Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2020

Sponsored by The Ulverscroft Foundation
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.

2019 Hans and Stefi Cohn Memorial International Autumn Tournament

Irene Elbourn writes:

The 2019 Hans and Stefi Cohn Memorial International Autumn Tournament was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Solihull during the weekend of 15th -17th November.

My own journey to the hotel was uneventful, unlike some competitors who had trouble with their train journeys. Indeed, one person alighted from his train too soon, but fortunately was assisted to the next train which deposited him at the correct stop. Our Irish friends ran into difficulties but fortunately arrived in time for dinner.

After signing in Tony and myself were taken to our room by a receptionist, who showed us round and imparted the information that the wherewithal to make tea and coffee were under the kettle in little drawers. When making the first cup of coffee we found that there was a fridge under the kettle – a brief examination showed that there were no goodies stored therein.

Our first difficulty was to find the towels! After scouting around the bedroom and bathroom for them, the telephone soon connected us to reception, and a helpful member of staff advised that they would probably be found in a cupboard beneath the wash basin. When the space under the wash basin proved to be empty, we set about hunting in earnest. Eventually, after parading around the bathroom with arms up in the air (which would have looked most peculiar, were there any onlookers) we found them nestling on a shelf high above the bath!

As was to be expected the first battle was dinner. The first course was soon ordered, but then there was a delay before its arrival. After it had been consumed there was another delay before ordering the main course. Eventually my three companions were enjoying excellent meals, whilst my concern that I would not be present for “start White’s clock” was increasing by the minute. Eventually the attention of a member of staff was attracted and belatedly I tucked in as quickly as possible.

On our way to the chess room, Julie Leonard introduced Olly, her husband, whom we’d not met before.

Following speeches of welcome and the usual “housekeeping” announcements, Gerry reported that the funeral of David Welch would be taking place in Liverpool on Friday 6th December. Then the draw was confirmed, followed by the usual exhortation “Make sure mobiles are switched off otherwise an offender could be disqualified”. Whites’ clocks were started and the Autumn International tournament was under way.

Following an excellent hearty breakfast on Saturday morning the players gathered at 9.30 eager to set about their next opponent. Whilst play continued Julie quietly spoke to each person asking if they wanted to order sandwiches to be delivered in the bar after 1 pm.

I was given a bye on Saturday morning, so took up an offer by Peter Gibbs to have a game. I appreciated having an opportunity to play a far more superior player than myself (to put it mildly). I enjoyed pitting my wits against him, which inspired me to end the tournament by getting a draw against Richard Harrington.

During the luncheon break Moira Whittle was active in selling raffle tickets, enjoying a chat with everyone and advising us about the delivery of raffle prizes.

Before the draw commenced, Norman Wragg (as Chairman) made a speech, in which he reminded us that the tournament was being held in memory of Hans and Stefi Cohn. Hans had led the way in the early days of the BCA and was himself a notable international chess player. He always worked hard – greatly assisted by Stefi – encouraging visually impaired people to play over-the-board chess. Norman then thanked Julia Scott for the hard work she has carried out for over twenty years raising funds for the BCA, before presenting her with an orchid with the flower stems arranged in an arch from which a star was hanging, the Willow Tree sculpture, called “Thank You” (which is a figurine of a girl holding three pink peonies in a posture suggesting an offer of gratitude), together with a greetings card with a photo of chess pieces. When Julia and her husband, Roy, left for the evening they did so to grateful applause from all those present.

On this occasion, the raffle raised £177. There was an impressive array of prizes which were soon distributed to all parts of the room.

This was followed by music and singing, the music being provided by Tanvi, Gary, Antoine and Julie, and many members enjoyed a sing-song, the highlight of which was a Celtic trio of Eamonn, Michael and Olly.

After third day of mental gymnastics, the tournament reached a successful conclusion. The Open was won by Paul Benson with 5 out of 5. The Challengers competition was hotly contested with three players scoring 3.5: Voldi Gailans, Gary Wickett and Tony Elbourn. After applying the tie-break Voldi was awarded the trophy. All of the final scores and prize winners are listed at the end of this report. Mike Flood is deserving of a special mention for winning a grading prize in his first BCA over the board tournament!

Those who stayed overnight on Sunday were treated to an evening of music featuring Michael Delaney on harmonica accompanied by the BCA band and Eamonn Casey on lead vocals.

I am sure that all those who took part in the tournament would agree that thanks and congratulations should be recorded to the organiser, Voldi Gailans, and thanks for the smooth running of the event are due to the arbiters Matthew Carr and Gerry Walsh with the steward, Richard Murphy.

Let us all look forward to the weekend of the Annual Meeting next April, which will be held at Derby.

OPEN Final standings

1st 5/5Paul Benson

2nd 3.5Tristram Cole

=3rd 3Bill Armstrong and Efe Shimwell

2.5Michael Delaney, Ernie McElroy, Norman Wragg, Stan Lovell, Colin Chambers, Phil Gordon and Eamonn Casey (Stan and Colin shared Grading Prize A; Phil and Eamonn shared Grading Prize B.)

2Dan Rugman

1George Phillips

0Mark Hague

CHALLENGERS Final standings

=1st3.5Voldi Gailans, Gary Wickett and Tony Elbourn (the trophy was won by Voldi on tie-break)

3Jim Cuthbert, Mike Flood, Gill Smith and Tony Lawton (Gill and Tony shared Grading Prize A; Mike won Grading Prize B.)

2.5John Osborne

2Lea Ryan

1.5Ed Pourtahmasbi and Irene Elbourn

0.5Richard Harrington