Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 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.


When I began thinking about the August gazette a tidal wave of anxiety swept over me. How would it be possible to fill the pages of another issue when, for the second consecutive quarter, we’ve had to postpone all our over the board events? I needn’t have worried! Like white knights in shining armour, members came to my rescue by sending in fabulous articles. More than ever, I’m immensely grateful to everyone who has contributed!

Inevitably, the overriding tone of this issue is a retrospective one. There are recollections of David Hodgkins, in whose memory our annual best game competition is held. Peter and Celia Gibbs have kindly chronicled 27 years of their Chess Theme Breaks for us. There is also an article about a tournament where two of our members rubbed shoulders with some of the finest players of the 20th century. What better time than this to indulge in nostalgia!

The quip about nostalgia not being what it used to be is attributed to novelist Peter de Vries. As well as being witty, this remark is entirely accurate. Over time, usage of the word nostalgia has drifted away from its original meaning. Formed from Greek “nostos” homecoming and “algos” pain, grief or distress, it was coined in the 17th century to describe an intense homesickness among military personnel. It was then listed in medical journals and in the first two years of the American Civil War, the North recorded 2588 cases and thirteen nostalgia fatalities.

For many of us, the concept of home is not about geography. When homesick, it’s our loved ones that we yearn for rather than the bricks and mortar. Missing my BCA friends acutely this summer, I have self-diagnosed nostalgia in its original sense and I suspect there are many fellow sufferers in our association. It is heartening though, that members are keeping in touch with each other by playing chess remotely or just picking up the phone to help each other through. We can all be each other’s white knights at this time of social distancing!

The archetypal white knight was Sir Lancelot of King Arthur’s legendary round table. Although Lancelot fell from grace, the notion of a white knight being gallant and courageous has endured in our language.

In chess, black knights matter too and our tables have corners. Nevertheless, we have much in common with the valiant knights of old. The first tournaments were mock battles where contestants displayed their skills, just as players do at our events. A report on our TESSLa tournament tells how it has turned out to be a marvellous mêlée of correspondence chess! Competitors are throwing down the gauntlet and conducting themselves with the utmost chivalry. There is lots of other correspondence chess news too, as well as puzzles and miniatures galore!

Back in May, your committee gathered around a virtual table of unknown geometry to meet by Skype and our Secretary has summarised the key points for you. Our Treasurer writes about the accounts and our Fundraiser introduces herself to the members! We also have an important message from our Chairman about future events.

Members might hesitate to travel by train or coach these days, but chess training or coaching is another matter! It can be conducted by Skype, email or telephone. Please contact Coaching Officer, Voldi Gailans, to find out more. This issue also has tips on Fritz from John Gallagher and advice on accessible chess media from Mark Kirkham.

Finally, we bid a sad final farewell to three of our friends, each of whom contributed much in their different ways.

Please send me your contributions for the November issue by the end of September.

Julie Leonard