Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 2019

Sponsored by Geoff Patching
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.

Windermere Chess Theme Break 2019

Gary Wickett writes:

Warnings of train strikes and snow did not deter the hardy BCA chess stalwarts from their annual pilgrimage to Windermere. Indeed, so celebrated is this event, that some came all the way from Ireland and even Canada. It is reported that some were seen not only with chess sets, but guitars, ukuleles, drums, a flute, clarinet, and even a mini keyboard and violin! Who said chess players were quiet! On Saturday 25 January this sleepy northern town was to be momentarily disturbed from its winter slumber!

Soup, sandwich and tea were provided on arrival and at 5.30 we all met up in the bar for a short meeting with Shery from the hotel (no pun intended), who went through the trips and all the non chess related activities. We then repaired to the dining area where we enjoyed a very filling and delicious three course meal, followed by a hot drink and mints. I am sure all of us came back a little heavier than we arrived! After dinner we returned to the bar where Peter Gibbs relayed all the chess related details. As for the time some of us left the bar, I shall swiftly move on to Sunday!

Those who wished to take part in the coaching were split into pairs and joined their assigned coach for a two hour morning session followed by a two hour afternoon session with a two hour break in between for lunch. Those who didn’t partake in the coaching had a free day. On Sunday evening in the bar, in true BCA style, out came the instruments!

On Monday whilst the chess players sat with their coaches, the non chess players sat on their buses and were ferried to Grasmere, a village famous for its gingerbread and its connections with William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Each morning whilst the chess players chessed, the non chess players would board the two mini buses and be taken to local places of interest.

Monday evening was Celia’s quiz, where once again Norman Andrews’ team proved to be the winning team. Ironically, I moved from Norman’s team to help make up the numbers of another team and we achieved the lowest score ever recorded! I am sure they would have done much better if I hadn’t have joined them!

Tuesday was the free day and after the morning excursion to Hawkshead, many of us spent the afternoon on a boat on Lake Windermere, albeit few were as brave as Mark and Liz Kirkham who went on top deck in the freezing cold, warmed only by their northern spirit and of course their hot chocolate and rum!

Tuesday was also bingo night, where luck smiled on Abi and Thuy, who won three small cash prizes plus a weekend for two at the Manor!

Wednesday was Judgement Day, when all the hard training would be put to the test! The eight participants in the tournament were split into two groups of four. Each group would be an all play all with the top player/players of each group qualifying for the final.

Group A consisted of Alan Kearsley, Abi Baker, Rebecca Blaevoet and Mark Hague.

Group B consisted of Richard Harrington, Tony Lawton, Lea Ryan and Gary Wickett.

Sadly, Donna Jodhan, who had travelled thousands of miles from Canada for the chess theme break, suffered ill health during the week and was not able to take part.

The time control for all games was just one hour, and depending on your strength and the strength of your opponent, you might begin the game with just 20 minutes through to 40 minutes on your clock. So there was no knowing whose name would end up on the coveted trophy! All games were hard fought and everyone managed a win.

In group A Rebecca qualified with 2 points: beating Abi and Alan but going on to lose to Mark. Abi also qualified with 2 points: Beating Alan and Mark but losing to Rebecca. Mark and Alan both finished on 1 point: Mark with his win against Rebecca and Alan with his win against Mark.

In group B Gary qualified with 2 points losing his first game to Tony but going on to beat Lea and Richard. Tony scored 1.5, with his win against Gary and drawing with Lea. Lea scored 1.5 beating Richard and drawing with Tony. Richard scored 1 with his win against Tony.

A century had turned since Shirley Watkins became the only woman to have her name inscribed on the illustrious trophy. Was that all to change? There were now two women in the final! Did I stand a chance?

The first game was Abi v Rebecca. They had met in the first round and Abi had a score to settle! I nervously followed the game. It was hard fought with many twists and turns but Abi eventually came out the victor.

We must now leave the chess for a moment. On Wednesday evening we were entertained by singer, Fiona Shaw. I have to say, I was spellbound! I thought I was in the presence of Karen Carpenter and Dusty Springfield, the likeness to all the various singers she imitated was striking!

Back to the chess. Thursday my first opponent was Rebecca. I was playing fast and fierce! I didn’t want my flag to fall! I appeared to have the upper hand, when Rebecca won my queen with a fatal pin! Both queens were now off the board but in the nick of time I swindled the win!

So with Abi and myself both on one point, the final game was the clincher. Once again it was a hard fought battle. The queens were off and both our clocks were rapidly ticking down. I was up in material but I was struggling to find the win. I didn’t dare look at the clocks, when my ears were greeted by the sweet music of the falling flag announcing my victory!

Thursday night was the ever celebrated Soirée, where BCA members have the opportunity to share their various talents. I have already broken my promise to keep this article as short as possible, so unfortunately, as much as I would love to, I can’t ascend into descriptive raptures about all the acts; but suffice to say it was a fantastic evening of songs, poetry and a witty chess story from Alan, and all the better for the appearance of Nancy, our editor’s guitar! Julie has been playing less than six months but was keeping up perfectly with all the other musicians! We finished the evening with a group song about Windermere and a medley of songs as a tribute to Les Whittle, Mike Meaney, Geoff Patching and Bob Brown; all dear friends who were regular attendees and who we sadly lost last year. It was lovely to see Moira at the event.

On Friday afternoon Peter Gibbs challenged the chess students to a simultaneous display. He had five brave victims: Mark, Alan, Rebecca, Richard and Tony. Peter won all five games.

Friday night we had the presentation of the trophy and the great tradition of Joan’s comic and poignant poem describing the week. This was followed by the Liz Quiz or Quiz with a Difference as it was officially named. We all got into teams and had to solve 20 cryptic clues relating to chocolate bars: followed by 20 more relating to parts of the body. I can’t remember who won but the team I was on did well on the chocolate bars. Make of that what you will!

After breakfast on Saturday we all said our goodbyes and with heavy hearts headed home.

May I take this opportunity to thank Peter and Celia Gibbs for once again organising a fantastic event. May I also take this opportunity to mention and thank the coaches: Mark Kirkham, Ernie McElroy, Philip Doyle, Colin Chambers, Norman Andrews and of course Peter Gibbs. May I thank Joan, Celia, Liz and everyone else who helped make the week as enjoyable as it was.