of the 2011 AGM Tournament in Derby and in the same year he followed that with an outright win with 6 points from 7 games in the Minor section of the BCA British Championships in Scarborough. In 2012 he finished in sole first place in the Minor section at our 80th Anniversary Tournament in Harrogate with 4.5 from 5. In 2013 he won the Minor section at the BCA British Championships in Morecambe with 6.5 from 7. Later that year he also won the Minor section at our Autumn Tournament in Solihull with 4.5 from 5.

Steve’s chess grade peaked at 114 in January 2014 but down the years it had fluctuated either side of 100, meaning that at various times he qualified for either the Challengers section (formerly known as the Minor) or the Open in our events. For this reason, a wide circle of people will have played against Steve at BCA tournaments and I am very glad to be counted among them. Whether victorious or defeated his amiable manner never altered. Steve was also a member of his local chess club and played for a team in the Bradford league for many years.

When reminiscing about Steve, BCA members often make remarks such as ‘He was a hard man to beat’ or ‘He was always a dangerous opponent’. Even those who were generally considered much stronger players than Steve took nothing for granted when facing him. He played with great determination and was highly regarded for it!

The tenacity shown by Steve in his chess games was also evident in his powerlifting, where he achieved phenomenal success! In 2001 he won the World 60kg Weight Lifting Championship for the Blind and set his first world record. More triumphs followed, including winning the Gold Medal in the B1 category of the World Weightlifting Championship in the Czech Republic, smashing the world record no fewer than nine times!

In 2003 he defended his British and World Champion title and beat six of his own world records in Edinburgh at the British Masters. At a body weight of 60kg, Steve squatted 180kg, bench pressed 90kg and dead-lifted an incredible 207.5kg. Later that same year he broke four of his own world records in the World Blind Championships in Canada when he finished first in the bench press, two dead lifts and bodyweight categories. Steve was especially pleased to win the Best Masters' Lifter Award - a competition open to anyone of any weight over the age of 40. In 2007 Steve set a world record in the Masters 2 age group with a 212kg dead lift at the European Championships in Grangemouth, Scotland. He was once quoted as saying that he hoped his achievements would encourage other visually impaired people to have a go. If successes such as these don’t inspire people then surely nothing will!

We can but wonder at Steve’s dedication and the endless hours of training that he must have put in. But perhaps more remarkable still was his modesty. All his titles and world records gave him every reason to be proud, yet he was never boastful. He maintained his quiet, down to earth manner and on the rare occasions when he spoke to me about his powerlifting achievements he did so in such a matter of fact sort of way that one might think breaking world records was an everyday occurrence! Then again, it almost was for Steve!

Steve’s funeral notice in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus mentions that he was the dearly loved son of Joyce and the late Peter, much loved brother of the late Alyson and a beloved nephew and cousin. To that we can add that he was a highly valued loyal supporter of the BCA, a respected chess opponent and most of all, he was our friend. We will miss him greatly. RIP Steve.

Julie Leonard