Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 2016

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.

23rd Windermere Chess Theme Week

Saturday 30th January to Saturday 6th February 2016

Report by Mark and Liz Kirkham

This was a wonderful week of chess, trips, lovely food, great friendship, fun and banter. Once again it was organised by Peter and Celia Gibbs for the benefit of many chess enthusiasts and their friends from various parts of the British Isles. A theme week with some serious chess, in the depth of winter in the beautiful Lake District at the Windermere Manor Hotel; what more could one ask for?

Before dinner on the first evening, the party was welcomed by Shery, the activities co-ordinator, who explained what outings the hotel had arranged for the week. Later that evening, Peter went through the coaching allocations between the trainers and trainees. Since there were seven of each, this meant that, much to my liking, one-to-one sessions were possible.

On Sunday the coaching began in earnest. As I had arrived late, I was unable to fulfil my coaching duties in the morning, but, following my first pleasant light lunch at the hotel, I showed Mark Hague some of the perils White can sometimes face if he chooses to decline the Budapest gambit, as well as looking at various trappy lines that can occur during the early moves of Queen's Pawn games. The evening was free for all, so Mark and I took the opportunity to put in a bit more practice with a few friendly games in the lounge.

After breakfast on Monday we resumed our chess, which I was glad to do, given the wet weather. My mother, Liz, donned her waterproofs and went on the first trip of the week, this being to Grasmere where, despite the rain, the group looked around the village, visited the church and learned some local history. In the afternoon the chess players staged our final session of coaching according to the official programme, but really this was only the beginning of the chess activities for the week. In the evening we were divided up into four teams and had our general knowledge tested by Celia's quiz. The winning team included Norman Andrews, whose team scored an impressive 44 points from 50 questions, coming ahead of our second placed team by a clear eight points.

Tuesday was the usual chess-free day. Hayes garden centre at Ambleside was the focus of the Tuesday morning outing. However, for me, one of the highlights of the week was our afternoon boat trip on Lake Windermere, and one which we had both been greatly looking forward to ever since we had booked. We ventured to the southern tip from Bowness. The waters were fairly calm, so initially we sat on the lower deck, making the mug of hot chocolate I had especially welcome. This prepared me for the latter part of the journey on the top deck, where I found the sensation of the wind on my face as we cruised along most invigorating.

After yet another substantial meal, there was bingo held in the bar, with Celia calling out the numbers, and my mother's uncanny good fortune with regard to activities of this nature continuing.

On Wednesday morning we visited the motor museum at Newby Bridge, where we were given a personal guided tour by Chris, the manager, who showed us several antique vehicles including a motorbike dating back to the 1870s. Chris was more than happy to let me sit on or in the driving seats wherever this was practical, while he explained the origin and history of the vehicles.

Meanwhile back at the hotel, the Handicap Cup competition was getting underway. This year it comprised two sections of four players each, with George Phillips winning all his games in section A. He was joined in the finals by both Mark Hague and Paul Brookes, each of whom had scored 2/3 in section B.

Once again the evening entertainment was provided by Sue Parish, a jazz and popular music vocalist.

On the Thursday morning we were taken to Kirkby Lonsdale, where we saw inside St. Mary's church and took a stroll around the village overlooking Ruskin's view, with the walk ending up at a fine tea-room, in which I indulged in their homemade flapjack.

By this time the outcome of the chess finals had been decided. George won his game against Mark, who in turn overcame Paul. This allowed George to offer Paul a draw, in the knowledge that this would guarantee him the trophy.

In the evening we enjoyed a successful soirée co-ordinated by Joan. We were treated to poetry from Joan Shorrock, Maurice Lowe, Peter and Shery. There was singing from Jim Cuthbert and Claire Norman, each accompanied by Tanvi Muir. Gary Wickett played the ukulele; Antoine Reeves displayed his virtuosity by his singing, piano accompaniment and on the guitar. Stan Lovell played a medley on the piano. Some amazing talent was revealed on the night, and it was appreciated by all who attended.

Friday morning saw our final excursion of the week, this time to Cartmel. Unfortunately the race course was too wet and muddy to walk round, but there was still plenty to do. Those of us who went inside Cartmel Priory heard an impromptu piano recital from Antoine. Others managed to buy some local produce and taste some beers, and I didn't bother trying to resist the temptation to consume a toasted teacake inside a guesthouse.

That afternoon John Toothill arrived to take on five opponents in his simultaneous display, despite having his home recently flooded. Even though he won all five games he experienced stiff opposition in two of them. I drew with John in a French Defence challenge game.

The final evening culminated with Peter thanking the hotel for their hospitality and the manager presented George with the trophy. Peter presented the manager with the collection for the staff.

Being part of this holiday was a fantastic first-time experience for both of us. In particular we were struck by Peter and Celia's vibrancy, enthusiasm and commitment, which facilitated a brilliant week. They are such rocks to the group and, on behalf of everyone, we would like to say a very special thank you to them, and look forward to the 24th Chess Theme Week in 2017.