Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2018

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.

Echoes of an Olympiad

Julie Leonard writes:

Last year Philip Doyle pointed out to me that 2018 would be the half-centenary of the IBCA Olympiad that was hosted by the BCA in Weymouth. He had found a write up on the event by the organiser, John Graham, in which there were references to daily reports that had been sent to the local paper during the tournament. Philip suggested that we should try to track down these reports to commemorate the event. I must admit, I was sceptical at first. Fifty years is a long time. Would the newspaper archive still exist? Even if it did, would an outsider be permitted to read it? And although daily reports had been sent to the paper, there was no guarantee that any were actually printed. However, in its day the Weymouth Olympiad was a ground breaking tournament. It was the first ever IBCA event hosted by the BCA and the first Olympiad held outside of Germany. I decided it was worth a try, so I wrote to the “Dorset Echo”, not expecting very much in the way of a response, if I’m honest.

How wrong I was! To my surprise and delight, I received a reply from Paul Roper of the “Dorset Echo”, who said that the archive was available for viewing by appointment. So two days after Christmas, with snow lying on the ground, my husband, Olly, and I drove from our home in the Cotswolds to the offices of the “Dorset Echo” in Weymouth. On arrival, Paul met us and ushered us through to the boardroom where two huge bound volumes awaited us. Each was the size of a full page newspaper, about 4 inches thick and contained three months’ worth of papers. Luckily, we knew the precise dates of interest so were able to home in on the correct timeframe. With bated breath we carefully turned each yellowed page, fearing that our long trip had been in vain. However, nestling among news items that ranged from world changing events to items of local interest such as a Dorsetshire cow giving birth to triplets, we found what we were looking for. The Weymouth Olympiad had received excellent coverage in the “Dorset Echo”!

Many thanks to Paul Roper for his assistance with this research and for letting Olly and me make copies of the articles that we found which I have since transcribed. Thanks also to Philip Doyle, who inspired this whole project. Philip said to me that he regards the Olympiad as one of the BCA’s finest achievements and having researched the event I’m inclined to agree with him!

So I invite you now to step into a BCA time machine with me and travel back to relive the 1968 Olympiad through John Graham’s reports in the “Dorset Echo”. I do hope you will enjoy them. Of course, the results of the Olympiad are well documented and are available on the internet for anyone to read, but John’s daily updates paint a much more colourful picture than a mere set of scores. You will find yourself in very different context from that of today. Some of the countries represented at the Olympiad no longer exist and the political landscape was very different. International travel was a rare luxury for most people and English was much less widely spoken. UK currency was pounds, shillings and pence and chess games were written down in English Descriptive notation, though for the benefit of modern players I have changed the games in these reports to algebraic. However, despite the dissimilarity with today’s international Braille chess scene, you might be surprised by the number of names you recognise. Some people mentioned are still members to this day!

Friday 29th March 1968

Blind Chess Olympiad Opens: 19 NATIONS COMPETE AT WEYMOUTH

The third international Braille chess Olympiad was officially opened at Weymouth today. Nineteen nations are competing in the event being staged for the next fortnight.

After the opening ceremony by the Mayor of Weymouth, Mrs. Greta Thomas, play started in the Pavilion Ballroom. Other rounds after today will be held in the Panorama Restaurant, adjoining the Fairhaven Hotel where the competitors are staying.

The 19 countries taking part in this, the largest blind chess Olympiad yet, are from Britain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Germany, West Germany, Eire, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Rumania, Spain, Sweden, America, Russia and Yugoslavia (who won both previous contests in 1961 and 1964). A 20th team, included to make the pairings easier, is the International Braille Chess Association Executive.


Speeches made at this morning's opening ceremony were translated into German by Weymouth schoolmaster Mr. Fred Samuel of Westham Secondary Modern School. President of the I.B.C.A., Mr. Reg Bonham, told competitors, "We are particularly pleased to greet teams from the U.S.S.R., America, Israel, Rumania, Spain, France, Finland and Holland, who are taking part for the first time. That we have been able to hold this Olympiad in England fills me with pride.

"Through the efforts of Hans Cohn, our secretary, and John Graham, editor of En Passant (The "Echo's" chess correspondent), necessary funds were mustered to make this tournament possible.

"We have received donations from many people and organisations. We have received £1,000 from the Royal Institute of the Blind, and £500 each from the Nuffield Foundation for the Blind and Marks and Spencer. To these and others, we acknowledge our appreciation."

Among the other messages was one from Mr. Duncan Watson, president of the National Federation of the Blind. Mr. Watson said: "How splendid it would be if our chess players would emulate the feat of the English soccer team who won the World Cup in their centenary year here in England."


This Olympiad has established several new records. The American team set a new travelling record for the competition and this is the biggest ever staged.

In 1961, seven teams took part at Meschede, in West Germany, and three years later nine teams competed for the title at Kuelungsborn in East Germany. Britain finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Draw for the first round: America v Israel; France v. Russia; Britain v. Poland; East Germany v. Denmark; Spain v. Czechoslovakia; Holland v. Executive; Rumania v. Hungary; Eire v. Sweden; Yugoslavia v. Finland; Austria v. West Germany.

The event will be controlled by a team comprising Mr. G. H. Simmons, B.C.F. controller; Mr. Harry Golombek, International Master; Mr. R. H. K. Mann, Dorset Chess Association secretary; and Mr. G. W. Kilminster, editor of the Hampshire Chess Bulletin.

Saturday 30th March 1968


Some competitors in the third International Braille Chess Olympiad at Weymouth yesterday suffered from first-round jitters. After the formal opening ceremony and amid considerable Press and T.V. coverage, this is only to be expected. However, there was no nervousness at all in the performances of the Soviet and Yugoslav teams, both of whom demolished their opponents, France and Finland respectively, by four points to nil.

Neither was there any nervousness apparent in the match between Rumania and Hungary which, after an adjournment session, only produced three hard-fought draws with one game still to be played out.

Many of the players were playing for the first time in an international competition and although they settled down, several blunders were committed.

At one point the Soviet No. 1 player, N. Rudenski, spurned a queen left en pris by his French opponent, much to the amazement of spectators. The reason? He didn't want to win from a blunder by his opponent.

The British team, drawn against a tired Polish quartet, who had arrived in Weymouth in the early hours of the morning, gained an efficient 3-1 win. Meanwhile, two new teams to the Olympiad, U.S.A. and Israel, fought a very nervous and close match, which ended in a 2.5-1.5 win for the U.S.A.

Other results were: East Germany 3.5, Denmark 0.5; Czechoslovakia 3, Spain 1; Eire 2.5, Sweden 1.5; Austria 2.5, West Germany 1.5; and the Reserve team 2.5, Holland 1.5.


Thus the order after one round is: Equal first, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia 4; third, East Germany 3.5; equal fourth, Czechoslovakia and the United Kingdom 3; equal sixth, Austria, Eire, United States and the Reserve team 2.5; equal 10th, Hungary and Rumania with 1.5 plus an adjourned game; equal 12th, Holland, Israel, Sweden and West Germany 1.5; equal 16, Poland and Spain 1; 18th Denmark 0.5 and equal 19th, France and Finland 0.

The tournament is arranged as an 11-round Swiss event which pairs leading teams against each other in each round and so the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were meeting today in what must be the needle match.

The full draw for the second round is: U.S.S.R. v. Yugoslavia; Czechoslovakia v. East Germany; Executive Reserve team v. United Kingdom; U.S.A. v. Eire; Austria v Rumania; West Germany v. Hungary; Israel v. Sweden; Poland v. Holland; Denmark v. Spain, and Finland v. France.

Monday 1st April 1968

Yugoslavs take lead in blind chess

In the second round of the Blind Chess Olympiad being held in Weymouth, the two leading teams, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, fought a tense draw. Each side won one game and two were drawn in the four-board match. Thus at the end of the second round on Saturday, the two sides again led the tournament with six game points out of a possible eight.

Close behind were East Germany and, surprisingly, the reserve Executive team with 5.5 points. East Germany had drawn with Czechoslovakia to reach this position, whereas the Executive team had actually beaten the United Kingdom side by three points to one.

In the third round played yesterday morning, the Soviet Union met East Germany and won by three points to one - two wins and two draws - to give them a total of nine game points.

However, the Yugoslav team met the reserve quartet, who had done better than expected to that point, and they proved their superiority in a 4-0 win. Thus Yugoslavia, with ten points, led the tournament.

Behind Yugoslavia and the U.S.S.R. come Czechoslovakia and West Germany (with a third round win over Hungary by 3.5-0.5) with eight points, Poland 7.5, Rumania 7 and then a group of teams with 6.5 points, East Germany, Spain and the U.S.A. The United Kingdom, with six points, came among the next group.

Full details: Round Two: Soviet Union 2, Yugoslavia 2; Czechoslovakia 2, East Germany 2; Executive 3, United Kingdom 1; U.S.A. 2, Eire 2; Austria 2.5, Rumania 1.5; West Germany 3.5, Hungary 0.1; Israel 1.5, Sweden 2.5; Poland 3, Holland 1; Denmark 2.5, Spain 1.5; Finland 3, France 1.

Round Three: East Germany 1, Soviet Union 3; Yugoslavia 4, Executive 0; Czechoslovakia 3, Austria 1; Eire 1, West Germany 3; United Kingdom 2, U.S.A. 2; Sweden 0.5, Poland 3.5; Denmark 3, Finland 1; Rumania 3.5, Israel 0.5; Hungary 3.5, Holland 0.5 and Spain 4, France 0.


Round Three certainly showed teams out to win and it also showed the remarkable improvement of the Polish team, who shot into fifth place despite their first-round loss to the United Kingdom contingent.

The draw for the fourth round (taking place at the Panorama Restaurant today) is: West Germany v Yugoslavia; U.S.S.R. v Czechoslovakia; Poland v Rumania; Spain v East Germany; U.S.A. v Denmark; Hungary v United Kingdom; Austria v Eire; Executive v Sweden; Israel v Finland and Holland v France.

The competition is still wide open.


Last evening the visitors were entertained to a special issue of the locally recorded programme, "Sound of Weymouth." This had been specially prepared to introduce Weymouth to the visitors and the visitors to their hosts. The embassies of most of the countries involved had helped to provide music for the programme and several had sent recorded messages of greetings to their teams.

One of these, to the U.S. team, ended with "... a properly restrained, not overly chauvinistic but slightly vulgar exhortation to win." The music ranged from Swedish cattle calling recordings to the Spanish bullfight and from the Strauss waltz to a German music hall.

It seemed, certainly from the applause, that the audience, a record number for any performance of "Sound of Weymouth," enjoyed the evening.

Tuesday 2nd April 1968

Yugoslavs increase lead in chess Olympiad

After the fourth round in the blind chess Olympiad at Weymouth, in which Yugoslavia dispatched West Germany by three points to one, and the Soviet Union were held to a draw by Czechoslovakia, the champions from Yugoslavia drew further ahead of the field. They are now two clear points in the lead.

In the leading group the countries of Eastern Europe are dominant except for the U.S.A. who have been coming up from behind. Full details of yesterday's matches:

Round 4: West Germany 1, Yugoslavia 3; U.S.S.R. 2, Czechoslovakia 2; Poland 0.5, Rumania 3.5; Spain 0, East Germany 4; U.S.A. 3, Denmark 1; Hungary 3, United Kingdom 1; Austria 2, Eire 2; Executive Team 4, Sweden 0; Israel 4, Finland 0; Holland 3, France 1.


Thus the leading scores are now: 1. Yugoslavia (13); 2. Soviet Union (11); 3. equal, East Germany and Rumania (10.5); 5. Czechoslovakia (10); 6. equal, U.S.A. and Executive Team (9.5); 8. equal, West Germany and Hungary (9); 10. equal, Poland and Austria (8); 12. equal, Eire and Israel (7.5); 14. equal, Denmark and United Kingdom (7); 16. Spain (6.5); 17. Holland (6); 18. Sweden (4.5); 19. Finland (4); 20. France (2).

Finland may occupy a fairly lowly place in the table, but their behaviour is something that many of the higher placed countries could well copy. They only speak Finnish, and so throughout play they are silent, for they don't think it right to speak a language that their opponents cannot understand. In other teams, perfectly innocent, but unintelligible, words between player and guide are sometimes misconstrued.

The draw for the next round, the fifth, is:- East Germany v Yugoslavia, Rumania v U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia v U.S.A.; West Germany v Executive team, Poland v Hungary, Israel v Austria, Eire v Denmark, United Kingdom v Spain, Finland v Holland and Sweden v France.


The fifth round will take place tomorrow morning, for today is a rest day when all the visitors will be treated to a guided coach tour of Dorset as guests of the town.

After four rounds, approximately a third of the way through the competition, the leading performances have been given by Albert Sandrin, of the U.S.A. and S. Mehidic, of Yugoslavia, at Board 1, for they have both scored 3.5 from 4 games.

At Board 2, I. Novak, of Czechoslovakia, and N. Dragun, of Yugoslavia, have both a 100 per cent score at this stage, while at Board 3, J. Brychi, of Poland and M. Muller, of East Germany, both have 3.5 out of 4. T. Turukin of the U.S.S.R. has the best Board 4 score with 4 points.

Wednesday 3rd April 1968

The chess master who doesn't bother with a board

Competitors in the Blind Chess Olympiad were treated to a guided coach tour of Dorset by courtesy of the Borough of Weymouth and at the same time to a complete cross-section of possible weather conditions by courtesy of the British climate. Beginning with rain and mist and moving through snow to cold winds and eventually to sun, the visit to Swanage was nevertheless greatly appreciated.

A rest day is a time for reviewing past games and making ready for those to come. Albert Sandrin, a master from the United States, does not use a board for his games except as an indication to others of the position reached.

It was therefore very simple for him to dictate me one of his games from memory.


This one was played in the match against the United Kingdom in Round Three:

White: R. W. Bonham (United Kingdom). Black: A. Sandrin (U.S.A.).

1. P-K4, P-K4; ... (The game has been transcribed into algebraic notation below.)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.Bxf7+

Probably insufficient. The M.C.O. shows the line as a plus for black although the white player here tried a different 11th move ... Be3 instead of Qd3. Sandrin considered the game good for black if he could hold his position.

6. … Kxf7 7.Ng5+ Kg8 8.Ne6 Qe8 9.Nxc7 Qg6 10.O-O Rb8 11.Be3 Nb6 12.f3 h6 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.N7d5 Nfxd5 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Qxd5+ Qe6 17.Qxe6+ Bxe6 18.Bxa7 Rc8 19.c3 Kf7 20.f4 exf4 21.Rxf4+ Kg6 22.Bd4 Bg5 23.Rf2 Ra8 24.a4 Ra6 25.b4 Bd8 26.Rb2 b5

Note how black blockades the white pawns.

27.a5 Re8 28.Re1 Bc4 29.Rf2 Rae6 30.Rf3 Bc7 31.e5 Bxe5 32.Bxe5 Rxe5 33.Rg3+ Kh7 34.Rxe5 Rxe5

35.Kf2 Re2+ 36.Kf3 g5

A zwischenzug to cut off the white king and-or rook from the queen side, where they might be dangerous

37.Rg4 Rc2 38.Ke4 Rxc3 39.Kd4 Rc2 40.Rg3 Bf1 41.Rc3 Rxc3 42.Kxc3 Bxg2 43.Kd4 h5

And the pawns roll on!

44.Kc5 g4 45.Kxb5 h4 46.Kc5 g3 47.hxg3 h3 0-1

Sandrin at present jointly holds the best score at board one. 3.5 games from 4.

A much shorter game but with an amusing finish is the following. It was played at board one between Holland and the Executive team, a reserve entry to even the numbers.

WHITE: Van Gelder (Holland) BLACK: Hans H. Cohn (Executive)

1. P-Q4, P-Q4 ... (The game has been transcribed into algebraic notation below.)

1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Nc3 c5 6.Nf3 a6 7.a4 Nc6 8.O-O Be7 9.Qe2 O-O 10.Rd1 Qc7

11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.e4 Ng4 13.Rf1 Be3 14.Nd4 0-1


Today, after the fifth round in the competition, the guides have their opportunity to play in a five-minute "blitz" tournament.

In the evening, George Koltonowski, the Belgian-born American international master, will be giving a display of simultaneous chess, followed by a lecture.

Anyone can enter for this and it will cost 15s. per board. George Koltonowski is well-known for his simultaneous displays, especially in blindfold play, in which he holds the world record of 34 games.

Thursday 4th April 1968

Yugoslav maestros march on in Blind Chess: BUT THE BATTLE HOTS UP FOR SECOND PLACE

In the fifth round of the Blind Chess Olympiad at Weymouth, the Yugoslav team increased their lead to an almost impregnable 3.5 points by thrashing East Germany by 4 points to nil. Meanwhile, however, their nearest rivals, from the Soviet Union, were beaten 2.5 to 1.5 by Rumania allowing Czechoslovakia, who beat the U.S.A. by 3.5 to 0.5, to slip into second place.

The battle for second place is likely to be a fierce one indeed. At present 1.5 points separate six teams who are well ahead of the main group. Today's matches between Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and the U.S.S.R. and Hungary, could change the order among these six.

Full results of yesterday's play were: Round 5: East Germany 0, Yugoslavia 4; Rumania 2.5, U.S.S.R. 1.5; Czechoslovakia 3.5, U.S.A. 0.5; West Germany 3, Executive Team 1; Poland 0.5, Hungary 3.5; Israel 0, Austria 4; Eire 2, Denmark 2; United Kingdom 1, Spain 3; Finland 2, Holland 2; Sweden 4, France 0.

The Reserve Executive Team continue to maintain their position and now lead the main group with 10.5 points. The full order of teams is:

1, Yugoslavia 17; 2, Czechoslovakia 13.5; 3, Rumania 13; equal 4, Hungary and U.S.S.R. 12.5; equal 6, Austria and West Germany 12; equal 8, East Germany and Executive Team 10.5; 10, U.S.A. 10; equal 11, Eire and Spain 9.5; 13, Denmark 9; equal 14, United Kingdom and Holland 8; 18, Israel 7.5; 19, Finland 6; 20, France 2.


The draw for the sixth round is:

Yugoslavia v Czechoslovakia; Rumania v West Germany; U.S.S.R. v Hungary; Executive Team v Austria; U.S.A. v East Germany; Spain v Eire; Denmark v Poland; Holland v Sweden; Finland v United Kingdom; France v Israel.

Yesterday the guides and controllers also had their chess competition. This took the form of 16 player all-play-all for five minutes chess. In this form of chess each player starts with five minutes on the clock and if he hasn't beaten his opponent by the time his flag falls then he loses. It demands quick thought rather than automatic response.

The winner, overwhelmingly, was Golz, the international master from East Germany, who won all 15 games. The full list reads:

1, Golz (East Germany) 15; 2, Pesch (West Germany) 14; 3, Molnar (Hungary) 12.5; 4, Loikkanen (Finland) 11; 5, R. H. K. Mann (England) and Pithart (Czechoslovakia) 10.5; 7, Siren (Finland) 10; 8, Bogren (Sweden) 8; 9, Graham (Wales) 6.5; 10, Backstrom (Sweden) and Aizikowicz (Israel) 6; 12, Steffes (West Germany) 4; 13, Norris (England) and Perry (U.S.A.) 3; 15, Sherman (Portland) 2; and 16, McKeon (Eire) 0.

In the evening George Koltonowski entertained local players in a chess "display." First of all he took on 14 players simultaneously and in 90 minutes he won 11 games, drew two (to C. Durston and R. H. K. Mann) and lost only one, to the Winfrith player, K. E. G. Perry.


Then he presented a blackboard "chess board" on which each square was occupied by a name or number. Then from memory starting off from a square chosen by the audience, he read out a knight's tour of the complete board, without looking at the board. A knight's tour is a complete coverage of all squares once only by a knight which moves in the normal way over the board. The difficulty in calculating a knight's tour of the board is bad enough, without doing it blindfold!

To round off the evening Koltonowski took on the player who defeated him in the simultaneous, and beat him blindfold, that is without sight or touch of the board; sweet revenge. Each of the audience was presented with a book of Koltonowski's chess problems and all were well satisfied with an original and most entertaining evening.

Tonight all the participants at the 3rd Olympiad will be entertained to a concert at the Winfrith Social Centre.

Friday 5th April 1968

On this day, the front page of the “Dorset Echo” bore a headline telling of an event that rocked the world: LUTHER KING ASSASSINATED

It is humbling that our Olympiad got a mention on the front page of same issue. John was making an appeal:

Can you help a blind man to make music?

International teams here for the Blind Chess Olympiad at Weymouth enjoy musical programmes and singing during the evenings, writes JOHN GRAHAM, "Echo" chess correspondent.

A blind professional accordionist from Austria would like to play for us and if any reader could loan an accordion to me for an evening it would provide immense pleasure.

The Russian team choir is in great voice and just waiting for accordion accompaniment. Can you help?

If you have an accordion you could loan, I can guarantee the care it would receive.

John’s full report on round six appeared later on in the issue:

Yugoslav champions slip in Blind Chess: SOVIET UNION AND RUMANIA CLOSE THE GAP

Just as the champions seemed to be romping up the home straight in the Blind Chess Olympiad at Weymouth, they faltered against Czechoslovakia and went down by 1.5 to 2.5. Meanwhile the Soviet Union beat Hungary 4-0, their first board, N. Rudenski, finishing in the first hour of play.

These two results enabled the Soviet Union and Rumania, who beat West Germany by 3.5 to 0.5, to approach within two points of the leaders. One more slip by Yugoslavia and there will be a radical change in the order.

Yesterday the United Kingdom won, beating Finland by 3 points to 1, and this brings them into the middle of the table, a half point ahead of the U.S.A.

Full details of yesterday's play are: Round 6: Yugoslavia 1.5, Czechoslovakia 2.5; Rumania 3.5, West Germany 0.5; U.S.S.R. 4, Hungary 0; Executive Team 0.5, Austria 3.5; U.S.A. 0.5, East Germany 3.5; Spain 2.5, Eire 1.5; Denmark 1, Poland 3; Holland 3.5, Sweden 0.5; Finland 1, United Kingdom 3; France 0.5, Israel 3.5.

Scores to date: 1, Yugoslavia 18.5; 2, Rumania and U.S.S.R 16.5; 4, Czechoslovakia 16; 5, Austria 15.5; 6, East Germany 14; equal 7, Hungary and West Germany 12.5; 9, Spain 12; 10, Holland and Poland 11.5; 12, Eire, Israel, United Kingdom and Executive Team 11; 16, United States 10.5; 17, Denmark 10; 18, Sweden 9; 19, Finland 7; 20, France 2.5.

Many of the teams involved are experienced in this type of competition and it is therefore pleasing to see that the new members are settling down and the standard of the French games have considerably improved throughout the past week.


The draw for round seven today is: Yugoslavia v. Rumania, Austria v. U.S.S.R., Hungary v. Czechoslovakia, East Germany v. West Germany, Poland v. Spain, Eire v. Holland, United Kingdom v. Israel, Executive Team v. U.S.A., Sweden v. Finland and France v. Denmark.

Last evening at the Social Club at Winfrith Olympiad participants were entertained to a concert of English music by members of the Bournemouth Territorial Army Band, the South Dorset Recorder Trio and the Egdon Singers.

The concert was organised by Don Shepard of Winfrith, and visitors were unanimous in their praise of the singers and musicians. The musical mood was so infectious that they sang their way back in the bus.


Suddenly, with a jolt, we’re back in 2018. Sadly, I cannot put all of the material gathered into this issue of the Gazette. So I will leave you with that delightful image of a bus full of singing chess players and we’ll pick up the story again in the May issue, when you will be able to discover whether the Yugoslavs held on to their lead and whether the good people of Weymouth responded to the plea for an accordion.