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.

RIP Michael Delaney 1967 - 2020

Philip Doyle writes:

Michael Delaney was born in Brussels on 29th September 1967 and died at his home in Artane, Dublin, on 4th May 2020 after a long battle with cancer. He was the eldest of the four children of Michael and Deirdre Delaney, two boys and two girls.

Michael was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa and was educated as a day pupil at Rosmini Community School in Drumcondra. The School was recently built on the grounds of St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, which allowed Vision Impaired pupils to transfer easily to Rosmini for their secondary education. The next phase of Michael’s education was a nine-month computer programming training course at Roselyn Park College in Sandymount and then as part of the Trinity College three-year advanced computer programming diploma evening course. After that, Michael obtained employment as a Computer Programmer with the Irish Health Service where he spent the rest of his career.

Michael learned how to play Chess when he was at Secondary school and soon after got in touch with the Braille Chess Association of Ireland. He first appeared in The BCAI Dublin Millennium Tournament in 1988 when he gave a good account of himself. The following year he was selected to represent Ireland at the IBCA Junior Tournament in the town of Skelleftea in northern Sweden. Here he finished 4th with a 50% score. The following year he was part of the Irish team at the World Cup Tournament in Segovia, Spain, where again he performed well against very strong opposition. This placed Michael firmly on the international stage and he went on to represent his country at two Olympiads, Three World Individual Championships, the European individual and two Six Nations Championships. He was also a frequent visitor to the BCA Autumn Tournament. Domestically, Michael was a regular at BCAI events and was winner of the 1994 Irish Open Tournament. He was a long-time loyal member of the Phibsboro Chess Club and played his last game for them on 9th March, a few days before the Corona virus put a halt to club chess. Michael’s games were often long and intense and he frequently found himself in time trouble. That was when he was at his most dangerous as I know to my cost. Michael was fiercely competitive but modest and sporting whatever the result.

Michael had several other strings to his bow. He was a top track and field athlete and tandem cyclist. He represented Ireland at Paralympics in Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing, and in 2003 won bronze in the high jump at the World Paralympic Championships. Michael and tandem Pilot Dave Peelo medaled at the Paracycling Pan-American Championships in Colombia in 2007, taking bronze in both the match sprint and pursuit. He also had successes in the Triathlon in 2013 and 2014 and for good measure completed the 2017 Dublin City Marathon, coming first in his category. Michael never allowed his disability to hold him back, be it skiing in Germany, hiking in the Himalayas or climbing Kilimanjaro.

Michael’s wife Fionnuala recalls:

I remember the first time I met Michael. We were down in Wicklow at a cycling race and I was introduced to a tall athletic man with a cheeky grin. From then on our lives intertwined and we eventually started a family. When we had our two beautiful daughters, life had to slow down a bit. Michael was very musical and I bought him a clarinet one year for Christmas. He picked it up and played a tune straight away. There was no end to his talents and once he decided to do something his quiet determination kicked in. He set himself a goal and then he achieved it.

Michael Delaney (Ireland) - Miklos Rev (Hungary), Trompovsky Attack

1st IBCA World Cup 1990, Round 2

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 3. Bh4 d5 4. f3 Nd6 5. Nd2 g6 6. e4 dxe4 7. fxe4 Bg7 8. c3 O-O 9. Bd3 c5 10. dxc5 Nf5

11. exf5 Qxd3 12. fxg6 hxg6 13. Qe2 Qd5 14. Nb3 Nc6 15. Nf3 Bg4 16. O-O Qh5 17. Bg3 e5 18. Qe4 Rad8

19. h3 Bf5 20. Qh4 Qxh4 21. Nxh4 Be6 22. Rad1 a5 23. Nf3 a4 24. Nc1 f6 25. Bf2 Bh6 26. a3 Na5 27. Rd6 Rxd6 28. cxd6 Nc4 29. Nd3 Nxd6 30. Nc5 Bb3 31. Nxb3 axb3 32. Bc5 Rd8 33. Rd1 Nf7 34. Rxd8+ Nxd8 35. Be7 Bc1 36. Bxd8 Bxb2 37. Nd2 Bxc3 38. Nxb3 Kf7 39. Kf2 Ke6 40. Nc5+ 1-0

Editor’s note:

Michael's last tournament with us was the Autumn International in Solihull, 2019. He was already very ill but it was on his bucket list to attend one last BCA event and he was absolutely determined to get there. I asked him whether he felt well enough to play and suggested he might like to come along just for the social side. His response was that he wanted the full package i.e. the chess, the social side, the lot! This was typical of Michael's positive approach to everything he did. On the last evening in Solihull he surprised and delighted us with his harmonica playing! He was certainly a man of many talents. RIP dear friend.