Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2021

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.

2021 TESSLa – The First Two Months!

Julie Leonard writes:

The 2021 Telephone, Email, Skype Summer Ladder tournament got underway on the 10th of May. Twenty-eight entries were placed on the ladder in reverse rating order i.e. the lowest rated on the top (known as Rung 1 in this event) and the highest rated at the bottom. Controllers, Gerry Walsh and Julie Leonard paired people up for their initial Rung Challenges based on which platforms each person had said they could use, ensuring that nobody was more than 10 rungs away from their opponent in accordance with the rules. Players wasted no time in scheduling their games and agreeing on a platform. In addition to telephone, email and Skype, other popular choices were Lichess and Zoom. Some players also issued Points Only challenges which, as the name suggests, are purely for points and never result in changes to ladder positions. In this event, players compete to get as high up the ladder as they can, while accruing points. At the end of the tournament we’ll have ladder winners and points table winners in the Open and U1450 sections.

It took just three days to complete the first Rung Challenge, which was honours even between Steve Bailey and Jermaine Raymond. There are two games in each challenge, one with each colour, so a player has to get at least a win and a draw to be victorious. This year we’re awarding 8 points for a win, 4 for a draw and 1 for a loss. Third party timekeepers also get 2 points per game up to a maximum of twenty games.

Four days into the event there were two clear leaders on the points table: Steve Bailey on 17, just ahead of Malcolm Jones on 16. Their nearest rivals were on 9, but of course it was still very early days in this marathon three-month event! Stan Lovell became the first player to move up the ladder, jumping nine places to land on Rung 16 and earning enough points to draw level with Steve Bailey.

After about a week of play the pace really began to pick up. Gill Smith was the next upwardly mobile player, moving seven places to Rung 3. Malcolm also won his first Rung Challenge and moved up eight to Rung 6. Meanwhile, Steve Thacker had defended Rung 18 against Richard Murphy, and Malcolm had established a strong lead on the points table; he was already 18 points ahead of the pack.

A few days later Mike Flood ascended to the top rung by beating Eleanor Tew! Voldi Gailans replaced John Osborne on Rung 9, where he came under fire from Tony Lawton. Further down the ladder Eamonn Casey took Rung 15 from Bittor Ibanez, and Steve Burnell seized Rung 19 from Colin Fisher.

Two weeks into the event Philip Doyle captured Rung 17 from John Fullwood and Roger Williams fought off a challenge from Anton Emery to hold on to Rung 5. Malcolm Jones was on 51 points and his nearest rival, Nene Clayton, had 36. A couple of days later Colin won Rung 18 from Bittor, and Stan replaced Lea Ryan on Rung 8.

As the month of May drew to a close, Mark Hague won Rung 11 from John Ramm, and Steve Bailey took Rung 7 from Malcolm, who had notched up 64 points. Nene was gaining ground on 56, followed by Stan on 54.

By early June, a total of four people had dropped out for various reasons but the remaining players were still adding to their points totals and jostling for position on the ladder. Malcolm had climbed to Rung 4, Steve Bailey to 6 and Richard to Rung 12. Last year’s Ladder Champion, Alec Crombie had made his way up to Rung 13 and Bittor, after a few downward moves, was back where he’d started on Rung 15!

The 8th of June saw a big shake up at the top of the ladder! Roger Williams seized the top rung from Mike Flood, and Nene, who had valiantly defended her starting position on Rung 2 against challenges from Tony, Malcolm and Eleanor now relinquished it following a second onslaught by Malcolm. Gill stood firm on Rung 3 though, fending off an attack from Voldi Gailans. Malcolm, on a score of 104, had become the first player to reach three figures. Stan was in second place on 65 with Nene just behind on 62.

By mid June, Steve Bailey had taken up residence on Rung 6. Two long draws with Alec earned him the right to stay there and nearly a month later he has continued to repel all challengers! Alec was delighted to receive a challenge from Colin Fisher as the two hadn’t played each other since their schooldays! A couple of friendly draws saw Alec hold on to Rung 13. Meanwhile, a victory against Gill meant that Nene edged back up one rung to number 3 and Norman Andrews defeated John Fullwood to take Rung 22

Headlines for the 27th of June were that Roger had defended the top rung against Malcolm and Steve Burnell had jumped up eight places to number 11. Nene had joined Malcolm by passing the 100 points milestone! Malcolm still had a commanding lead on 132 points, with Nene second on 103. Before the end of June, Steve Bailey had joined them on a three-figure score and Stan was very close, having defeated Gill to take Rung 4.

By early July the nation’s attention may have been drawn away from our TESSLa a little by England’s progress in the football, but the competition was no less fierce. Alec advanced to Rung 3 with a win against Nene, John Osborne grasped Rung 7 from Eleanor, and Bittor continued on his upward path, beating Mark to take Rung 11.

Steve Burnell and John Osborne attempted to dislodge Malcolm from Rung 2 and Alec from Rung 3 respectively, but neither was successful. Richard fared better against Mike Flood and climbed to Rung 5, while Colin took possession of Rung 17 at Tony’s expense.

Roger has been at the top of the ladder for over a month now but has lost the first game in a challenge from Steve Bailey. We’re in suspense waiting to hear whether Rung 1 will change hands! Meanwhile on the points table, Malcolm's score has just passed the 200 mark! As I write on the 13th of July, the current ladder placings and scores are as set out below, with players in the U1450 section indicated by an asterisk after their name:


1Roger Williams*54

2Malcolm Jones*202

3Alec Crombie80

4Stan Lovell108

5Richard Murphy52

6Steve Bailey*111

7John Osborne*24

8Nene Clayton*116

9Gill Smith*61

10Mike Flood*34

11Voldi Gailans*45

12Bittor Ibanez*57

13Eleanor Tew*11

14Steve Burnell67

15Philip Doyle48

16Mark Hague*49

17Colin Fisher70

18Dan Rugman0

19Eamonn Casey41

20Tony Lawton*32

21John Ramm*25

22Norman Andrews22

23John Fullwood*10

24Norman Wragg6

Gerry and I are once again full of admiration for the friendly way in which the players are taking part. Of course, there have been a few hiccups, particularly on less familiar platforms such as Lichess, but players have always found an amicable solution. Nine people have acted as timekeeper in at least one game. Special mentions go to Stan, who has timed six games and Malcolm, Nene, Bittor and Mark, who have each timed five.

When Bittor sends out Skype links for his games he advertises that coffee, tea and biscuits will be available. Gerry and I are keen to know what sort of biscuits they are. My money’s on “dichesstives”! (Readers have been known to cringe over my dreadful puns so I’d better refrain from speculating that they might even be “checkalot dichesstives”.)

Already 150 games have been played but there’s still nearly a month to go in this event so anything could happen! There’ll be more TESSLa news in the next issue.