Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - August 2001

Edited by Peter Price
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.



In the early hours of 21st May, Stephen Eastwick-Field died peacefully in hospital at Ipswich. This was a great shock, particularly to those who saw him at the AGM and congress in March. Shortly after this, he was taken ill and found to be suffering from a brain tumour. Despite surgery, his condition deteriorated extremely rapidly, and, although he became very confused towards the end, he didn't generally appear to be in any great distress. Several BCA members attended his funeral on 1st June at Ipswich crematorium.

Steve was educated at Linden Lodge and then at Worcester College, where I first met him. Even in those days, he was extremely keen on chess, and he regularly took part in college tournaments and inter-school matches, and also organised tournaments within the college. Steve and I played together on many occasions, and we continued to do so after we left Worcester in 1969. In the early 70s we hit upon the grand idea of a complete tour of the London underground, playing a game of chess at a pub in the vicinity of each station. We must have covered about 30 before we lost interest, but we had a lot of fun during that time, though I suspect the analysts would not have been kept that busy towards the end of those particular evenings.

Steve started playing on the tournament circuit around the country in the mid-70s and he got me interested in 1977. In that year we both joined the BCA and played in the British Championship in November at Blackpool. There were 16 players in one section then, in marked contrast to the large numbers attending today's events. In spite of the rather authoritarian set-up at the Century Hotel, Blackpool, in those days, we both thoroughly enjoyed our first BCA experience.

Besides chess, Steve's other great passion was sport. He particularly enjoyed cricket and football, and towards the end of his life he became very interested in horse-racing and enjoyed a modest bet. He was a keen actor, and his confidence on stage was a revelation. He liked music, particularly middle-of-the-road pop, folk and country. He enjoyed short-wave radio, which enabled him to keep up with sporting events around the world, something that became easier with the advent of digital TV.

Although chess had always been one of Steve's major interests, joining the BCA gave his passion for the game a massive boost. In addition, he relished the social side of BCA activity, whether standing at the bar after a game, discussing what had gone wrong, or debating the latest sporting issues. Steve lived through a marked transformation in the BCA, resulting in a considerable increase in membership, and a great upsurge in its activity. He was a great supporter and ambassador, frequently getting involved in fund-raising events. Although he did take part in some correspondence chess, he will be particularly remembered as a great scrapper over the board, and he played out many epic draws in his time. At Chorleywood in 1981, he left his adjourned position set up under a tree on the way to the pub and, predictably, was unable to find the correct tree on his return journey.


Steve was one of the BCA's most loyal members. It would be fair to say that he attended almost every BCA tournament from the moment he joined. He played many times at Haaksbergen, and also represented England in a B International and in the Six Nations Tournament. I know that he was keen to get into the British Championship proper, and, but for his untimely death, he would surely have achieved this.

Steve was a very gentle, kind person. He was generous and reliable, and would always be pleased to analyse games with his opponents and to offer advice. He tended to be shy and withdrawn in large groups. What the BCA offered him was the opportunity to play his favourite game with some of his favourite people. His loss will be keenly felt by those of us who knew him, but I hope that we will always remember his loyalty and friendship, his good-natured banter and his warmth and generosity.

Voldi Gailans.