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.

How a Blind Guide Dog Created a Boom in the Turkish Chess League!

Hugo Roman writes:

Wikipedia mentioned lately that the Turkish chess league, with 800,000 members, had become the biggest sports federation in the land. Remarkable indeed, but I’m fairly sure that I gave it a big boost. Here comes a true story!

Entrepreneur Jef Taeymans lost his sight at the age of 49 and went to Holland to learn to play chess. He started organising international tournaments in 1969 then in the early seventies he became the second blind person to join the Royal Chess Club of Ostend. Jef had a guide dog that was going blind and could no longer be relied upon so he always asked his opponent to help him cross two streets. I began helping him regularly and he soon asked me to guide him to a tournament. I felt honoured to be trusted as his guide and until today I try my very best to guide visually impaired players to tournaments. So I accompanied Jef to Haaksbergen and got hooked for 40 years!

It was in Haaksbergen that I met Piet Devos, an eleven year old boy, who showed me four combinations, so fast that I knew a great talent was sitting in front of me! I started guiding him abroad and in 1998 we ended up in Istanbul. On arrival, I asked to see the chief arbiter to inform him that a blind player would be using his own board and announcing his moves in a language that would not always be understood. Ali Nihat Yatziki, now Vice President of FIDE, said he’d sleep on it and later decided to give Piet one of his arbiters as an assistant for the whole tournament. Piet performed very well on the top board for Belgium and was given 200 American dollars; a special price created for him!

During one of my outings with Ali, I asked him how Turkish children were taught our noble art. He indicated that no real system was being used so I showed him some Step Method books that were being used in Holland and Flanders. The Step Method is inexpensive. Initially there were six books, now there are 23, with 600 exercises per book. Turkey got a licence for the method and has been using it for 15 years. The newest profession in Turkey is chess teacher; they are desperate to find new ones, so if you like the sun, and speak some Turkish…