Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - November 2018

Sponsored by Geoff Patching
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.


On a recent visit to a bird of prey centre I was instructed to put on a leather gauntlet that extended well above my elbow, then hold my arm out straight at my side like a branch and stand as still as a tree. Moments later, a South African spotted eagle owl was flying straight towards me with its large round eyes fixed firmly on its target. The owl’s wings spanned more than a metre and flapped so fast that they were just a blur, yet the bird’s approach was completely inaudible. Coming in to land, it spread its lethal talons wide to get a firm grip on my thankfully well protected forearm. Never in my life have I been more relieved that I’m not a mouse!

Owls are silent hunters that snatch up unsuspecting prey. How satisfying it is to use the same technique in chess! Occasionally a rook might have the chance to swoop down a file and seize an unguarded pawn. More often, a subtler plan is needed, such as preparing an attack so imperceptibly that by the time an unwary opponent realises the danger they’re in it’s already too late to escape the stealthy predator.

In Greek mythology, the owl was a symbol of Athene, Goddess of Wisdom, and to this day owls remain traditionally associated with wisdom. Socrates wrote, “Wisdom begins in wonder”. If that is true readers should brace themselves for a surge of sage ideas as there is plenty to marvel at in these pages! There is a fascinating report on the IBCA World Cup in Sofia, a city whose very name is derived from the Greek word for wisdom. The article is accompanied by a selection of intriguing games from the event with some astute comments from the players. As the half centenary year draws to a close, we take a final look back at the 1968 Weymouth Olympiad to admire the skill of the participants and the prudence of the organisers.

A veritable wise owl at BCA quizzes, Geoff Patching, is sadly no longer with us but he is still supporting us through a generous legacy which will sponsor the gazette for a whole year. Donations remain crucially important to the BCA. If you wish to help the good news is that you can easily do so by joining our monthly lottery for as little as £1 per month. We call it the Millennium Club but you don’t have to have been a BCA member in the year 2000 to take part. Please see the relevant article and contact the Treasurer today. You will have the chance of winning but more importantly you can be certain of playing a vital part in raising funds. Our Millennium Club needs you-hoo!

Some species of owl are renowned for their hooting calls. Often heard at night, they can have a ghostly quality, perhaps not unlike the nocturnal wailing that sometimes emanates from the rooms of chessplayers as they analyse a lost game to discover where they went wrong. In sharp contrast, there is nothing ethereal about a call to action from Gill Smith, who is seeking everyone’s permission to be included in the next Membership List. Please read Gill’s article for further details and then contact her to opt in or out as soon as possible.

Learned readers will know that Athene was the Greek Goddess of War as well as Wisdom. Therefore, her symbol, the owl, was believed to be a protector of Greek armies. An owl flying over before a battle was taken as a prediction of victory. If chess is a metaphor for war then perhaps an owl is a good omen for a player too, but please note that in BCA tournaments owls will not be admitted to playing rooms under any circumstances.

Speaking of tournaments, I look forward to seeing many members at the BCA International Open Tournament later this month. As this is the final issue of 2018, I will take the opportunity to send best greetings of the season to all readers.

Please send me your contributions for the February issue by the end of December or before Christmas if at all possible. Many thanks.

Julie Leonard