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.

Audio Library and Other Chess Media

Mark Kirkham writes:

I look after our stock of audio chess books and articles which are designed to help you improve your knowledge of the game. I can send these in various formats, including cassette, CD, USB stick and via our shared Dropbox system. A list of titles is available on the BCA website or on request from me.

I would like to remind members of the monthly recordings of 'Chess Magazine' made by our volunteer reader Dewi Jones, who took over from Ray Pearson in February 2019. I am pleased to say that Dewi has kindly agreed to continue until at least the end of this calendar year, and we have renewed our subscription accordingly. If you don't already do so, please consider signing up to receive the magazine, which is free to UK VI members. The number of subscribers will help us decide if it is worthwhile continuing with it in future years. You can get it on cassette from Richard Harrington, or from me via computer file transfer. The magazine covers a wide range of top level chess activity both at home and abroad. A popular feature is the long-running series 'How Good is your Chess' by Grandmaster Daniel King, in which readers are invited to score points for working out the moves played by either black or white in a game with comments at every stage to help the reader follow the correct thought process.

Everyman Chess, the commercial e-book seller, stock a wide range of chess books by contemporary authors in a variety of accessible computer formats. If you are looking to improve your opening or endgame knowledge for instance, you will find that Everyman books have a rather more extensive and up to date range of titles than our audio library currently offers. You can subscribe to the Everyman mailing list via their website. The number of books is growing continually and they have a special offer every couple of weeks or so.

Everyman is not the only provider of chess ebooks. I have also briefly explored Forward Chess publishers. The drawback with these books is that you need to use a smartphone or tablet, as the books are delivered via their specialist app which can be downloaded from the app store or play store depending on your operating system. I mention this for information purposes only, and do not at this stage recommend them as a realistic way of reading chess material for all blind users. If anyone manages to make further progress then I would be delighted to hear about it.

For those who prefer the spoken word to the written one, I would like to draw attention to the increasing popularity of chess videos recorded by professional chess commentators. Whilst these are clearly designed for a mainstream audience, you may be pleasantly surprised by how easy some are to follow. There are free ones from sites like Youtube as well as those that you have to pay for.

One site that a few of us have discovered recently is, which offers video courses taught by chess masters. Users who sign up to the site are entitled to a limited number of selected free courses, with the option of buying more courses which then appear in their account. I cannot vouch for the complete accessibility of all these products, as experience of chess videos generally shows that some presenters are known to adopt the unfortunate habit of glossing over the moves and not announcing all of them, naturally assuming that the graphics on the board will suffice for the sighted viewer. However, a separate web page containing a rough transcript of the video is linked from the video itself, underneath which is a FEN diagram with the current position on the virtual board which can be used to verify the position, as it is displayed as text for those who are familiar with this format. It is possible to play through the current game using simple keyboard commands. Doing this of course changes the FEN. This last feature is not strictly necessary but it could help to check if you get lost during a video. I have spoken with one of the developers of the Chessable site, who is very keen that they make it as accessible as possible, so they are receptive to feedback.