Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - February 2022

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.

A Personal Account of the International Autumn Tournament 2021

By John and Tessa Fullwood

Both of us are relatively new members of BCA having joined at the start of 2021, John as a full member and Tessa an associate member. John had stopped playing chess many years ago, after having played at school, university and for clubs in Hatfield and Crowthorne, Berkshire. John was prompted by our younger son, Simon, to play him online during lockdown. Simon introduced John to This led to him playing multiple games, and hence needing more Merrick chess boards. It was here that BCA were able to help. Voldi Gailans encouraged John to join the BCA and Tessa thought it would be a good idea for her to join since there was the prospect of chess weekends in attractive parts of the country.

We were originally going to drive up to Harrogate from Surrey, a distance of over 250 miles, but with only three days to go Tessa got cold feet about doing the drive and we decided to go by train. Having crossed London from Waterloo to King’s Cross, Tessa did spot someone with a guide dog getting assistance from station staff and wondered if they were on their way to Harrogate.

Of course, when we got out of the train at Harrogate there they were again, so we introduced ourselves only to find it was Tony Lawton who John was playing at the time in the 15th Email Tournament. John’s guide dog made the acquaintance of Tony’s dog in the traditional way by mounting her!

The tournament was taking place at the Old Swan Hotel, which is over 170 years old. It is large and has many traditional features. BCA member’s bedrooms were on the first and second floor, and, while not modern, they were roomy and comfortable. The ground floor was where the dining room bar library and conference rooms could be found. With the carpeting, wood panelling, and chandeliers it felt very elegant. The chess room, lobby bar and lift were all close together which was very convenient. The gardens to the front and side of the hotel had some fine old trees, and an attractive lawned area and shrubbery up a quiet lane where the dogs could be taken and free-run.

After checking in and finding our room we went to the foyer and there met Christine and Norman Andrews. John had played Norman in the TESSLa competition. They were not strictly part of the party, but they only live in York and intended to drop in both on the Friday evening and also on Saturday. It was very evident the BCA members had really missed the opportunity of meeting up for over two years.

At dinner we sat with Malcolm and Gill Jones. They are also new members of BCA and John had just lost a hard-fought game against Malcolm in the 15th Email Tournament. Malcolm had not brought his guide dog because they were not certain what the arrangements would be. However, we found that the facilities for dogs were very good.

During dinner the pairings for the evening match were announced by Gerry Walsh. Nineteen players had originally signed up but two people had dropped out. With an odd number of players obviously someone had to have a bye each round. The games took place in a small conference room. Because of Covid protocol players sat diagonally opposite each other. John was very pleased to find that analogue clocks were available as he was rather unsure about the digital ones. John finished his match rather late, but there was just about half an hour before the bar closed so a very welcome pint of Doombar was consumed.

During the evening Tessa started to get to know some of the eight non-chess playing members of the party. We had assumed that all of these would be the other halves of the competitors – not so. Moira Whittle had been attending tournaments for a good number of years with her late brother, Les, and had many stories to recount. Joan Shorrock first came across BCA about 25 years ago. She and her mother had booked a holiday at a hotel in Morecambe. Having learned from the hotel management that BCA were monopolising the hotel, they still went ahead. Her mother had never enjoyed a holiday so much and they continued to return whenever BCA were having an event. Sarah Nelson is a friend of Mark Hague and Lea Ryan and had come with them to enjoy Harrogate and meet friends in the area.

Gerry had announced during the evening that the pairings for round 2 would not be given out until after breakfast on Saturday, lest we sit up all night doing our homework on our respective opponents. However, in John’s case Julie slightly pre-empted Gerry’s announcement by bringing her Dad, Colin Chambers to sit opposite us at the breakfast table and saying that we were to play each other in round 2. John took the opportunity of reminiscing about the legendary Reg Bonham, who Colin had played alongside, and had taught John maths at Worcester College. “Bon” had encouraged his interest in maths, which was a very significant influence on John’s choice of career path. There are a large number of stories about “Bon” which have done the rounds for years, but Colin was able to tell one that John had not heard.

By the end of Saturday afternoon three rounds had been completed. It was still all very tight. Heading the Open section were Ian Blencowe, Colin Chambers, Bill Armstrong and Richard Murphy with 2.5 points. In the lead in the Challengers section were Tony Lawton and John with 2 points.

After dinner on Saturday the majority of the party repaired to a room next to the chess room and close to the bar where drinks could be readily ferried in. John had a long talk to Dan Rugman about maths and music. Dan had studied the former at Warwick University and the latter at the Royal College of Music. Tessa discussed with Eleanor Tew local politics in the York area.

Sunday started with Gerry’s breakfast announcement of the pairings for the morning games. Richard Harrington had a bye, so he and Tessa walked to the War Memorial opposite Betty’s Tea Rooms and had a rest on a bench. There was a long queue outside the tea shop, so no opportunity for refreshment. The return walk took them through the Georgian part of town, passing the Crown Inn, a Harrogate landmark.

The 4th round pairings pitted the players at the top of the leader board against each other, i.e. Bill Armstrong v. Colin Chambers and Ian Blencowe v. Richard Murphy. No surprise then that two draws resulted. The tournament was still wide open.

John’s morning match was against Tony Lawton. Because of a miscalculation on an exchange John lost material and hence the game. However, he was able to take revenge on Tony in the 15th Email Tournament only a week later. They seem to be well matched and plan future ‘friendly’ games.

While the afternoon games were being played, Barbara Chambers, Pat Armstrong and Tessa walked into Valley Gardens, a park which was close to the hotel, and took a stroll around it, seeing a wonderful display of dahlias.

The final round started with 4 players on 3 points. Bill Armstrong, Colin Chambers and Ian Blencowe won their games so there was a three-way tie for first place. Prizes were awarded shortly after the completion of the final game. Colin Chambers won the trophy on tie-break rules. The first Challengers prize went to George Phillips. There was a three-way split for second place between Simon Highsmith Tony Lawton and John.

Most people stayed on for an extra night at the Old Swan. After dinner we gathered in the bar to wind down.

After breakfast on the Monday some of us were rushing to get taxis to the station to get rather early trains, so goodbyes were sometimes a bit perfunctory.

We both enjoyed the weekend very much and intend to come on another one shortly, possibly the Derby event. BCA members seem to be such a very friendly and sociable crowd.

Thanks to Julie and Gerry, the organisation throughout the tournament was excellent. They were ably assisted by Gill Smith’s daughter, Freya. Also, the Tournament Sub-committee must be congratulated for putting the event on despite the uncertainties due to Covid.

Final Scores and Prizes

4 points: =1st Open Colin Chambers, Ian Blencowe, Bill Armstrong (Colin won the trophy on tie-break)

3.5 points: 1st Challengers George Phillips

3 points: =2nd Challengers John Fullwood, Tony Lawton, Simon Highsmith

3 points: Richard Murphy

2.5 points: Mark Hague, Malcolm Jones, John Osborne (John won Grading Prize B)

2 points: Dan Rugman, Richard Harrington (Richard won Grading Prize C)

1.5 points: Gill Smith, Lea Ryan, Phil Rafferty (Gill won Grading Prize A)

1 point: Eleanor Tew

Here is a Round 1 game from one of our joint winners, Bill Armstrong. Bill said that this game may appear easy but finding some of the moves was far from easy!

White Armstrong Black Jones

1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 Nbd7 4. e3 h6 5. h3 g5 6. Bh2 c6 7. c3 Qc7 8. Nbd2 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Nc4 b5

11. Ncxe5 Nxe5 12. Bxe5 Qe7 13. Qd4 Bg7 14. 0-0-0 Bd7 15. Bd6 Qe6 16. b3 Nh5 17. Qc5 Bf8

18. Ne5 Bxd6 19. Rxd6 Qe7 20. Nxd7 Rd8 21. Qxc6 Rxd7 22. Bxb5 0-0 23. Rxd7 Qf6 24. Qxf6 Nxf6

25. Rxa7 Ne4 26. Kc2 Kg7 27. Bc4 Nd6 28. Rd1 Nxc4 29. bxc4 Rc8 30. R1d7 Rf8

After exchanges on f7 Black resigned.