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.

BCA TESSLa Tournament

Julie Leonard writes:

On the 23rd of May, our Telephone Email Skype Summer Ladder tournament - TESSLa for short – got underway. It’s the first time the BCA has run an event of this type so it was a step into the unknown for the organisers and competitors alike! Naturally we were hoping for a good turn out and thought that we might get a dozen people, or perhaps twenty if we were lucky. So imagine our surprise when no fewer than 32 members entered! We immediately had to adapt the rules to cater for this number of players. We were delighted that the line up included members from Ireland, Canada and Malta, as well as many from the UK, some of whom rarely compete in BCA events these days. It was also especially pleasing to welcome two members to their first ever BCA event. What an exciting start!

There are two ways in which players can make progress in this event. Rung Challenges are issued against players who are higher up the ladder. Every challenge involves two games – one with each colour. If the lower placed player wins the challenge they swap places. Points are awarded for won and drawn games and also for completed challenges. To try to accrue more points, players can also issue Points Only Challenges. At the end of the event the player on the top rung will have won the ladder section and there will also be a prize for the player with the greatest number of points. In addition, prizes in both categories will be awarded to players with a grade or estimated grade under 100.

At the outset, competitors were placed on the ladder in order of playing strength with the strongest at the bottom. Controller, Gerry Walsh, then paired everyone with an opponent who has a compatible playing platform and is no more than five rungs away. Some players can only use email. Others prefer Skype or telephone. Most are very flexible and just want to play chess somehow or other!

Just six days later, results started to come in. Michaels took an early lead on the points board, with Michael Flood on 5 and Michael Keating on 4. The following day, Colin Chambers was the first player to win a rung challenge!

By the end of May, there were five joint leaders on the points table: including Malcolm Jones, Michael Flood, Colin Chambers and Colin Fisher, who had also won his first rung challenge

The pace began to hot up! By the 5th of June, Stan Lovell was in the lead on the points board, only to be overtaken one day later by Anthony Borg! Sadly, by this stage, Denis Warren and Donna Jodhan had withdrawn from the event for personal reasons. We were sorry to see them go but glad that they’d given it a try!

By the 15th of June, Malcolm Jones had claimed the top rung on the ladder! Other climbers included Voldi Gailans (11), Colin Fisher (15), Michael Keating (17) and John Gallagher (18). One day later, Malcolm drew level with Anthony Borg at the top of the points leader board and Stan Lovell was just three points behind them.

The next few days brought successful rung challenges for both Colins! Colin Fisher climbed to rung 9 and Colin Chambers to rung 17. Rung challenges between John Osborne (10) and Tony Elbourn (13) and between Dan Rugman (16) and Eamonn Casey (20) were drawn by the players winning a game each so they all stayed on their rungs. Meanwhile, Malcolm Jones, Colin Fisher and Anthony Borg were jostling for the lead on the points board!

By midsummer’s day, Malcolm Jones had a three point lead, but within 24 hours Colin Fisher had caught up with him again. There were also successful rung challenges for Graham Lilley (25), Norman Wragg (24) and Colin Fisher (8).

On the 24th of June, Malcolm Jones defended a rung challenge from Voldi Gailans, but then Colin Fisher challenged Malcolm and three days later Colin was at the top of the ladder! By the end of June there were successful rung challenges for Stan Lovell (15) and Philip Doyle (22). Ed Pourtahmasbi successfully defended a challenge to stay on rung 3. On the points board Colin Fisher had regained the lead by a narrow margin.

The first week in July saw upward ladder moves for Alec Crombie (13), Eamonn Casey (12) and John Gallagher (15). Colin Fisher successfully fought off a challenge from Voldi Gailans to remain on the top rung.

On the 8th of July Malcolm Jones edged ahead of Colin Fisher once again on the points board and Randy Kruzeniski defended a rung challenge from Richard Murphy. Another exciting development was that a brand new member, John Ramm, had jumped straight in at the deep end by entering this tournament! The rules allow for latecomers, so if anyone reading this feels they’d like to give it a try please do get in touch. The event will run until the 20th of September so there’s still plenty of time to follow John’s example and fit in a few games!

The next few days saw a successful rung challenge for Norman Wragg, who moved up to rung 14, then lost no time in challenging Lea Ryan for rung 6! John Gallagher moved up to Rung 5. Malcolm Jones moved back up to Rung 3 and is now re-challenging Colin Fisher for the top of the ladder! Malcolm has reclaimed first place on the points leader board. Mark Hague is also performing very strongly on the points board, putting him in second place in the U100 section.

As I write, on the 14th of July, an impressive total of 142 games have been played. Some participants are demonstrating a seemingly insatiable appetite for games! Tony Lawton is among the competitors who have already issued or received ten or more challenges! Eleanor Tew and Irene Elbourn are embarking on a points challenge, having never had the chance to play each other before now. Norman Andrews is taking on Gill Smith in a rung challenge.

Here are the current ladder positions, starting at the top, followed by the points total for each player. I’ve also indicated who is in the U100 section


1Colin Fisher34

2Anthony BorgU10021

3Malcolm JonesU10038

4Irene ElbournU10011

5John Gallagher21

6Lea RyanU1003

7Roger WilliamsU1008

8Ed PourtahmasbiU1006

9Jermaine RaymondU10022

10John OsborneU10010

11Voldi GailansU10016

12Eamonn Casey 14

13Alec Crombie16

14Norman Wragg19

15Eleanor Tew U1003

16Dan RugmanU1003

17Colin Chambers12

18Stan Lovell31

19Randy Kruzeniski14

20Gill SmithU10013

21Tony ElbournU1005

22Philip Doyle14

23Michael KeatingU10013

24Tony LawtonU10012

25Graham Lilley4

26Michael FloodU10012

27Stephen Thacker11

28Richard Murphy3

29Norman Andrews6

30Mark HagueU10025

31John RammU1000

The TESSLa tournament has already been of benefit to competitors, not just by allowing them to play socially distanced chess, but also by keeping in touch with old BCA friends and making new ones! Some people have acquired new skills such as learning more about Skype features or how to use an online timer for Skype games. Courtesy of Mike Flood, Steve Thacker has unexpectedly gained a new nickname, “Fearsome Steve”!

Controller, Gerry Walsh, and I are having great fun running the event and we would like to thank everyone for their support. We’ve had a few reports of difficulties but so far players have been able to resolve them without intervention from us. We’ve had many more reports of great sportsmanship, camaraderie, cooperation and mutual respect between players. Keep up the good work!

Regular updates on this event are emailed to the BCA usergroup. If you haven’t yet subscribed and would like to please contact me or our Website Coordinator.