BCA – Bringing Chess To Visually Impaired People


  • 2023 International Autumn Tournament
    Excerpts from a report written by James Connors A year on from the BCA’s 90th anniversary, it was a warm welcome back to Solihull with 21 players and three guide dogs prepared to occupy the chess room and battle it out over five rounds at the board across the weekend.  We also welcomed many other attendees – families and friends of players from near and far. Once again, there was both an Open and Challengers’ trophy but these were merged into a single section. And with a classic pairing of Gerry and Julie as arbiters, and Richard Murphy lined up as steward, we all looked in safe hands! Round 1 took place on the Friday night, so very understandably, a few players took a half point bye having made long journeys. As is often the case with a Swiss round 1, there were some quite large rating gaps between players, but many games were still very competitive. In the end though, each result went the expected way. Roll on Saturday morning and Round 2 certainly made things more interesting. With a handful of interesting draws, several of the higher seeded players found themselves already trailing. After an impressive draw from Ian Blencowe against the significantly higher rated Tristram Cole, only Owen Phillips, Gary Hogan, Norman Wragg and I made it through to 2/2. Meanwhile, in the Challengers’ section, Gill Smith secured an impressive victory over John Fullwood. Round 3 on Saturday afternoon then saw no end to the excitement, with Owen defeating Norman to lead the pack on 3/3 while Tristram kept pace with a win to move back to 2.5/3. Ian Blencowe’s flying start was held back by a draw in a strong effort by Olle Engstrom from Sweden, despite Ian receiving the downfloat. Meanwhile, in the Challengers’ section, Mark Hague impressed with a win over George Phillips to move to 2/3 and was joined by Mahendra Galani from Austria who defeated Gill to also move to 2/3. Saturday’s round ended with a very intricate and chaotic position between Gary Hogan and James descending into a time scramble, with James finding a trick to join Owen as leader with 3/3. After an evening of Gary Hogan regaling us with a fascinating account of his experiences in Rhodes, followed by time to catch up with old friends and a good night’s rest, Sunday morning came around. Number 1 seed, Owen and number 5 James remained the only perfect scorers and were of course paired on board 1, with Owen taking the white pieces. An interesting game followed, which ended in a draw. Meanwhile, across the rest of the pairings, Tristram caught back up with the leaders with a win over Bill Armstrong, after safely navigating a challenging endgame, and Ian Blencowe continued an impressive streak of results after a draw with Norman Wragg. In the meantime, Colin Chambers continued to mark an impressive return to BCA chess after recovering from surgery over the summer with a win, as well as a win for Olle Engstrom to take them both to 2.5/4. In the Challengers’ section, all results went as expected and Mark, Mahendra, John Fullwood and Malcolm Jones all went into the final round tied at the top on 2/4. Round 5 came about after an exciting but tiring weekend in the chess room, and perhaps expectedly, several quick draws were agreed including between Tristram and Owen leaving them on 4 points apiece to watch as James blundered a rook in ten moves out of the opening against Ian Blencowe. And despite James clawing back to a losing but tricky Rook vs Knight endgame that lasted nearly 90 minutes, Ian found the correct sequence with his rook in the end to continue an impressive weekend of results and move to 3.5/5. He was also joined by Gary Hogan who between the three of them, shared 3rd place. Owen and Tristram were both crowned winners but by tie break, Owen took the trophy for the Open section.
    Owen Phillips (left) receives the Open trophy from John Fullwood
    Owen Phillips (left) receives the Open trophy from John Fullwood
    In the Challengers’, of the four leaders, only Mark Hague secured a win in the final round, leading to himself being crowned as Challengers’ Champion with 3/5. Mark was delighted because he’d never won a BCA trophy before!
    Mark Hague won the Challengers trophy
    Mark Hague won the Challengers trophy
    Many people stayed for the Sunday night. In the evening there was an impromptu soirée with music, singing and jokes. The contributions included a Russian song and poem by Natasha Hogan, aged 3, who was supported by her mum, Alyona. The weekend saw an absolutely outstanding set of chess matches once again plus good food and lots of fun socialising! And a great deal of thanks was owed to Richard, Gerry and Julie for all of their hard work too in the chess room as well as to Freya for raising £160 with the raffle and all the others who helped across the weekend. But most importantly, thanks must go to John Fullwood, who put in a great deal of organisational work to make the weekend a great success and a pleasure to attend! Here are the final placings and prize winners! On 4 points: Owen Phillips and Tristram Cole. They finished joint 1st/2nd in the Open and Owen won the Open trophy on tie-break. On 3.5 points: James Connors, Gary Hogan and Ian Blencowe. James and Gary each got a share of 3rd prize in the Open and Ian won Grading Prize A which was of higher value. Ian’s portion of 3rd prize was cascaded down to the next score group. On 3 points Norman Wragg, Bill Armstrong, Colin Chambers, Olle Engstrom (Sweden) and Mark Hague. Norman, Bill and Colin shared Ian’s portion of 3rd prize. Olle won Grading Prize B, which was of higher value. Mark won first prize in the Challengers, again of higher value, and also received the Challengers trophy. On 2.5 points George Phillips, Abi Baker and John Fullwood. Abi and John shared 2nd/3rd prizes in the Challengers. On 2 points Mahendra Galani (Austria), Malcolm Jones, Gill Smith, John Osborne and Tony Lawton. Gill, John and Tony shared Grading Prize C. On 1.5 points Gary Wickett On 1 point Phil Rafferty, who won Grading Prize D On 0.5 point Lea Ryan Congratulations to all the prize winners!
    Gary Hogan (left, with daughter Natasha) and James Connors (right) receive joint third prize from John Fullwood
    Gary Hogan (left, with daughter Natasha) and James Connors (right) receive joint third prize from John Fullwood
    Colin Chambers (left), Bill Armstrong (right) and Norman Wragg (2nd right) receive their prizes from John Fullwood
    Colin Chambers (left), Bill Armstrong (right) and Norman Wragg (2nd right) receive their prizes from John Fullwood
    Olle Engstrom from Sweden (left) receives a grading prize from John Fullwood
    Olle Engstrom from Sweden (left) receives a grading prize from John Fullwood
    Abi Baker (left, with guide dog Joyce) and John Fullwood (right) receive joint second prize in the Challengers from Bill Armstrong
    Abi Baker (left, with guide dog Joyce) and John Fullwood (right) receive joint second prize in the Challengers from Bill Armstrong
    Tony Lawton (left), Gill Smith (second left) and John Osborne (right, with guide dog Vixen) receive their grading prizes from Bill Armstrong
    Tony Lawton (left), Gill Smith (second left) and John Osborne (right, with guide dog Vixen) receive their grading prizes from Bill Armstrong
    Phil Rafferty (left) receives his grading prize from Bill Armstrong
    Phil Rafferty (left) receives his grading prize from Bill Armstrong
  • Gary Hogan at the 2023 IBCA World Individual Championship

    Gary Hogan writes:

    A few months after surprisingly finishing joint second with Steve Burnell in my first tournament in Harrogate, April 2023, I received an email inviting me to represent the BCA at the 2023 IBCA World Individual Chess Championship for the Blind and Visually Impaired from 8th – 18th October 2023, Rhodes, Greece. I obviously jumped at the chance! Although nervous, I was determined to do everything I could to improve and to represent the BCA in the best way possible.

    Owen Phillips offered to be my coach and I eagerly accepted. We had had a really interesting draw in Harrogate, where Owen had won the tournament, and I was looking forward to learning all I could from him. Owen was a very keen coach and we were in contact almost every day. I also played a lot of puzzles on chess.com and watched YouTube videos from Gotham Chess and John Bartholomew. I entered a rapid play tournament in Greater Manchester but it was too much too soon. I scored a draw and five losses from six games and learned that I had to be mentally tougher. But it was a good learning experience and I felt I had prepared as well as I could before the tournament.

    My first game was against a very strong Spanish opponent. I played the London and lost a pawn early on, followed by another. I think I was slightly outclassed by a player who Owen thought was underrated. My second game was against a player from Moldova. I played a Benoni which was equal until I made a blunder which lost a whole rook and after that I couldn’t recover. I couldn’t get away with lapses in concentration like that at this level.

    In round 3 I had white against a Dutch player.  I felt I was under a lot of pressure but saw an intermezzo check to gain a pawn.  Eventually my opponent resigned and I notched up my first point!

    Gary Hogan (left) shaking hands with Josef Polnar from the Czech Republic at the start of Round 4. Photo credit: Owen Phillips.
    Gary Hogan (left) shaking hands with Josef Polnar from the Czech Republic at the start of Round 4. Photo credit: Owen Phillips.

    My round 4 opponent was Josef Polnar of the Czech Republic – see photo above.  I felt I came out the opening on top with my bishops on long diagonals pointing at my opponent’s king. My pawn on e4 was getting in the way but if I could just push the pawn, the position would open up to my advantage. However, I overlooked a pawn as my mind was focused on the attack.  When my attack fizzled out, my opponent was a pawn up and pushed his pawn majority to win the game.  From this game I learned that even when attacking I must still guard pawns that may appear insignificant at the time but ultimately can win the game.

    In round 5 I faced a player from Uzbekistan.  The game was a Benoni and I had white.  Remembering opening principles, I thought I didn’t have enough influence in the centre so I activated my bishop on b2.  After the opening I found myself in a decent position but my opponent had a strong knight on e5 and I was struggling to dislodge it.  My opponent found a strong check and I felt like I was defending for my life!  But shortly afterwards my rook was in a strong position and my opponent was vulnerable on the back rank. I infiltrate to hunt down the enemy king, while ensuring that I was safe from checks, and my opponent resigned just before mate.

    Round 6 brought another Dutch opponent.  The game was a King’s Indian, which my coach and I had prepared for.  However, after an unexpected move from my opponent, I took about 30 mins for the next move, thinking my queen was trapped. I emerged a knight down, but my opponent’s rook was still ineffective on h1 so I got my pieces out quickly and attacked.  From nowhere I was suddenly in a much better position. However, I only had 6 minutes left on the clock and my opponent offered me a draw. I looked at the whole game instead of assessing the current position and for most of the game I had been losing so a draw seemed like a good result, especially considering how little time I had left. I took the draw.  Five minutes later I thought “What have I done?”. I feel I should have carried on and pressed for the win. It wasn’t certain but I was in a good position. I will put that down to inexperience. (My first OTB game was in Feb 2023).

    Here is my round 7 game: Gary Hogan v Miroslav Madjeric (Croatia)
    1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c6 3. e3 Bf5 4. c4 e6
    The London System. My opponent’s bishop is outside the pawn chain and I thought I would go for the weak b7 pawn with my queen.
    5. Qb3 Qb6
    Black offered an exchange of queens to defend his pawn but I knew that in these positions it’s advantageous to make your opponent initiate the trade so I pushed c5 more or less forcing it.
    6. c5 Qxb3 7. axb3 Nd7 8. Nc3 Ngf6
    On these occasions the “London Bishop” on f4 becomes very strong. I created a retreat for my bishop, if required, and pushed the b-pawn. I became aware of this type of play only a few months ago, when I played a friendly against one of our best players on a normal club night in Witney. I played as black and he absolutely strangled me. I couldn’t move any of my pieces! Afterwards he explained how to play the position and I went straight home to study it. This was how I played my round 7 game.
    9. h3 Be7 10. Nf3 O-O 11. b4 Ne4 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. Nd2 Nf6 14. b5 h6 15. bxc6 bxc6 16. Ba6 Rac8
    Black blundered the exchange in an already weak position. A White win was only a matter of time and focus.
    17. Bxc8 Rxc8 18. O-O Bd3 19. Rfd1 a6 20. Ra3 Be2 21. Re1 Bb5 22. Nb1 g5 23. Bh2 Bd8 24. Nc3 Bc4 25. b3 Bd3 26. Rd1 Bb5 27. Nxb5 axb5 28. Rda1 Ne4 29. Ra8 Resigns.
    I was feeling confident after this game.

    In the penultimate round I had black and faced a Finnish opponent who opened with e4 as I thought he might.  I had been studying the Caro Kann the night before and most of the morning. I was thinking it may turn into a Panov attack or a Tartakower defence.  Early in the game I felt that my only real option was to trade knights, queens then bishops. Later on, trying to get an advantage in the endgame, I focused on taking a Black kingside pawn and it became a pawn race.  I had less than two minutes for the last twenty moves and after four hours of play I was struggling to call out the moves in German, write them down, decide what I wanted to move and ensure I wasn’t making a mistake. This was my first OTB time scramble. My heart was beating 100 mph and my hands were shaking!  With two connected pawns on the third rank, protected by a rook, I was sure I was going to win but my nerves got the better of me. Without thinking clearly, I pushed my pawns, calculating that, after promotion, my rook and new queen would be defending each other. They weren’t! I was devastated. A win would have put me on 4.5 points going into the last game and I threw it away. In the end I thought that I can only learn from this and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Costly lesson though!

    In the final round I had black again and was up against a Lithuanian opponent. Owen and I decided I would play the Hippopotamus opening. I hadn’t even heard of it before the morning of the game but it is relatively simple to learn with clear plans and ideas, so I was happy to give it a go. My opponent played the London System and once he had castled, I started moving my pawns and pieces towards his king.  I felt I had a better position and hoped to pile on the pressure. In retrospect I think I should have moved some more pieces closer to the action sooner, as ultimately what had looked like a good attack lost its potency.  The position was quite equal, although I would say my opponent’s pieces were more active. I offered a draw and my opponent accepted so I finished on four points from nine games, in joint 48th place in a field of 82 players from 29 countries around the world.  The event was won by Polish GM Marcin Tazbir with an unbeaten 8 points.

    Looking back at my performance I am proud of what I achieved. I let my inexperience show on at least three occasions and I hope I won’t be making those kinds of mistakes in the future. I really enjoyed my time in Greece. The tournament organisers, hotel staff and other competitors contributed greatly to an amazing experience. Finally, I would like to thank Owen Phillips who taught me so much during my time out there. He was also terrific company, and we had a great time away from the chess board, especially during the closing ceremony when we could relax with a few well-earned Cuba Libres.

  • 2023 Remote Summer Cup

    The aim of the Summer Cup is to help BCA members keep their chess skills sharp from the comfort of their own homes over the summer months.  It’s an ideal event for people who cannot attend our OTB tournaments for one reason or another!  In this five round Swiss tournament, two weeks are allowed for each round. Games were played on a date arranged by the players, using a mutually agreed platform such as Skype, telephone, Lichess, Zoom or WhatsApp. Usually, there was also a timekeeper to operate the clock. Half point byes were available but not a single one was requested, which goes to show how keen the participants were to play all five games!

    The initial lineup for the 2023 Remote Summer Cup comprised of twenty-four entrants, including eight lady players and seven participants from overseas. Round 1 kicked off on the 29th of July. Most games went according to seeding but there were a couple of unexpected results with Nene Clayton and Neda Koohnavard both holding their higher rated opponents to draws. Already they were joint leaders in the U1300 section and the Ladies’ section!

    All Round 2 games were decisive and only Steve Burnell, Stan Lovell, Paul Baldwin, Colin Fisher and Mark Hague were on maximum scores. Nene and Neda remained just half a point behind the frontrunners.

    Round 3 saw Steve Burnell and Stan Lovell emerge as joint leaders on three points apiece. Nene and Neda both won their games too, staying neck and neck in the U1300 section and the Ladies’ section.

    The crucial clashes between Stan and Steve on board 1 and Neda and Nene on board 2 took place in Round 4. Stan managed to win and take sole lead, but the ladies drew their game and joined Steve Burnell, Norman Wragg and Colin Fisher on three points.

    In the final round, Stan was drawn against Colin Fisher. Could Stan win and achieve a perfect score, or draw to finish outright first? Meanwhile, Nene and Neda were up against formidable opponents Norman Wragg and Steve Burnell respectively. It was a nail-biting finish! Colin managed to beat Stan and joined him on 4 points. Then Nene also moved up to 4 points by winning her game against Norman. The next day, Neda drew with Steve Burnell, meaning that for the first time in this event she slipped just behind Nene.

    Congratulations to Stan, Colin and Nene for finishing joint first! The Open trophy goes to Stan on tie-break. The U1300 and Ladies Trophies go to Nene. Colin didn’t feel bad about not getting a trophy – he said he was just delighted to be among the joint winners! The full list of final scores is as follows:

    On 4 points Stan Lovell, Colin Fisher and Nene Clayton.

    On 3.5 points Steve Burnell, Paul Baldwin, Neda Koohnavard and Olle Engstrom (Sweden).

    On 3 points Norman Wragg, Voldi Gailans, Eamonn Casey (Ireland) and Anthony Borg (Malta).

    On 2.5 points Mark Hague.

    On 2 points Mahendra Galani (Austria), Tony Lawton, Teresa Codina (Spain), Bittor Ibanez, Malcolm Jones, John Ramm and Abi Baker.

    On 1.5 points Lukwesa Matapo Kalumba (Zambia) and Gill Smith.

    On 1 point Eleanor Tew and Lea Ryan (withdrawn).

    On 0.5 point Marilyn Bland (USA).

    Stan Lovell playing at the 2023 Chairman's Cup in Bournemouth
    Stan Lovell – winner of the 2023 Remote Summer Cup! (Pictured here playing in the 2023 Chairman’s Cup in Bournemouth.)

    We are grateful to Bittor Ibanez for collating all the 2023 Summer Cup games. You can view them by selecting the file below or download them by using the download option below.

  • Chairman’s Cup 2023

    Braille Chess Association – Chairman’s Cup

    The BCA held a tournament in the Marsham Court Hotel from Saturday 15th July to Friday 22nd July.  23 players took part, most of them visually impaired.  During the week, 7 rounds of chess were played and in the evenings the group enjoyed entertainment such as a quiz, some music and a murder mystery.

    The tournament and entertainments were organised by John Jenkins of Highcliffe and he took part in the chess along with local Steve Bailey of Poole.

    18 other players travelled to Bournemouth from around the UK and they were joined by players from Vienna, Barcelona and Sweden.

    The tournament was officially opened by the Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Anne Filer, and Martin Simons gave a challenge in a 16 board simultaneous, finishing on 12.5 points.

    The Chairman’s Cup was won by Ian Blencowe (Gloucester) with a score of 5.5 from 7. Stan Lovell (Scarborough) was second with 5 points and so remains our Visually Impaired Champion.  Neda Koohnavard (London) was the top placed player with a rating under 1300 and she also won the ladies cup, she scored 4.5.

    The rail strikes meant that half of our party left a day early on Friday 21st and so a “soirée” of musical talents was held on Thursday afternoon with a much smaller soirée held on Friday night.

    We hope to return to Bournemouth again in the future.


    The Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Anne Filer, opened the tournament.
    Stan Lovell finished 2nd overall and was the highest placed visually impaired player. Accompanied by guide dog, Casper, he received his prize from Gill Smith.
  • AGM Weekend and Chess Congress 2023

    Matthew Carr (L) and Norman Wragg (centre) present Owen Phillips with Open Trophy

    Members gathered at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate for our AGM Weekend Congress from the 14th to the 16th of April, 2023.  We held our AGM on the Saturday evening.  It was our first hybrid meeting, with members attending online as well as in person.  The Annual Best Game Trophy for 2022 was presented to Steve Burnell.  Richard Harrington received a thank you gift for many years of service as Periodicals Distributor.  Norman Wragg stood down from the committee after serving for eight years as Secretary, followed by eleven years as Chairman.  The meeting voted that he should receive Honorary Life Membership.  Former Champion, Bill Armstrong was elected as our new Chairman.

    There was also a five round Swiss tournament held over the weekend.  Thirteen players competed in the Open section and ten in the Challengers.

    The Open was particularly closely contested.  After five rounds only 2 points separated the leader from the lowest scorers!  New member Gary Hogan impressed everyone by finishing joint second with former champion Steve Burnell.  The first prize was won by associate member Owen Phillips.  The complete scores were as follows:

    1st on 4 points Owen Phillips

    =2nd on 3.5 points Steve Burnell and Gary Hogan

    On 2.5 points Norman Andrews, Ian Blencowe, Colin Chambers, Mark Kirkham, George Phillips and Guy Whitehouse.  Norman, Ian and Colin shared Grading Prize A, while Mark, George and Guy shared Grading Prize B.

    On 2 points Bill Armstrong, Stan Lovell, Richard Murphy and Gary Wickett

    In the Challengers section, Bittor Ibanez was a man with a mission!  Having narrowly missed out on winning a trophy at our Autumn Tournament, he was determined to do better this time and he succeeded in winning all of his games!  New associate member, Mark Cholij, also put in a good performance and won a grading prize in his first competitive event.  The complete scores were as follows:

    1st with a perfect score of 5 points Bittor Ibanez

    2nd on 3.5 points Gill Smith

    =3rd on 3 points John Osborne and Phil Rafferty

    On 2.5 points John Fullwood, Tony Lawton and Abi Baker.  Tony and Abi shared Grading Prize A.

    On 2 points Mark Cholij, who won Grading Prize B.

    On 1 point Richard Harrington and Eleanor Tew.

    At the prizegiving, everyone expressed their gratitude to Steve and Hazel Burnell for organising such a great weekend.  Thanks were also offered to arbiters Matthew Carr and David Clayton, and steward Tristram Cole for running the tournament so smoothly.

    Norman Wragg L presents Bittor Ibanez with Challengers Trophy


    Gill Smith (L) presents Norman Wragg with Honorary Life Membership


  • 29th Chess Theme Break

    Coaching sessions were held in small groups or as one-to-ones

    Nearly thirty players, guides, family members and friends gathered in Weston-super-Mare from 28th January to 4th February 2023 for a chess themed holiday!  The week started with a few days of coaching, during which six of our more experienced players trained ten other members in small groups.  There were also some “How Good is Your Chess?” sessions and an opportunity to learn about the history of the game.  A few members of the local chess club came in one afternoon to play some mini simultaneous displays against the trainees.  The chess activities culminated in a mini tournament so the trainees could put what they’d learnt into practice.
    It wasn’t all about chess though!  We had a free day and a trip to Weston Museum was arranged for anyone who wanted to go.  In the evenings we had music and dancing, quizzes, a word game and our own talent show in which members sang songs, read poetry or played music to entertain each other.  For the guide dogs, there was the opportunity to free run on the beach.  Something for everyone!
    All in all it was a very enjoyable week!

    Couples Dancing
    Three couples dance as Dave Curran sings