The Gazette

May 2024


Registered Charity Number 263049



Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People.


BCA Website Address:



User Group Email Address: (Any member wishing to join this forum should email the Editor or Audio Librarian, who will be pleased to send an invitation.)




To contact a member of the committee, please see the Braille Chess Association’s website where there is a facility for sending a message.





Honorary Members

Christine and Norman Andrews, Hazel and Steve Burnell, Colin Chambers, Alec Crombie, Celia Gibbs, Julie Leonard, Stan Lovell, Mike Murphy, Richard Murphy, Joan Shorrock, Gill Smith, Gerry Walsh, Roger Waters, Norman Wragg.




Bill Armstrong, Abi Baker, Tristram Cole, John Fullwood, Mark Kirkham, Julie Leonard, Gerry Walsh, Guy Whitehouse, Gary Wickett.




Note:  The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.



Editorial 3

Forthcoming Events. 4

Help with Payments. 6

Online Forms on the BCA Website. 6

Coaching Grants. 7

All Under One Roof 7

Notes on the AGM... 8

Constitution of Subcommittees. 9

Treasurer’s Report 9

Membership Secretary’s Report 9

Correspondence Chess Director’s Report 10

Millennium Club, the BCA’s monthly lottery. 11

David Hodgkins Memorial Annual Best Game Competition. 11

How Good is Your Chess?. 12

30th Chess Theme Break 27th January to 3rd February 2024. 12

Coaching Game from the Chess Theme Break. 14

Chess Theme Break Simultaneous Display. 15

Gill v Gary at the Chess Theme Break Plus Song! 15

20th BCA Email Tournament 16

Hotel Hunters. 17

BCA AGM Congress 15th – 17th March 2024. 18

Proposals for a Book to be Recorded for the Library. 20

Coaching Initiatives Around the Country. 20

Personalia. 21

Blitz Game by Owen Phillips. 22

Puzzle from Mark. 22

RIP John Crowley. 22

RIP Sean Loftus 20th March 1941 – 25th January 2024. 23



When in Greenwich recently, I visited the Royal Observatory, which is sometimes called “The Home of Time”.  It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking place.  Standing astride the Greenwich Meridian, with one foot in the future and the other in the past, I became a time traveller of sorts!  Wouldn’t time travel be useful in chess?  One could go back and play the mate in two missed during the game!  At the Chess Theme Break, someone could have gone back in time to correct a blunder, but then we wouldn’t have had the song lyrics that the loss inspired, so there are pros and cons!  This issue contains the game, the lyrics, and several other pieces about aspects of the Chess Theme Break, which will hopefully whet readers’ appetites for next year’s event!

Of all the timekeeping exhibits in the museum at the Royal Observatory, my attention was drawn to a 1980s chess clock from the Soviet Union.  Part of the text beneath it read, “Time is our most precious ally and our bitterest enemy!”  At our AGM Congress in Leicester, it was painful to observe how players sometimes ran short of time and made mistakes or even lost on time.  However, some great games were also played there, a couple of which are in this gazette, along with a full report on the weekend and a summary of proceedings at the AGM itself, including important changes of personnel on the committee!  Our new Coaching Officer takes this moment to remind us of the grant that’s available.  There’s the official BCA Best Game of 2023 as announced by Norman Andrews, and a blitz game from Owen Phillips, which demonstrates how he beat both his opponent and the clock!

In addition to the regular officers’ reports, you can also read about members who are giving up their time to bring chess to others and how the BCA is moving with the times, by adding online forms to our website.  In Personalia, you will learn which long standing member will be celebrating a 90th birthday and which prominent BCA couple will be marking six decades of marriage in July!  It’s time to send our Audio Librarian ideas about which chess book you’d like added to our library, and there’s a plea to save our Millennium Club now!  Finally, we say a fond farewell, or “slán”, to two members from Ireland who passed away earlier this year.

Having left it perilously close to my own deadline to write this editorial, I would dearly like to travel back to give myself more time.  Alas, this will have to do, else my flag will fall!  The August issue deadline is the 30th of June.

Julie Leonard

Forthcoming Events

Booking Conditions and Procedures

All bookings must be made through the named event organiser or via an online form on the BCA website. 


The organiser will confirm the amount to be paid to the BCA and will notify the Treasurer to expect this payment from the entrant.  Only when full payment has been received will the booking be complete.

When booking, please supply the organiser with the following:

1.     Name/names of everyone the booking is for.

2.     Dates of arrival and departure.

3.     Room type (single/double/twin/accessible room).

4.     If you will be bringing a guide dog.

5.     Any special dietary requirements.

6.     Any special requests: For example, a preference for a bath or shower or a need for a walk-in shower; a preference to be near the lift or stairs; a need for support in case of a fire alarm at night.

7.     Consent for your name, dates booked, room type and any special requirements to be sent to the hotel.

8.     Whether you require a Braille, print or large print event programme.  (The programme will be emailed to all participants for whom an email address is held.)

9.     An emergency contact number.  This is important as otherwise it puts a great responsibility on the organiser if an emergency arises.  The organiser will keep this information confidential and destroy it after the event.

If you are taking part in the chess, please also give:

10.  Consent for your forename, surname, club, results and gender to be sent to the ECF for rating purposes.

11.  The section you would prefer to play in if you are under the rating limit for the Challengers.

If you have any queries about the hotel or the tournament please contact the event organiser, not the Treasurer.

Blind and partially sighted UK residents under the age of 25 receive free entry and free accommodation when playing in BCA events.  In appropriate circumstances, free accommodation is also available to a parent or guardian accompanying a junior.

Visually impaired UK residents in their first year of membership receive their first BCA weekend event free or £100 reduction in the cost of a week-long event.  They may also be accompanied by a guide or companion who will receive the same concession.  For a first event we ask for payment in advance and we then make a refund at or after the event.

The Treasurer will acknowledge receipt of your payment and let the organiser know.  You may pay in either of these ways:

Cheques payable to Braille Chess Association should be sent to the Treasurer.

Online or telephone payments may be made to:

Account name: Braille Chess Association, sort code: 40 52 40, account number: 00082456.

If you pay by direct payment you should inform the Treasurer when the payment has been made.

Bookings accepted after the closing date are at the discretion of the organiser and are subject to a £10 late booking supplement for each person.

Bookings can only be cancelled and payments refunded within the time limit set in the conditions by the hotels.  Members may consider it advisable to take out holiday insurance to cover themselves.

The BCA reserves the right to exclude from its events anyone whose behaviour towards participants and tournament organisers was unacceptable or who is currently serving a time ban for cheating.

Saturday 22nd June to Saturday 29th June 2024: BCA British Championship in Memory of Graham Lilley

The BCA is very grateful to the Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust, who donated £500 to be spent in Yorkshire.  The money will go towards this event, which is being held at The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate.

The tournament is open to all visually impaired chess players and to associate members of the BCA.  The title of BCA British Champion will be awarded to the highest placed visually impaired player who has been resident in the UK for at least the last three years and has not played chess for a country other than the UK.

The event will be played over 7 rounds with one round each day.  Round 1 will be played on the Saturday evening (probably commencing about 7.00 PM), with subsequent rounds played Sunday to Friday during the day.  The rate of play will be all moves in two and a half hours per person.  Players may request a half point bye in any one of the first six rounds.  If there are sufficient numbers there will be two sections, with the Challengers’ section being limited to those whose rating or estimated rating is below 1450.  If it is only possible to hold one section, there will be separate prizes for those rated below 1450.  If a sufficient number of lady players enter and the majority of them are in favour of having a Ladies’ Championship, they will compete for the Julia Scott Trophy.  The tournament entry fee is £10, regardless of which section you enter.

The cost of dinner, bed and breakfast to members and associate members of the BCA is £57 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast in a single room (£399 for the week), and £48 per person per night in a shared room (£336 for the week). Note that there is a car parking charge of £10 per day payable direct to the hotel on arrival.

The closing date for bookings is 10th May 2024.  Bookings accepted after that date, at the discretion of the organiser, will be subject to a late booking fee of £10 per person.

All enquiries and bookings should be sent to the organiser Steve Burnell.

Alternatively, you can use an online form to book!  See

Saturday 13th July to Saturday 21st September 2024: BCA Summer Cup to be played remotely.

The Summer Cup will be a five round tournament in which games are played on any mutually agreed internet based platform such as Zoom, Skype, Lichess or WhatsApp.  The default platform will be Zoom as the majority of people find this accessible and people can dial into meetings if they prefer.

The event will run for 10 weeks with one round every two weeks.  Games are played at a mutually convenient time agreed by the two players.  One point will be awarded for a win and half a point for a draw.  Ideally, there should be a third-party timekeeper for each game unless it is played on a dedicated chess server such as Lichess.  If they wish, players will be able to take a half point bye in any one of the first four rounds and will be able to arrange this at fairly short notice.  The arbiters will be Gerry Walsh and Julie Leonard.  Bittor Ibanez has once again kindly volunteered to collate all the games for us.

The tournament will be open to all members and associate members of the BCA.  Entry is free.  Depending on the entries, we may be able to incorporate a Challengers’ section for those whose rating or estimated rating is below 1450, and a Ladies’ section.  Whether or not this is possible, the tournament will be a friendly and fairly informal event.  We urge members and associate members to “have a go” regardless of their playing strength.  Results will be sent for rating in the ECF Online Rating system, which is separate from over the board ratings.

To enter please complete the appropriate online form on by Monday 8th July.  The online form is the preferred method of entering so please do try it as it will guide you through the information you need to provide.  If you cannot use the form, you may send your entry to the organiser, Julie Leonard (see Officers’ Contact Details), giving your full contact details, your location or time zone if you’re not in the UK and stating which playing platforms you can use.  You must also give consent for your contact details to be shared with all 2024 Summer Cup players and arbiters and for rating information to be sent to the ECF.

Friday 18th to Sunday 20th October 2024:  International Autumn Tournament

This year's International Autumn Tournament will be held at the Kents Hill Park Hotel and Conference Centre in Milton Keynes.  The hotel is situated in a very quiet area of Milton Keynes on the edge of an extensive area of parkland.  It is comprised of a number of separate buildings connected by covered walkways.  The buildings are named after birds.  The main building contains the reception area, and the dining room on the ground floor.  On the first floor is the bar.  BCA will occupy the ground floor bedrooms of the Lapwing building, which is about 50 yards from the main building.  The chess room will be on the ground floor of the Nightingale building, again about 50 yards from the main building but in the opposite direction from Lapwing.  Kents Hill Park has a leisure Centre, which has a gym, an indoor swimming pool, a spa pool, a steam room and a sauna.  The hotel is just a short taxi ride from Milton Keynes railway station.

The format will be a five round Swiss tournament.  If there are sufficient entries there will be two sections, an Open and a Challengers for those rated under 1450.  When making your booking, please state the section you wish to play in.  If you do not state a preference, it will be assumed you wish to enter the section according to your rating.  Both tournaments are open to blind and partially sighted players and to associate members of the BCA.  The tournament entry fee is £12, regardless of which section you enter.  Note: A £2 increase to our entry fees was approved at a committee meeting in April.  This is the first increase since 2001 and takes effect from the start of the BCA’s financial year in October 2024.

The rate of play is likely to be 90 minutes for each player for all moves.  Any player can request a half point bye in any one of the first four rounds or a delay in the start of their game in round 1 of 30 minutes.  Likely start times for the rounds are 20.00 on the Friday evening, 09.45 and 14.15 on the Saturday and 09.45 and 14.00 on the Sunday.

Prices at this hotel are significantly lower than we paid at last year's venue.  The cost for dinner, bed and breakfast for BCA members and associate members per night is: for a single room, £57; for a twin/double room £50 per person.  Bookings can be made via the appropriate online form on or by contacting the organiser.  Payment for all accommodation (including Sunday if required), together with the entry fee should be sent to the Treasurer, Tristram Cole.  The closing date for entries is 26th August.  Please send any queries about the event to John Fullwood. 

Saturday 25th January to Saturday 1st February 2025 – The 31st Chess Theme Break

The 31st Chess Theme Break will be held at the Lauriston Hotel, 6-12 Knightstone Road, Weston-super-Mare BS23 2AN.  This year’s event was also held there, and it was found to be very convenient, with exceptionally friendly and helpful staff.  The hotel is in an excellent location, one mile from Weston-super-Mare railway station, a short walk from the seafront and the town centre shops.  Beds and bowls are provided for guide dogs.  The hotel also offers a dogfood service by prior arrangement, to save owners having to transport it themselves.  During the winter, dogs are allowed to run on the nearby beach.

It is anticipated that the week will closely follow the tried and trusted programme developed by Peter and Celia Gibbs over many years.  It will include coaching provided by more experienced BCA members, a tournament and many social events.  Please refer to Stan’s report on the 30th Chess Theme Break in this gazette to get a flavour of what the week entails.  Alternatively, get in touch with the organiser, Julie Leonard, to find out more.

All members and any visually impaired person who wishes to learn chess or improve their chess can take part.  Any member with a rating of about 1400 or higher who would like to assist with the coaching would also be most welcome, as would anyone seeking a winter break with BCA friends.

For members, the cost of dinner, bed and breakfast for the week is £420 per person in a single room or sharing a double or twin room, and £455 per person for single occupancy of a double or twin room.  The cost of individual nights for any member not staying the whole week is £60 per person in a single room or sharing, and £65 per person for single occupancy.  With all these prices, an increased members’ discount of £15 per person per night has already been taken off and so no reimbursements will be made for accommodation after the event.  If there is sufficient interest it may be possible to arrange an excursion for the free day at an additional cost.

Grants of £10 per session are available to all members who coach others and to all visually impaired members who receive coaching, up to a maximum of £60 per person.  These grants will be paid after the event.

Bookings can be made via the appropriate online form on or by contacting Julie Leonard.  See officers' contact details.  Please say whether you’re attending as a trainee, a coach or a non-chess person.  The closing date is 30th November 2024.  Early booking is advised, especially if you’d like a single room or a room with a bath as there are limited numbers of these.  Rooms are allocated on a first come first served basis and are only reserved when the BCA has received your payment.  Payments made to the BCA are refundable until the money is forwarded to the hotel, which will be in the first half of December.  No refunds are possible after that time and therefore we strongly advise members to take out holiday insurance.

Help with Payments

Although the BCA offers generous subsidies for hotel accommodation, we thought you might like to know that there is further help available as you may pay in instalments.  Your booking should still be fully paid for by the time of the closing date.  If you would like to spread the cost of any of our events then please contact the treasurer, Tristram, to let him know and he will keep track of your payments.

Online Forms on the BCA Website

Have you spotted that online booking forms are now mentioned in Forthcoming Events?  Some members have asked for them so Olly Leonard, our Website Coordinator, has worked with the committee and event organisers to create them.  The forms guide people through the booking process, prompting them to provide all required information, so if you have access to the internet, please do give them a try!  Quite a few members have used the booking form for Harrogate and some commented that it was much more accessible than they expected.  You’ll find a form for each event that is accepting entries on this page:  Alternatively, navigate to the Events List, where you will find a link to the booking forms page.

On the 9th of March we launched an online Membership Application form too.  Four people have already used it!

Of course, we know that not everyone will want to use online forms, so people are still welcome to book events or join by telephone or email if they prefer.  We’re just giving people more choice about how they interact with us!

Julie Leonard

Coaching Grants

This is a reminder that every UK resident VI member may claim up to £120 annually towards coaching.  This could be in person but is more likely to be over the phone or on Skype or Zoom.  If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please contact me and I will help you to find a suitable coach.

Gerry Walsh, Coaching Officer

All Under One Roof

A note from your Congress Support Officer, Tony Elbourn:

If you would like to participate in any mainstream competitions, then why not make use of the Congress Support Scheme?  It's designed to help BCA members meet the costs of entering mainstream congresses.  The expenses that can be claimed are travel, accommodation and the entry fee, or just the entry fee itself.  It's open to all members who have played in a BCA event over the past year and who have not also received international funding.  All we ask for is a little feedback on the congress in which they have taken part.

If you are considering entering a mainstream event you may well find yourself in good company as some of them are popular with BCA members.  In order to make a claim there are three simple steps:-

1. Contact the Congress Support Officer at least one week prior to the event.  Retrospective claims will not normally be accepted.  (See list of officers for Tony’s contact details.)  Please contact him either by telephone or email giving full details of the event in which you wish to compete.

2. Send a receipt or proof of expenditure to the Treasurer on return from the congress.  Claims can include entry fee, accommodation, travel and any other reasonable expenses.  The Congress Support Scheme does not cover claims for insurance.

3. Provide feedback on the event to the Congress Support Officer.  This does not need to be formal and will be stored as an anonymous record for our database.  It may benefit other BCA members thinking of attending the same event in the future.

Please note that, in the spirit of the Congress Support Scheme, failure to complete all the above steps may mean that we cannot guarantee that your claim will be processed successfully, as the scheme is subject to available funds (the year referred to is the BCA’s operating year starting on 1st October and ending on 30th September).  Contact details for the Congress Support Officer and the Treasurer are in the list of officers.

If you are mainly a “home player” and have been wondering whether to take part in a local tournament and would like to find out more about playing competitively then why not join the BCA in one of its competitions, or you may recently have become V.I. in which case you can find out about the equipment we use and that you will still be able to play competitively.  Our competitions are run in exactly the same way as a “mainstream” congress.  If it is your first time as a competitive player then you can take part in the Challengers section which, in spite of its name, will give you some good games.  If you are concerned about the expense of joining a mainstream congress, then you will have taken the first step to obtaining “Congress Support” from the BCA.

Guy Whitehouse has compiled the following list of mainstream tournaments that are “All Under One Roof” i.e. the accommodation and chess playing room are in the same hotel.

4th Cornwall Spring Congress, 3rd – 5th May 2024, Falmouth Hotel, Castle Beach, Falmouth.

This is a five round seeded Swiss with three sections: an Open, a U1900 and a U1600. Email the tournament organisers Colin and Rebecca Gardiner for an entry form.

English Seniors Championships, 24th – 28th May 2024, Holiday Inn, Kenilworth, Warwick.

There are two seven-round sections, one for those who will be aged 50 or above on 31st December 2024 and one for those who will be aged 65 or above on 31st December 2024.  Players need to have been born in England or have been resident in England for the last twelve months.  Both sections are FIDE- and ECF-rated.  There are prizes for the top three players and for the best U-2000 and U-1800 performances in both sections.  For more details contact Nigel Towers.

2nd Riviera Congress, 31st August – 6th September 2024, TLH Carlton Hotel, Torquay.

There’s a seven-round FIDE-rated Open and there are two five-round ECF Swiss tournaments.  The morning Swiss event has a U1900 and a U1700 section, while the afternoon event has a U1800 and a U1600 section.  For more details contact the organiser John Constable.

3rd Cornwall Autumn Congress, 20th to 22nd September 2024, Queen's Hotel, The Promenade, Penzance

A five round Swiss with three sections - Open, U1850 and U1550.  Organisers Rebecca and Colin Gardiner.


Notes on the AGM

Most of the reports submitted to this year’s AGM conveyed a strong feeling that the association had enjoyed a very successful year.  We had run a very full programme of tournaments, including the remotely run Summer Cup, and it was particularly gratifying that there had been enough female competitors in some of our events to justify the award of a ladies’ trophy.  We were also especially pleased that we were being represented at international events again, with Gary Hogan turning in a very respectable performance at the IBCA world individual championships in Rhodes.  He will be representing us at the European individuals in Romania with Owen accompanying him as his coach.  I’m sure we all wish Gary every success.

We had finally been informed how much of the government money allocated to chess we would receive.  The ECF had allocated us two grants of £5,000.  One of these would be used to offset the costs of sending Gary to Rhodes.  The other would support participants in IBCA events due to take place in the summer (Romania) and possibly the women’s and juniors events scheduled for September.

After careful consideration we had decided that we held too much in cash and needed to move some of our money into safe investments.  Inflation has significantly reduced the value of cash and we could minimise the risk associated with investing by moving small amounts into low-risk investments at opportune moments.

We were very pleased with our new website.  It was easier to update and we had reduced the cost of hosting it.  We had added a membership application form shortly before the AGM and it had already been used.  Forms to enter tournaments were also being rolled out, but people can still join the association or enter tournaments by phone or email.

Abi had been very active in her role as Publicity Officer.  She had been interviewed by Radio Leicester and the Macular Society which had featured us in their magazine Sideview.  Videos she had created with Freya Smith were also receiving positive feedback on Facebook.

The biggest source of frustration was on the junior development front.  Voldi had invested much time and effort in trying to get the RNIB to help us promote chess as an excellent activity for visually impaired people particularly with respect to juniors.  Sadly, he had been met either with incompetence or complete indifference.  However, a group that had just been started in Oxford might result in some juniors joining the association.  John Osborne and Neda Koohnavard were also enjoying success running chess groups.

Turning to over-the-board events, the 30th Chess Theme Break had been a great success and we had accepted a quote from the Lauriston Hotel for the 2025 event.  Starting with our British championships in Harrogate, we would be restricting entry to the Challengers’ section to those with a rating of under 1450, the equivalent of 100 under the old grading system.

It was particularly gratifying that new volunteers had come forward to help organise tournaments and find new venues.  John Osborne and Phil Rafferty who had taken responsibility for the 2024 AGM and spring congress, and John and Tessa Fullwood who were organising the autumn international tournament which would be held in a new venue in Milton Keynes were thanked for taking on this vital work.

Two motions were passed, one making Colin Chambers an honorary life member and the other making the Chair of the Tournament Sub-committee a BCA committee post.  Prior to the meeting Steve Burnell had announced his intention to stand down from the post.  He was thanked for all the work he had done, as was Hazel who had helped him in his role, and they were presented with a token of our appreciation.  John Fullwood was then elected to the post unopposed.

There were other substantial changes to committee personnel this time.  Gill Smith, Voldi Gailans and Mark Hague were standing down as Treasurer, Junior Development Officer and Membership Secretary respectively.  All of them were thanked for their years of service and presented with gifts and chess-related mementos.  Tristram Cole was elected as Treasurer, Gary Wickett as Membership Secretary and Abi Baker as Junior development Officer, all of them unopposed.

Finally, Voldi relinquished responsibility for matters relating to coaching.  The success of the How Good Is Your Chess sessions he had started, and which Gerry Walsh now runs, was noted and appreciated.  Gerry will now take on responsibility for coaching.

Guy Whitehouse


Constitution of Subcommittees

Finance and Fundraising: Bill Armstrong (Chair), Tris Cole, Gill Smith and Guy Whitehouse.

Information and Communication Technology: Mark Kirkham (Chair), Mark Hague, Bittor Ibanez, Julie Leonard, Olly Leonard and Gill Smith.

Equipment: Guy Whitehouse (Chair), Steve Bailey and Malcolm Jones.  Note: The Equipment subcommittee was formerly known as the Technical subcommittee.  The name change was agreed at a committee meeting in April.

Tournament: John Fullwood (Chair), Bill Armstrong, Julie Leonard, Stan Lovell, John Osborne and Phil Rafferty.

Treasurer’s Report

I am delighted to say that Tristram Cole has taken over the role of treasurer.  Please remember to use his postal address rather than mine from now on for BCA financial business.  (See Officers’ Contact Details.)  Emails sent to treasurer at will now go to Tristram.

I want to thank:

All committee members I have worked with, past and present;

Denise Ross for managing the Millennium Club draw;

Our fundraisers Julia Scott, Linda Innes and Carl Concannon;

Malcolm and Gill Jones for holding stock and posting sets and clocks;

My family for their support;

And everyone else I have met through the BCA, it is lovely to be part of such a friendly group.

I will continue to take part in tournaments and look forward to seeing some of you in Harrogate.

The year-end accounts for 2022 to 2023 have been examined by the accountants and were accepted.

Since the last Gazette our fundraiser, Carl Concannon, has helped us to raise over £22,000.  We are very grateful to him.

The Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust gave the BCA £500 to be spent in the Yorkshire region.  It will go towards the British Championship we are holding in Harrogate in June.

The Morpeth Chess Club, where Les Whittle played, held their annual fundraiser for the BCA in December.  This time they held a rapid play tournament and raised £80.  It is very kind of them to continue to remember the BCA.

Congratulations to our supporters who are signed up to Give as You Live, you have just raised another £25 in free donations!  These supporters have now helped us raise a total of £150.05 simply by shopping via Give As You Live Online.  If you are shopping online, please consider using Give As You Live which raises funds with many different retailers at no cost to you. Simply search for “give as you live online”, sign up and choose the BCA as the charity you are supporting.

Gill Smith

Membership Secretary’s Report

Gary Wickett writes:

First of all, let me take this opportunity to thank Mark Hague, who has done an excellent job as Membership Secretary for the last seven years, and in reality, is still very much involved in this role as one of my many kind helpers.  The role has somewhat changed and become very technical since my last stint as MS, and having the IT skills of a Neanderthal, I need all the help I can get!  So, I’ll do my best but please be patient with me.

Before I introduce the new members, let me voice my congratulations to new Honorary Life Member, Colin Chambers.  Colin is not only the father of our Gazette Editor but has been a member of the BCA for more than 60 years, and served on the Committee as what was then known as PRO (Public Relations Officer).  More recently, but starting further back than I can remember, Colin has been the Station Manager of Radio Cheltenham; keeping us all updated on members’ welfare and important anniversaries etc.  Colin has also of course represented the BCA on the international stage, and many, including myself, have enjoyed the benefit of his expert coaching and endearing sense of humour.  All in all, a good egg, and a well-deserved member of a very distinguished club.

I am delighted to say that we actually have seven new members since the last Gazette; six VI members and one Associate member.  I’ll begin by listing the new VI members.

Let me start by extending a very warm welcome to Ted Harden from Axminster in Devonshire, who has taken out one year’s membership.  Ted is happy for me to mention the fact that he is 90 years old, and as well as enjoying chess, he also plays the piano.

A cordial welcome also goes out to Michael Domnin.  Michael lives in Whitstable, Kent, and as well as chess, he enjoys listening to classical music and plays the flute.

Staying with the music, which features quite a lot in this report, a very warm welcome goes out to Joe Paton, who has joined as a five-year member.  Joe lives in Richmond, Essex, and as well as being a wizard with computers, he plays bass guitar and also hosts three shows a week on an internet radio station.  I can highly recommend you ask your smart device to activate Ride Radio on a Thursday, Saturday or Sunday evening between 8 and 10.

Also joining as a five-year member, let me extend a very warm welcome to Nathan Tree.  Nathan lives in Wheatley, Oxfordshire and works for My Vision Oxford, where he has recently set up a chess group.

A cordial welcome also goes out to Brandan Read. Brandan lives in Weston-super- Mare and has joined as a Junior Member (junior in BCA terms being under the age of 25).  He plays for his local chess club in Weston and met some of us at the Lauriston Hotel during the Chess Theme Break.  As well as chess, Brandan also plays in a newly formed prog rock band.  I’m delighted to say that he is planning to come to Harrogate.

Let me also extend a warm welcome to David Odell who has joined as a Life Member.  David lives in Morecambe, Lancashire and is a retired Software Engineer.  He played chess when he was fully sighted and has recently taken it up again after a break of many years.

Finally, let me extend a cordial welcome to Terry Roberts, who has joined as an Associate Life Member.  Terry, a long-term friend of Celia Gibbs, lives in Hagley, Worcestershire, and is a retired Lecturer of Mathematics.

Regretfully, I have to report the sad passing of two of our longstanding members from Ireland: Sean Loftus, who joined the BCA way back in the early sixties; and John Crowley, who joined in 2004.  Unfortunately, due to ill health, I never got the opportunity to meet John, but Sean was a regular at our events and served for many years as a coach at the Chess Theme Breaks.  RIP.  Please find obituaries for Sean and John at the end of this Gazette.

Correspondence Chess Director’s Report

47th BCA CORRESPONDENCE Championship 2023-24

Premier - Group Leader Paul Benson

Phillips 1 - 0 Crombie, English Opening, 36.

Scores: Philip Doyle 3-4, George Phillips 2.5-3, Alec Crombie 2-4, Guy Whitehouse 1-3, Malcolm Jones 0.5-4.

Challengers - Group Leader Paul Benson

Final scores: Voldi Gailans 3-4, Mike Flood 2.5, Eric Gallacher 2.5, Maria Dod 2, Eleanor Tew 0.

BCA LEAGUE 2024-25

Division 1 - Group Leader Paul Benson

Jones 0 - 1 Crombie, King's Indian Defence, 52.

Gailans 0 - 1 Jones, English Opening, 31.

Gailans 0 - 1 Crombie, English Opening, 37.

Crombie 0.5 - 0.5 Crawford, Scotch Game, 35.

Jones 0 - 1 Crawford, Bogo-Indian, 47.

Phillips 1 - 0 Jones, Philidor by transposition, 32.

Crawford 1 - 0 Gailans, Petroff, 34.

Phillips 0.5 - 0.5 Gailans, French by transposition, 46.

Crawford 0.5 - 0.5 Phillips, Hippopotamus, 17.

Scores: Glenn Crawford 3-4, Alec Crombie 2.5-3, George Phillips 2-3, Malcolm Jones 1-4, Voldi Gailans 0.5-4.

Division 2 - Group Leader Paul Benson

Dod 1 - 0 Tew, French, 47.

Tew 0 - 1 Flood, Queen's Pawn, 33.

Flood 1 - 0 Dod, Caro-Kann, 15.

Gallacher 1 - 0 Dod, Slav, 24.

Gallacher 0.5 - 0.5 Flood, Queen's Pawn, 29.

Tew 0 - 1 Gallacher, English Opening, 29.

Dod 0 - 1 Bland, Queen's Pawn, 32.

Scores: Mike Flood 2.5-3, Eric Gallacher 2.5-3, Marilyn Bland 1-1, Maria Dod 1-4, Eleanor Tew 0-3.

In closing, to those about to start a game: Break a peg!

Paul Benson

Millennium Club, the BCA’s monthly lottery

To take part in our monthly draw costs £12 per number per year.  You may have as many numbers as you like at £12 each.  Every month a lucky winner receives £35.  If you wish to take part, please make a payment to the BCA and inform the Treasurer.

Recent Millennium Club winners:

January: Richard Murphy, number 43.

February: Gerry Walsh, number 33.

March: Olly Leonard, number 15.

Gill Smith

Editor’s note: Save Our Millennium Club!  Sadly, the number of participants has dwindled to the point where the club is barely viable.  If you’re relatively new to the BCA and haven’t yet purchased a number, or if you’ve been with us for ages and have never had a number, please consider doing so now.  It’s a great way of giving a little back to our wonderful association!  As Gill wrote, it’s only £1 per month.  I send the BCA £12 for each of my numbers every year, so I only make one payment per annum.  I believe others have set up regular payments, so they don’t have to do anything at all.  You can choose whichever way works best for you, but I implore you not to ignore this plea otherwise our precious Millennium Club will perish at the tender age of just 24!

David Hodgkins Memorial Annual Best Game Competition

2023 Competition Winner

The best game trophy of 2023 went to Nene Clayton for her win against Olle Engstrom! 

There were several other notable games to consider, including Malcom Jones v Marilyn Bland, Malola Prasath v Steve Burnell, Neda Koohnavard v Philip Gordon and Stan Lovell v Steve Burnell.

I chose Nene's game because I thought it best captured the sheer excitement and the fluctuating fortunes of chess.

White: O. Engstrom

Black: N. Clayton

1. e4 c6  2. Nf3 d6  3. c4 g6  4. Nc3 Nf6  5. d4 Bg7  6. h3 0-0  7. Be3 Nbd7  8. Be2 c5  9. d5 h6  10. Qd2 g5

11. 0-0-0 Nb6  12. h4 g4  13. Bxh6 gxf3  14. gxf3 Kh7  15. Bxg7 Kxg7  16. Rhg1+ Kh7  17. e5 dxe5

18. Ne4 Nxe4  19. fxe4 Rg8  20. Rg5 Rxg5  21. Qxg5 Qd6  22. Kb1 Qf6  23. Qh5+ Kg7  24. Rg1+ Kf8 

25. Rg5 e6  26. Rg3 Qxf2  27. Rf3 (An obvious move, threatening the Queen and mate in one.  Only White's Queen is near the action.  What could possibly go wrong?  Alas, it is the worst possible move.)

27. … Qe1+  28. Kc2 Qxe2+  29. Kc3 (Kc1 leads to perpetual check) Na4+  30. Kb3 Qxb2+  31. Kxa4 Qb4#

Norman Andrews, Annual Best Game Competition Judge for 2023.

2024 Competition Rules and How to Enter

Every year BCA members and associate members are invited to submit a game for entry into the David Hodgkins Memorial Best Game Competition.  Now that the AGM weekend congress has taken place, and the 20th email tournament is well under way, I thought this might be a good opportunity to remind everyone to submit their games.

Any competitive game which is played in a BCA event – over-the-board, by email or remotely, or by a BCA member representing the BCA in an overseas event is eligible.  All games published in the BCA Gazette will automatically be considered if they meet the eligibility criteria.  The competition is open to members (including overseas members) and all associate members.

Our judge for 2024 is Norman Wragg, who is eagerly awaiting your games.  Please send them to me to forward to him.  You can send them by email.  Alternatively, I am happy to receive games in Braille or over the phone.

Steve Burnell – Coordinator


How Good is Your Chess?

Gerry Walsh’s monthly “How Good Is Your Chess?” training, held over Zoom, continues to grow in popularity!  Students are taken through the opening moves of a game, then asked to predict the succeeding moves for one side or the other.  Points are given to those who guess correctly, and sometimes fewer points are given for other moves.  Recordings of recent sessions are available for anyone interested in finding out more. 

The sessions are very informal, the points awarded are subsidiary to the main objective, which is to provide instruction, to give us an opportunity to work together as a group to find solutions and to enjoy some very exciting chess.  For those not used to solving chess problems it is a wonderful way to start, and an encouragement to become involved by suggesting moves at each stage of the game.  There is no criticism of individuals' suggestions, and anyone is free to suggest any possible move.  I highly recommend these sessions to players of all standards!

At the end of each month, I will send a note to the user group, reminding everyone of the next session and asking for names of those interested in taking part.  (Please email the Gazette Editor or Audio Librarian if you have not yet joined the user group and would like to do so.)  I will then liaise with the group and Gerry to find a suitable day.  For those not familiar with Zoom, help is available, either for accessing the sessions on a PC or an iPhone.

Please contact me if you have any questions regarding the sessions.

Voldi Gailans


There was no session in January because many of the regular participants, including Gerry himself, were at the Chess Theme Break.

Friday 23rd February:

Steve Bailey came first with a whopping 41 points.  In fact, on the very last move of the game Steve got the move correct and everyone else made the same incorrect move!  We welcomed our Chairman, Bill Armstrong, to his first session, in which he scored 32 and came second.  Other scores were: Gill Smith 25, Voldi Gailans 23, Richard Harrington 20, Mark Hague 19, Eleanor Tew 18, Tony Elbourn 18, Irene Elbourn 16, Nene Clayton 12.

Wednesday 27th March:

Steve Bailey topped the table once again, this time with 33 points.  Other scores were Irene Elbourn 29, Richard Harrington 28, Stan Lovell 27, Tony Elbourn 26, Gill Smith 25, Voldi Gailans 24, Nene Clayton 21, Eleanor Tew 19, Abi Baker 18.  People wrote afterwards that the session had been “Very enjoyable” or “Excellent”!

Well done everybody!

Editor’s note: Grateful thanks to Mark Hague and Gerry Walsh for supplying information about recent sessions.

30th Chess Theme Break 27th January to 3rd February 2024

Stan Lovell writes:

Twenty-four members arrived at the Lauriston Hotel, Weston-Super-Mare, on Saturday 27th January, to celebrate the 30th Chess Theme Break.  A few more would join the party later in the week.  Perhaps here we can pause to reflect on the history of this event that has been valued and enjoyed by so many VI players and friends over the years.

In the early 1990's, my wife, Jan, and I were on holiday at the Cliffden Hotel, Teignmouth, having a chat with the manager, Nigel Potts.  Nigel had been assistant manager at the Century Hotel, Blackpool, a few years earlier when we had held a couple of events at that hotel.  Nigel asked if we had considered the Cliffden as a possible venue for a BCA event.  We felt it might not be suitable for a tournament as there was no playing room that would meet our needs.  It was Nigel who suggested that perhaps some kind of chess holiday might be possible.  Therefore, credit for the original seed, which blossomed into the current wonderful event, is due to Nigel.

The BCA committee felt it was worth giving it a try.  We now needed to find someone who could run the chess side of the event.  Fortunately, we had the very person to call on.  Peter Gibbs was an accredited coach and arbiter as well as having a lot of experience with visually impaired players, having been introduced to BCA a dozen or so years earlier by his friend, the late Geoff Carlin who, at that time was BCA British Champion.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Peter, always supported by his wife Celia, designed the format of the week, with coaching for the trainees on the first three days, a break in the middle of the week when members could enjoy a trip out, and a mini tournament for the trainees during the last couple of days.  Peter usually brought the chess part of the week to an end with a simultaneous display against the trainees on the final Friday afternoon.

The social content was, of course, an important part of the event.  Quizzes, musical evenings by visiting musicians and our own musicians took place most evenings.  In this Peter and Celia were helped by various participants and friends, including Joan Shorrock, Sheila Milsom, Mary Cuthbert, Juliet Reeve and others.

After the first three years BCA found itself with limited funds which were not meeting our commitments and it was decided we could no longer support the Theme Break.  At this point, Peter and Celia, who had already given the event its character, decided to take over the running of the event.  Those of us who have attended regularly know just how the Theme Breaks went from strength to strength over the next 24 years under their management.  Eventually, Peter and Celia had to give up as organisers due to Peter's declining health.  Their last event was held at The Windermere Manor Hotel in 2020.  It had become such an institution within the VI chess community that BCA, now in a much healthier financial situation, decided to continue the event.  The event planned for 2021 could not take place due to the Covid lockdown, so the next event was held in Bournemouth in 2022.  Julie Leonard was appointed organiser, with Gerry Walsh assisting with the chess content.  Gerry had planned to travel to Bournemouth for the event but unavoidably had to pull out at short notice.  Nevertheless, he introduced his “How Good is Your Chess?” sessions by remote video link and they were an instant hit!

In 2023 the Theme Break moved to the Lauriston Hotel, Weston-Super-Mare, where it appears to have found a new home.  We gathered with eager anticipation for the 30th Theme break, but also with an air of sadness as we had lost Peter during the last year.

The event was given a good sendoff with a drinks reception before the Saturday evening meal.  We were pleased to have the Mayor of Weston-Super-Mare, Councillor Ciaran Cronnelly with us.  As well as welcoming us to Weston-Super-Mare, he also presented trophies to Stan Lovell, who had won the BCA Summer Cup 2023, and to Bill Armstrong, who had won the Autumn 2023 BCA Email Tournament.

Coaching began on the Sunday morning.  There were ten trainees and seven coaches.  Gerry took one group each session in one of his “How Good is Your Chess?” lessons while the other trainees were paired in couples, each with a coach.  On Sunday evening we were delighted to have the return of Celia's Quiz, with its usual mix of interesting topics.  We formed into teams and all teams did reasonably well.  The eventual winners were the “Six Musketeers” i.e. Pat and Bill Armstrong, Barbara and Colin Chambers and Irene and Tony Elbourn.

On Monday there were two more coaching sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  On Monday evening we were entertained by Chris Rainbow, a musician booked by the hotel.  Several members enthusiastically took to the dance floor.

On Tuesday morning there was another coaching session and at lunchtime twenty-four of us made the short walk to the Green House, a local café, for a light lunch.  This was the opportunity for many in our party to wear the very classy beanie hats that had been specially designed by Freya Smith for our 30th Theme Break.  Then on Tuesday afternoon we had the first of two one-hour sessions on the history of chess.  These were given by Gerry Walsh, who used a Harry Golombek book as his source.  On Tuesday evening Gill Smith presided over an evening of the popular TV show, Call My Bluff.  Some very inventive word meanings were cooked up, but few of us guessed the correct meanings.  The winning team was the “Queens of Chess” i.e. Claire Armstrong, Abi Baker, Celia Gibbs, Bittor Ibanez and Freya Smith.

Wednesday morning saw the final round of coaching sessions and many of us were eagerly anticipating the trip to the Thatcher's Cider Company.  We were not disappointed.  Phil Smith, a member of the company, gave us a very interesting and informative account of how cider making has developed over the years, from the kind of rough scrumpy, well known to the writer of this article, to the modern sophisticated methods that now produce a much lighter, sweeter range of ciders.  We enjoyed generous samples of three of the Ciders from the current Thatcher's range.  Most of our members also paid a visit to the Thatcher's gift shop.  The coach journey back to the Lauriston Hotel was punctuated by the clink of bottles!

On Wednesday evening we came to the eagerly awaited Murder Mystery with the plot and the script composed by Julie, who was assisted by four lively and entertaining actors from our midst, Lea Ryan, Freya Smith, Gerry Walsh and Richard Murphy.

The mini tournament between the trainees got under way on Thursday morning.  The participants were split into three groups according to playing strength.  Players from a higher section had to give a time advantage to players of a lower section.  Then, on Tuesday afternoon, we were visited by several members of the Weston-Super-Mare Chess Club, who played simultaneous games against the trainees.  BCA blushes were saved by Mark Hague who managed the only draw against the players from Weston.  (See later in this gazette for Mark’s game.)

The tournament concluded on Friday.  Bittor Ibanez was crowned Champion, with a perfect score of 5 from 5, followed by, Tony Lawton 4, Gill Smith and Mark Hague 3, Eleanor Tew, Lea Ryan and Gary Wickett 2.5, Irene Elbourn 1.5 and Richard Harrington 1.  The 2024 Peter and Celia Gibbs Award was presented to Bittor by Celia.

The week was drawing to a close.  Before dinner on Friday evening we met in the bar for the draw of the raffle run by Freya, which raised £123 for the funds.  There were 30 prizes donated by members.  After dinner we gathered for the traditional Soirée.  Thirteen members entertained with a variety of music, poetry and humour.

Another Theme Break had come to an end.  Many had contributed to another successful and enjoyable Chess Theme Break: Julie and Gerry and our wonderful team of helpers, the hotel's friendly and helpful staff and the excellent food, and, of course, each and every one who turned up and made this another memorable occasion.  I am already looking forward to the next one!

Stan Lovell

Coaching Game from the Chess Theme Break

Richard Murphy writes:

During the theme break I had the pleasure of coaching Bittor Ibanez and Tony Lawton.  Here are a few notes on a game between them during the session.

Event: Coaching by Richard Murphy, Weston Super Mare, 31st January 2024

Tony Lawton v Bittor Ibanez

1. d4 Nf6  2. c4 d5

If Black wants to play...d5 here it is better to prepare it with ...e6. White can now capture on d5 and if Black plays ...Qd5, gain time by harassing the black queen with Nc3 or if Black recaptures with the knight, playing e4 to attack the knight and again gain time.  This was what happened.

3. cxd5 Nxd5  4. e4 Nb6

Black could have considered 4... Nf6 or 4...Nb4.  Perhaps Bittor did not like the look of 5. a3 or 5. e5 attacking the knight again.

5. Nc3 Bd7

Black disregards the principle of “Develop knights before bishops”.  He may already have been eyeing the a8 to h1 diagonal for this piece. 5...e6 to discourage 6. d5, followed by 6... N8d7 was an alternative.

6. Be2

Now White disregards the principle of “Develop knights before bishops”.  I suggest that 6. Nf3 would have been better.  White need not fear 6... Bg4 because he can break the pin with 7. Be2, enabling him to castle next move, while Black has wasted a tempo moving this bishop twice.

6. ... e6  7. Be3

Again, I prefer developing the knight with 7. Nf3.  It seems likely that Black is contemplating 7...Bb4.  If Black plays this move after 7. Nf3, White can escape the pin by castling on his next move and after 7... Bxc3 8. bxc3 he gains the two bishops and a strong centre.

7. ... Bb4  8. Qc2

To protect the e4 pawn after 8...Bxc3+, but the queen is vulnerable here.  8. Nf3, preparing to castle on the next move, might still have been better.  Or White could have considered 8. Bf3 to protect the e-pawn followed by 9. Nge2 to support the c3 knight, castling on the following move.

8. ... Ba4  9. b3

This does not gain a tempo because the black bishop can threaten the e-pawn on its next move.  Also, the black squares on White's queenside are permanently weakened and White can recapture on c3 only with the Queen.

9. ... Bc6  10. a3

White is understandably anxious to exchange or displace the bishop, but now Black has three tactical threats: the pin on c3, the exposed white queen, and the unprotected g2 square.  Many chess games are won by a player making two threats at once, which the opponent cannot answer with one move.  Neither threat on its own needs to be very great.  Three threats at once put your opponent in a grave situation.

White should again have considered 10. Nf3 to protect the e-pawn followed by 11. Nge2 to support the c3 knight, castling on the following move.  Or 10. f3 to protect the e-pawn, but this leaves the g1 knight with only h3 as its first move.

10. ... Bxe4

Instead of exchanging on c3 or retreating the bishop, Black attacks the white queen.  The knight cannot recapture because of the pin, and after 11. Qxe4...Bxc3+ 12. Kd1 Bxa1, Black is an exchange up, and in some variations might even rescue the bishop.  For example, if White tries 13. Qxb7, the knight on b6 is protecting the Rook so Black can play 13...Bxd4.

11. Bd3 Bxc3+  12. Qxc3 Bxg2 0-1

After capturing the Rook on h1 Black will be an exchange and two pawns ahead and can simply develop and win on material.

The books also say that you should move pieces rather than pawns in the opening.  In this miniature White made six pawn moves and six piece moves, whereas Black made two pawn moves and ten piece moves. This enabled him to build up several threats.

Chess Theme Break Simultaneous Display

Mark Hague writes:

Here is my drawn game with Malcolm Dinham in the simultaneous session. The game is interesting as I got a draw by repetition although according to my coach I should have continued as I could have easily won his Queen for a rook had I continued the game and not gone for a draw!

Mark Hague v Malcolm Dinham

1. d4 d5  2. e3 Nf6  3. Bd3 e6  4. f4 Bb4+  5. c3 Be7  6. Nf3 Ne4  7. Nbd2 Nd7  8. O-O Nxd2  9. Bxd2 Nf6

10. Ne5 Ne4  11. Rf3 f6  12. Ng4 e5  13. Nf2 Nxf2  14. Rxf2 e4  15. Bc2 f5  16. Qh5+ g6  17. Qe2 a6

18. Rff1 Bd7  19. Rfb1 Bb5  20. Qe1 c5  21. a4 Bd3  22. Bxd3 exd3  23. a5 O-O  24. Qg3 c4  25. Qh3 Qd7

26. Kh1 Qb5  27. Ra2 Qb3  28. Rba1 Qc2  29. b4 Qb3  30. Ra3 Qb2  31. R3a2 Qb3  32. Ra3 Draw

Gill v Gary at the Chess Theme Break Plus Song!

Gary Wickett writes:

It is not very often that games with spectacular blunders are submitted to the Gazette.  However, I was asked if I would submit the following game as we have an established tradition at BCA events of altering lyrics to songs to give them a chess theme and performing them at the soirée, which has become an integral part of almost every tournament.

The moral of this somewhat comic but tragic tale is when you go to chess events never forget your chess pieces.  Thankfully, Tony Elbourn came to the rescue and lent me a set.  Although it was similar to my own, I still managed to mistake the queen for a rook.  Gill was already two pieces up at this point, and I think I may have overestimated the strength of my attack on her king.  As for the rest of my bad moves, I can only blame the fact that it was a rapid play game.

Enough of these excuses!  Please find the game and song below.

30th Chess Theme Break Time Handicap Tournament

Round 2: Gill Smith (30 minutes) v Gary Wickett (30 minutes)

1. d4 Nf6  2. Nf3 e6  3. e3 Nc6  4. Bd3 b6  5. O-O Bb7  6. Re1 Nb4  7. Bb5 Bd6  8. Nbd2 Ng4  9. c3 Nd3

10. Re2 Bxf3  11. gxf3 Ndxf2?

I hear you yelling at your chess board at this point: Why didn’t I simply just play Nxh2, which was obviously the reason I had placed my knight on g4?  I was going to play that and then foolishly changed my mind as I wrongly thought that bringing my other knight in would be even more powerful.

12. Qe1 Qg5?

I foolishly thought I had such a good attack on Gill’s king that I could let my knight go.  I then noticed I couldn’t retake the pawn with my queen as this could simply be met with Kxf2.

13. fxg4 Nh3+  14. Kh1 Qh4??  15. Qxh4 Black resigns.

Chess Today

Chess today

Wasn’t half as good as yesterday;

My winning streak seems to have gone astray.

I can’t believe my chess today.


She made a move I didn’t see,

Which is the cause of my great misery.

Oh, chess today was cruel to me!

How she took my queen with her queen

I couldn’t say.

I played something wrong,

Hence my song

Of chess today.

Chess today

Seemed such an easy game to play,

But now I need a place to hide away.

Oh, I am grieved by chess today!

I can’t believe my chess today.

20th BCA Email Tournament

Eamonn Casey and Philip Doyle write:

Welcome to our 20th BCA email tournament!  There are 16 participants on this occasion.  We have divided these into four divisions with 4 players in each division, based on BCA ratings, performance in previous email tournaments where applicable, and where possible, incorporated promotion and relegation.  Because there are four players in all divisions, half the players will have two whites, and half the players will have two blacks, dependent on the seeding.  Each player will play a maximum of 3 games.  All four divisions will be controlled by Philip for the time being as Eamonn is indisposed.  The starting date for play was Friday the 1st of March, and the event will finish on the 31st of May.  Some games have already finished and the results will be in the August gazette.

The draw is as follows (first named player is white):

Division 1:

Philip Doyle, Colin Chambers, Steve Burnell, Bill Armstrong.







Division 2:

John Fullwood, Malcolm Jones, Brandan Read, Richard Murphy.







Division 3:

Voldi Gailans, Marilyn Bland, John Ramm, Mike Flood.







Division 4:

Tony Lawton, Tony Elbourn, Gill Smith, Richard Harrington.







Hotel Hunters

Phil Rafferty writes:

As John had been ruminating on possible locations akin to Lichfield, he suggested to me that Leicester might be a suitable place for the AGM tournament.  It was a central location that was accessible for plenty of members.  John had no sooner said that before he had collected a list of hotels in the area recommended to us by contacts, friends and family that might be of use.  We were able to discount a few here and there from just searching them on the internet - for anything from not accessible to clearly no areas for guide dogs to spend; and eventually settled on our top two choices.  These were the Marriott and the Hilton both close to Fosse Park in Leicester.

Within no time at all John had enquired with both of the hotels and had found both of their responses to be positive and warm.  It was decided that our team of John, myself, and Vixen, as intrepid hotel hunters now with some experience under our belt, would visit both of them to have a look around and meet their staff.  Again, within no time at all John had liaised with the contacts at both of the hotels and on 15 August we headed off to Leicester to visit both hotels.  From the responses of Jennifer at the Marriott and Megan at the Hilton, we were quietly confident that at least one of the hotels would tick all of our boxes.

We arrived at Leicester in no time at all, and I was pleased to see that there was a taxi rank inside the station itself, which was a plus point for some of the concerns regarding general accessibility.  Our first visit was to the Marriott in the Grove Park area, which although boasting ‘businesses and attractions’ comprised mostly of office blocks.  The hotel fits in with these buildings and is also very tall, which did lead to some concerns as to how the group would be spread about in such a hotel.  While they had previous hotels in Reading beaten almost immediately, with the offer of a drink from our contact Jennifer, the hotel wasn’t perfect.  One drawback was the rooms that they had said would be used for the chess tournament.  The rooms were on the second floor, through a door, down a hallway and into a breakout room and then through a few more doors.  While perfectly capable of holding enough to play, the thought of plenty of players getting waylaid on just trying to get to the room itself was a cause for concern.  Added to this, the likely fact that the group would be spread over a number of floors meant that as we left the hotel I was trepidatious, although John was very pleased with the standard of the coffee.

Our second stop was the Hilton hotel, just a short journey from the Marriott.  After an interesting lunch at Tim Hortons, we were at the Hilton ready and waiting to meet with our contact Megan.  Arriving at the hotel and into the reception area, we noted that this hotel wasn’t as tall as the previous, and I saw that their function rooms were close to the reception, which was a bonus of the Hilton over the Marriott - I didn’t foresee as much opportunity for lost game time or any other frustrations with not finding the rooms.  Although there was an ‘end of life’ celebration taking place during our visit, I was satisfied that the function room and the bar area of the hotel were sufficient for the needs of our group.  Meeting with Megan, John was again impressed with the coffee that they had on selection and we were thankful that the decision was to come down to more than just the coffee, otherwise it would have been an impossible decision.  During our meeting with Megan, she was equally as friendly as Jennifer from the Marriott, but she was able to say that our group would all be able to be on the ground floor of the hotel which was a big bonus.  It was also interesting that the hotel was soon to become a Hilton Doubletree.

There was plenty to discuss and decide following our visit, and there was a bit of lively discussion about which hotel was best and why.  Overall we felt that the Hilton hotel had the edge over the Marriott, because of the accessibility of the function room, the promise of all our group being on the same ground floor, and that it wasn’t as hidden away as the Marriott, located in the business park with its more ‘business hotel feel’ while the Hilton is next to a nature reserve and the function room was far superior.  It wasn’t too long from that point until we were in extended discussions with our contact at the hotel preparing for the AGM tournament.

Editor’s note: As anyone who attended the 2024 BCA AGM Congress will agree, Phil and John’s research and reconnaissance really paid off.  Well done!  It was a terrific venue as Malcolm’s report attests.  See the next item!

BCA AGM Congress 15th – 17th March 2024

Malcolm Jones writes:

Gillian and I travelled to the Leicester Hilton Hotel by car, following the sat nav directions.  It announced, “You have reached your destination in 400 yards on the left!”  However, by the time it mentioned “400 yards” we had sailed past the entrance on a one-way street.  After about 20 minutes we made our way back and arrived at 3 pm.  The reception area was large and very welcoming.  We checked in and were given our room keys.  We gave the receptionist our car registration number only to be informed that the car parking fee was complimentary for our group.  We spotted the fire exit on the way to our bedroom.  We were delighted to see that the bedroom was bigger than expected.  The twin beds were both double-sized beds.  There was plenty of tea and coffee, but no biscuits.  After a nice cup of tea, we unpacked our suitcase and explored the bedroom.  We eventually found the wardrobe which had a glass door and was in the bathroom area.  At first glance it looked like a shower cubicle.

The bar and coffee lounge were very spacious and comfortable.  The bar provided limited drinks and a good selection of food from the lunch menu.  As with most venues, no cash was accepted, so everything had to be paid for using debit or credit card, or by the room number after registering your card at the reception desk.  We located the public toilets, and disabled toilet in the reception area.  However, the toilet seat in the disabled toilet appeared to be broken and unfit for purpose!  The Gentleman’s toilet was a bit difficult to navigate around.  There was a large, grassed area outside the hotel which was a suitable spending area for Guide Dogs.  There was also a nature trail going into the woods opposite the car park.  We did not have the time to visit the swimming pool and spa areas.

After a quick drink in the bar, we found our way to the restaurant for dinner.  This was where we met our old friends and heard familiar voices.  The dinner was huge and very tasty.  During the meal, the draw for the first round of the Peter Gibbs Memorial Trophy was announced.  It was very pleasing to have Celia Gibbs at the Hilton Hotel with us for the weekend.

After dinner, we made our way to the conference room for our chess games.  The room was lovely and well lit, ideal for the tournament.  It was good to shake hands with our opponents and say “Break a peg” again.  The first round began in earnest.  There were severe battles going on with black lion, hippopotamus, orangutan, snake, the French, Dutch, Scandinavian, Queen’s Indian to name a few defences.  A few groans and “Oh no”s could be heard during the game.  Everybody played their very best and there were one or two unexpected results in the first round.  (Simon Highsmith took a point from Stan Lovell and Steve Bailey got the better of Bill Armstrong.)  Just like the Indian proverb which states, “The game of chess is like a lake in which a mosquito can bathe in it and an elephant can drown in it!”

On Saturday morning, after a good night’s sleep, we had our breakfast in the restaurant.  There were plenty of choices on offer.  I do not think you can beat a full English!  After a good breakfast we all congregated in the conference room for the start of Round Two.  The players waited patiently until the order for the clocks to be started.  Then the battles began.  The most popular openings were c4, d4, e4 and Nf3.  It was not very long before we had two players leave after finishing their game.  The concentration of the players and the determination to win were soon dashed by making one silly move.  One bad move nullified all previous good moves.  One of the best things about playing over the board is that win or lose you still shake hands at the end of the game. 

After the completion of Round Two we had plenty of time to have a bite to eat before the next session.  Sandwiches and drinks could be ordered in the bar area.  It was lovely to see so many of our players in the bar doing the postmortem of their game.  With a massive sandwich you also had a bowl of chips!  After lunch we could have done with a 10 mile walk, never mind sitting down at a table for three hours playing chess.  Alas, we came here to play chess so the exercise could wait until we returned home.

We returned to the chess room to set up our boards for round three.  Before we started the clocks, the winner of the best game in 2023 was announced.  The winner was Nene Clayton who had called in to be presented with the trophies that she had won in the 2023 Remote Summer Cup.  It was great to meet her in person for the first time.

Round 3 started and the determination on everyone’s faces was vivid.  Whether it was the determination to win or the determination not to blunder was uncertain.  There were Kings Indians, Queen Indians, Nimzo Indians galore.  Draws were offered and declined, and the decision later regretted.  The arbiters did a brilliant job of controlling the games, checking our boards to see if they matched each other, stopping the clocks when necessary.  The steward also did a brilliant job of topping up our water glasses.  There were more moans and groans, but everybody enjoyed themselves.

The evening meal was once again enormous.  Some of the starters were bigger than the main courses and all the food was delicious.  After dinner we went back to the conference room for the AGM, which was chaired by Bill Armstrong.  Apart from the people in the room there were some remote attendees who were using Skype.  See Guy’s "Notes on the AGM" for a summary of the proceedings.  Afterwards, people went to the bar, the coffee lounge or back to their bedrooms.

On Sunday morning, after eating breakfast, we went to the conference room for the penultimate game.  In the open, the only players on three points from three rounds were George Phillips and Steve Burnell.  They played each other and Steve won, leaving him in sole lead of the tournament.  Malcolm Jones was leading in the Challengers’ group (under 1300) with 2.5 points.  With one more game to go, there was everything to play for. 

After a lunch break, we all returned to the room for the final session.  Round 5 of the Peter Gibbs Memorial Trophy started on time.  The tension in the atmosphere was electrifying.  Several players finished their games quite quickly, while others lasted nearly 3 hours.  An old Italian proverb states “The game of chess is over when the king and pawn go back in their own box!”

Despite Stan Lovell’s best efforts, Steve Burnell completed his clean sweep!  Malcolm Jones, however, was beaten by Voldi Gailans, who was having a great tournament.  This meant that John Fullwood, who prevailed over Tony Lawton, and Bittor Ibanez, who beat John Osborne, overtook Malcolm to finish joint top of the Challengers.

The final standings were as follows: –

In first place with a perfect score of 5 points was Steve Burnell, who won the Peter Gibbs Memorial Open trophy.

In second place with 4 points: Voldi Gailans

In third place with 3.5 points: George Phillips

On three points were: Bittor Ibanez and John Fullwood, who finished joint first in the Challengers section, with Bittor winning the Peter Gibbs Memorial Challengers trophy on tie-break.  Also on three points: Richard Murphy, Stan Lovell, Bill Armstrong.

In third place in the Challengers with 2.5 points: Malcolm Jones.

On two points were: John Osborne, Tony Lawton, Gill Smith, who shared Grading Prize A.  Also on two points: Simon Highsmith, Steve Bailey, Colin Chambers.

On one point were: Richard Harrington and Phil Rafferty, who shared Grading Prize B.

Many congratulations to all the prize winners!  Sadly, Celia Gibbs had to leave before the main prize-giving but former Treasurer, Gill Smith, and Arbiter, Gerry Walsh did a fine job on her behalf.

I would like to thank Phil Rafferty and John Osborne for their hard work in finding the hotel and organising a very successful tournament.  I am sure that the venue will be used again in the future for more events.  My thanks also go to the Arbiters, James Connors and Gerry Walsh who kept everybody under control and to our Steward, Norman Andrews, who always helped when required and worked hard providing everybody with water.  I would also like to thank all the players who took part, because without you there would have been no event!

After the presentation, Gillian and I travelled home.  It only took us 40 minutes to get back.  Several BCA members and associate members stayed at the hotel for one more night in order to travel home in daylight.  After dinner and a few drinks at the bar they all went back to the conference room and had a musical evening with Julie Leonard and Steve Bailey playing their guitars.  Everybody joined in and had a good old singalong.  It was a lovely way to end a great weekend.

Editor’s note: I was lucky enough to have time to go for a swim and I can definitely recommend the pool, though VI members would almost certainly need assistance with the lockers in the changing rooms. 

The winner of the Open and the joint winners of the Challengers were all asked if they’d like to submit games to accompany this report.  Bittor declined, saying that none of his games were good enough, but Steve Burnell and John Fullwood both obliged and the games are below with comments from the players.

Steve Burnell writes:

After four rounds I had four points, with my nearest rivals a full point behind.  For the last round I had black against Stan Lovell, who was clearly going to go all out for a win.  This was reflected in Stan's opening play which promised an entertaining and exciting game.  Pushing the King's side pawns forward so quickly always looks rather intimidating for the opponent, but the downside of this approach is that the pawns can be rather vulnerable to attack.  This proved to be the case on move 17 when White's f5 pawn was captured and much of the pressure was taken out of the pawn push.  During the remainder of the game, other pawns also proved vulnerable to capture with no real compensation for White.

Event: BCA AGM Congress, Leicester, Round 5, 17th March 2024, Stan Lovell v Steve Burnell

1. d4 d5  2. Nc3 Nf6  3. Bf4 c6  4. e3 Bf5  5. f3 e6  6. g4 Bg6  7. h4 h6  8. Bd3 Bxd3  9. Qxd3 Bd6  10. Nge2 Bxf4

11. exf4 Nbd7  12. O-O-O Qc7  13. g5 Nh5  14. f5 Nf4  15. Qe3 Nxe2+  16. Qxe2 Qf4+  17. Kb1 Qxf5

18. Rdg1 h5  19. Nd1 O-O-O  20. Ne3 Qf4  21. Rd1 Nb6  22. Ng2 Qd6  23. Rd3 Nc4  24. Rb3 Qc7  25. g6 Rde8

26. Qd3 fxg6  27. Ne3 Nxe3  28. Qxe3 Rhf8  29. Ra3 a6  30. Rh3 Rf4  31. Qe1 Rxd4  32. Re3 e5  33. c3 Rf4 

34. Rh2 Qd7  35. Rhe2 Qf5+  36. Kc1 Rxf3  37. Rxf3 Qxf3  38. Kc2 Qf5+  39. Kb3 e4  40. Rf2 Qe6  0-1

John Fullwood writes:

Although I resigned the game against Steve at move 37, I did give him a run for his money after making a blunder at move 10 resulting in going a pawn down!

Event: BCA AGM Congress, Leicester, Round 1, 15th March 2024, Steve Burnell v John Fullwood

1. d4 Nf6  2. c4 b6  3. Nf3 Bb7  4. g3 e6  5. Bg2 d5  6. cxd5 exd5  7. Nc3 Bb4  8. O-O O-O  9. Bf4 Re8

10. Rc1 Nbd7  11. Nb5 Rc8  12. Rxc7 Rxc7  13. Bxc7 Qe7  14. a3 Ba6  15. Qa4 Bxb5  16. Qxb5 Bd6

17. Bxd6 Qxd6  18. e3 Rc8  19. Qe2 Qc6  20. Rd1 Qc2  21. Qxc2 Rxc2  22. Rd2 Rc1+  23. Bf1 Ne4

24. Re2 g5  25. Nd2 Ndf6  26. Nxe4 Nxe4  27. f3 Nf6  28. Kg2 Kg7  29. Rd2 Rb1  30. Bd3 Re1  31. Re2 Rxe2+

32. Bxe2 h5  33. Bd3 g4  34. h3 Kh6  35. hxg4 hxg4  36. Be2 Nh5  37. fxg4 1-0

Proposals for a Book to be Recorded for the Library

At the recent AGM it was made known that Hugh Lawson, our current reader of the chess magazine, is very happy to record a full book for the audio library.  Some very useful suggestions were made as to what might be most suitable, but it was felt that we should delay making a firm decision until all members had been consulted.  As most readers will be aware, the library has not been expanded for some considerable time, and so it is likely that we will go for a fairly modern book aimed at those players who are already familiar with the basics of chess, and who are keen to improve by studying in their own time.

Whilst we cannot guarantee to act upon all suggestions immediately, as a long-term project I would like to compile a short wish list with a view to having more books recorded whenever a volunteer reader is available.

Please either email me or telephone Norman Wragg with your ideas.

Mark Kirkham, Audio Librarian

Coaching Initiatives Around the Country


John Osborne writes:

For about four years I have been trying to encourage the local Sight Support Worthing organisation to start a chess group.  Thanks to the manager, Sonia, this has now happened, and a member of staff called James has been tasked to help me with this new project which has now been running for several weeks.

As soon as this group was announced there was an immediate interest.  I decided to offer three 90-minute sessions within a week to maximise this enthusiasm and this took place on Monday, Thursday and Monday.  In this introductory group the plan was to learn the board, understand the pieces and begin to get an idea of the game.  I had four people in the group (two in their 20s and two older people).  It worked well with support from James and a fully sighted volunteer.  I then proposed an intermediate group to take people’s understanding of chess a little further.  Thankfully all participants wanted more.  So, another group was organised using the same format.

Due to the enthusiasm of the first group more people now want to learn so I am offering another beginners group.  One of the ladies in my first group has asked if she can do the first group again and I am hoping for another group of about four people.  I have no idea how this will progress but I have asked Voldi to offer the group some support with individual games over zoom.  The plan is to do an intermediate two group and then conclude with an advanced group.  After that I will encourage them to use BCA services and to locate people within the organisation who have far greater chess skills than myself to take them forward if they choose to do so.

It has been great fun so far and I am hoping that it will continue.

Bexley Heath

On the 7th of October 2023, Neda Koohnavard started a Saturday morning Chess Club at Bexley Heath library!  It had been a long-held ambition of hers to run her own club and she says it was the inspiration that she derived from the BCA, especially in Bournemouth last summer, that finally motivated her to set one up.

Neda’s club is free for everyone, and she already has ten or so regulars with others popping in occasionally during the sessions.  They’re running out of space!  Players are mostly sighted, and she has one visually impaired member too.  Players range in age from eight to ninety!  Neda gives tips to players who need them.  She says she feels happy and calm when she is playing chess and she’s clearly keen to enable others to enjoy the game as well!


Voldi Gailans writes:

At present I am having individual remote sessions with Nathan Tree in Oxford.  His plan was to start the group sessions in April, but at the time of writing I have no firm date for this.  I'll let you know when the Oxford group gets going.  I have agreed to play a friendly game against one of John Osborne's students.


On the 4th of April, Steve Bailey ran a chess taster session for visually impaired 7 to 24 year-olds as part of a “Have a Go!” day at Bournemouth Blind Society.  Dorset Vision, an organisation that assists visually impaired young people, organised the day.  Other tactile board games were also available.  Steve had five youngsters who were interested in chess; three lads and two girls, aged from 8 to 14.  One of them already knew the moves but needed to learn notation to play against Steve.  The others were complete beginners, so Steve took them through the basics.  Steve has kindly offered to coach any of these juniors who would like to take their chess further!

Editor’s note: John, Neda, Voldi and Steve are doing fantastic work and I’m sure we all wish them the very best of luck with their endeavours!  If any other readers have similar chess projects underway, please let me know!


Val Cuthbert has asked me to let everyone know that, following an unexpectedly swift deterioration in his health, Jim has had to move into full time care.  I know we’ll all sympathise with Val and Jim’s sad situation, which has arisen all too soon after their wedding in September last year.  Inevitably, this means we will never again have the pleasure of Jim’s company at our events.  Jim still plays a regular game of chess every week and he wins more than he loses, so he’s still playing to a good standard!  Val is hoping she may return to the BCA next year and possibly even take up chess herself!

This spring the Blind Veterans’ magazine featured an article about Gary Hogan.  The piece tells how Gary switched from playing football to playing chess when he started to lose his sight.  It follows Gary’s progress from learning chess during lockdown to finding the BCA on Facebook, playing in one of our events then going on to represent the UK at the IBCA World Championship in Rhodes last year.  What an inspiring story!  The BCA gets a nice mention too, with an explanation that no Braille is needed to play chess or join us.

On the 11th of July, our current BCA British Champion, Stan Lovell, will be celebrating his 90th birthday!  Stan has been a member of the BCA since the 1950s and over the decades he has devoted huge quantities of time and energy to working for the BCA.  He’s also a wonderfully kind and gentle person, unless of course you’re sitting opposite him at a chessboard in which case watch out because he’ll go for your jugular!  Stan, you have so many friends in the BCA, some going right back to your schooldays, and I know every single one of them will join me in wishing you the very best of birthdays and many happy returns!

On the 31st of July, Pat and Bill Armstrong will be celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary!  Sixty years of marriage is of course a very special achievement and I understand a family gathering is being planned for the occasion.  Bill may even have to take a day off from his demanding role of working as our Chairman!  Pat and Bill have been BCA stalwarts for many years and also have a plethora of friends in the association.  Let’s all wish the happy couple a perfect anniversary, that will leave them with joyful memories of the day, which will sparkle on like diamonds for many years to come!

Julie Leonard

Blitz Game by Owen Phillips

Many thanks to Neda Koohnavard for sending in this online blitz game played on the 5th of February 2024 against an opponent known as Lastoutpost on Lichess.  Neda says this is a wonderful game and that Owen’s games are full of lessons and tactics!

Lastoutpost rating 2065 v Owen Phillips 2063, E77 King's Indian Defense: Four Pawns Attack

1. d4 d6  2. c4 g6  3. e4 Bg7  4. Nc3 Nf6  5. f4 O-O  6. Be2 e5  7. fxe5 dxe5  8. d5 Nbd7  9. Nf3 Re8  10. h3 Nh5

11. O-O Ng3  12. Rf2 f6  13. Be3 Nxe2+  14. Qxe2 b6  15. Raf1 Qe7  16. Nh2 Ba6  17. b3 Rad8  18. Ng4 h5

19. Nh2 Rf8  20. g4 hxg4  21. Nxg4 Bc8  22. Nh6+ Kh7  23. Qd2 Rh8  24. Ng4 Rdf8  25. Rg2 Nc5  26. Rf3 f5

27. exf5 gxf5  28. Bg5 Qe8  29. Nh6 Qh5  30. Rfg3 Bxh6  31. Bxh6 Qxh6  32. Rg7+ Qxg7  33. Rxg7+ Kxg7

34. Qg5+ Kf7  35. Kf1 Rfg8  36. Qd2 Rxh3  37. Nb5 Ne4  38. Qb4 Rh1+  39. Ke2 Rg2+  40. Kf3 Rg3+

41. Ke2 Rh2+  42. Kf1 Rf2+  43. Ke1 Rg1# 0-1

Puzzle from Mark

These puzzles are selected by Mark Hague from the website, which contains many puzzles that challenge you to find a win from a position in a real game.

February 2024 Puzzle

Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand, Zurich, 1/29/2014


White: King g1, Queen e5, Rook f1, Bishop b2, Knight f6, pawns a2, b3, c3, d2, g4 and h2.

Black: King h8, Queen d8, Rook a8, Bishop f8, Knight c6 and pawns a7, b6, c5, e6, g6 and h7.

White mates in three moves.  This is definitely one of the hardest mates I've ever posted, so see below for clues!

1. The first move is not such a dim move after all!

2. The first move is a Knight move of course.

3. Of course, if White gobbles up your Queen your vengeance will be immediate!  Don't forget your rook on f1.

4. Your second move, if Black plays the expected Kg8, is a Queen check.

5. Use your rook to finish the job.


1. Ne8+ (discovered check) Kg8, 2. Qxe6+ Kh8, 3. Rxf8#.  Note: if 1. Ne8+ Nxe5, then Rf8# follows.

May 2024 Puzzle

Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin, New York, 2016


White: King h1, Queen f4, Rooks c8 and f5, pawns e4, f3 h2 and h5.

Black: King h7, Queen f2, Rook a2, Bishop e7, pawns b6, d6, f7, and g7.

White mates in 2 moves.  An easy one this month, but very elegant!  The solution will be in the August Gazette.

Mark Hague

RIP John Crowley

Philip Doyle writes:

John Crowley was born in Rathmore, Co. Kerry in 1951.  He came to Dublin in September 1968 to start work as a technician with the Dept. of Post and Telegraphs in Crown Alley telephone Exchange.  John spent his entire career in the same job although telecommunications was eventually sold off, the new company to be known as Eircom.

John had been a member of the Post Office Chess Club for quite a while before joining Rathmines Club.  I had the pleasure of knowing John for many years through Rathmines, where we had many a great tussle, also through the Braille Chess Association of Ireland. 

John accompanied Irish players to BCA tournaments a number of times and became a life member of the BCA in 2004.  He also travelled further overseas with the Irish squad as a guide who took more than a passing interest in our performance.  John’s niece, Karen, told me a story about the 2004 Olympiad which I was only vaguely aware of.  He started to tell his family about it over the dinner table but was laughing so much he couldn’t get the story out at first.  Eventually, he told them that when he was in Tarragona, he lost track of the days and went to the hotel reception to enquire what date it was.  Between the language difference and John’s Kerry accent, the girl completely misunderstood and thought John was asking her for a date.  Totally flustered, she ran from the room slamming the door as she went.  A few minutes later she returned and said to John, “Not at the moment!”

In contrast to his normal temperament, John was a very attacking player.  He won the Leinster Junior and Intermediate Championships and the Irish Intermediate in the eighties and was proud to have one of his games published in the paper.  Playing John was never boring.  He sometimes lost ground in the opening but despite that he could be an extremely dangerous adversary.  He was always involved in Rathmines at an organisational level and at one time was Ratings Officer for the Irish Chess Union.  He was very kind to everyone especially where lifts were concerned.  “Do you want a drive home?” was the familiar question at the end of an evening.

John had a strong religious faith and when away somewhere would always seek out the nearest Catholic Church.  Like everything else, he went about his religion quietly, with kind deeds and support for various charities.

John was diagnosed with MS some years ago and had several other medical setbacks including a fall which forced him to return to Rathmore to be near his family.  Before long, he acquired an adapted car and straightaway headed back to Dublin.  Declining health however eventually forced him to sell his house and return to Rathmore where for a time he lived happily in sheltered accommodation.  Three years ago, he had another major setback when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more recently had another fall.  After that he was cared for by his sister Maureen.  John died on Tuesday the 30th of January 2024 in Killarney Community hospital.

I followed John’s funeral Mass from Rathmore via webcam on Saturday the 3rd of February, when several of his former work colleagues made the long journey to be present.  Naturally enough the service had several mentions of chess, but can you imagine my amazement when the Priest, in referencing John’s life, came up with a quote from none other than the great José Raúl Capablanca?  Here’s the quote followed by a typical John Crowley game:

“In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else.  For whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and opening must be studied in relation to the end game.”

Heidenfeld Cup 1997-98, Round 10, John Crowley (Rathmines B) - Philip Doyle (Rathmines A), English Opening

1. c4 Nf6  2. Nc3 c6  3. g3 d5  4. cxd5 cxd5  5. Bg2 Nc6  6. d4 Bf5  7. Nf3 e6  8. a3 Be7  9. 0-0 h6  10. Nh4 Bh7

11. f4 Rc8  12. Kh1 Ne4  13. Nf3 0-0  14. e3 Nxc3  15. bxc3 Na5  16. Qe1 Qc7  17. g4 Nb3  18. Bb2 Nxa1

19. Bxa1 Be4  20. h4 f5  21. g5 Bd6  22. Qg3 Kh8  23. g6 Bxf3  24. Bxf3 Bxa3  25. Qg2 Qe7  26. Qf2 b5

27. Rb1 Rb8  28. Be2 b4  29. c4 dxc4  30. Bxc4 Rfc8  31. Bb3 a5  32. Kh2 Qd7  33. Qa2 Re8  34. d5 exd5

35. Be5 Rbd8  36. Qc2 Ra8  37. Ba4 Rec8  38. Qd1 Qd8  39. Kg3 Rc5  40. Qh5 Kg8  41. Qxf5 Qe7 

42. Bb3 Rac8  43. Rd1 R8c6  1/2

After 44. Bxd5+ Rxd5 45. Rxd5 Qf8 is a defence, but I can see no defence to 44. Rxd5.  Time may have been a factor though.

RIP Sean Loftus 20th March 1941 – 25th January 2024

Philip Doyle writes:

Note that I am drawing considerably on a profile by Sean O’Brien which appeared in the Gazette in April 1985.  There are also touching tributes from Eamonn Casey and Claire Loftus topped off with a nice game from Sean.

Sean was born blind from birth as a consequence of Retinitis Pigmentosa, unlike most RP sufferers who lose their sight gradually.  Sean was a member of a family of six and had a brother who also suffered from RP.  Education for Sean was at two schools for the blind in Dublin.  His first was St. Mary's, a girls' school which took boys up to the age of ten.  After six years at St. Mary's, Sean transferred to St. Joseph's where he spent a further ten years.  For the last three years of his time at St. Joseph's he was occupied in the school workshops training to become a basket-maker.  Early in 1962 the school workshop closed down and Sean moved to the workshops for the blind in Dublin.  He was employed at the workshops for four years until, in the autumn of 1965, he began training as a switchboard operator and in February 1966 started work at the Bank of Ireland, where he remained until his retirement.  Sean was not married but lived at home with his mother until he purchased an apartment in the nearby suburb of Clontarf.

Sean's highly successful chess career got off to a rather shaky start shortly after he moved to St. Joseph's.  At this stage, he only knew how to move the pieces and found himself consistently losing to the other boys.  After an initial disenchantment with the hobby, chess enjoyed a short revival for Sean when he was 15.  Sean first began to take chess seriously when he was at the workshop at St. Joseph's and it was at this time that he joined the BCA.

Sean heard about the BCA through Dan Barry who, at that time, was a very keen correspondence chess player.  A few months after joining the BCA in 1960, Sean, Ernie McElroy, Dan Barry and three others formed a chess club for the blind which they called the O'Hanlon Chess Club after a fairly prominent Irish chess player of some years previous.  At the end of the 1967-68 season the club decided not to continue as a mainly blind chess club but to merge with another of the Dublin clubs.  After that Sean played with the Elm Mount Chess Club.  The club won promotion to division one of the inter-club league in 1983-84 with Sean playing an undefeated season on board two.  Sean was involved with the IBCA Olympiad since 1964 and was a member of the Irish team in seven Olympiads from 1964 to 1992, the exception being 1985.  His last in Majorca was where he had his best performance managing a 60% score playing on board three.  Sean's IBCA connection goes deeper than the Olympiad, he was the Irish IBCA delegate since 1964 and his involvement with the organisation forced him to study German by correspondence through the Hadley School for the Blind in America, as this is the second official language of the IBCA.

Sean said he derived particular pleasure from winning the BCA 19th Championship in the late 60's and the 8th and last Championship of the O'Hanlon Chess Club.   He was winner of the BCA Autumn Tournament in 1992 and was on the Irish team that won the Louis Braille Bicentenary Chess Tournament in Edinburgh in 2009.  As well as attending numerous BCA events, Sean visited Haaksbergen in the eighties and more recently was a regular at Chess Theme Breaks in Windermere.

Sean sat on several committees including the Board of the National Council for the Blind.  Being fond of sports, he liked: cricket, tennis, gaelic football and rugby.  He also enjoyed walking, swimming, quizzes and parties, especially if there was a good singsong.  Who can forget his rousing renditions of “The Wild Rover”.  Sean spent his last three years in The Four Ferns Nursing Home in south Dublin where he was content while his health allowed.

Anecdote: Some years ago Sean was playing in a tournament in Cork.  After a hard day the chess players adjourned to a local hostelry to relax and unwind.  It was much later when Sean noticed the bar had gone very quiet and he seemed to be on his own.  Then a loud voice called out “I won’t tell you again my good man!”  The pub had been raided for after-hours drinking, but luckily, someone made the policeman aware and he retreated silently leaving Sean to finish his pint in peace.

Eamonn Casey writes:

I've known Sean since our schooldays in Drumcondra.  After leaving school we remained friends and shared many a pint of Guinness and many long and interesting discussions, mainly about sport and chess.  We travelled abroad several times to compete as part of an Irish team in chess Olympiads, and also to play in individual events.  Later, when I moved to Mullingar to live, we always looked forward to Sean's annual New Year visits, invariably listening to classical music and music from the 50s and 60s, and consuming several beverages.  Sean will be sadly missed by all his friends, but hopefully, it will be a happy release for him.

Goodbye friend.  Eamonn and Ann Casey

Claire Loftus in London reflects on her Uncle Sean:

We hold such treasured memories of your visits to Downham.  Taking you over the Legion for a pint or two, Dad on one arm, you on the other!  Watching you skilfully clear a plate of food, finding every last morsel.  Although sometimes you needed a little help … “Peas at 12 o-clock Uncle Sean!”  Sitting in the garden with your portable radio, listening to the cricket, often reading from a big brown book of Braille.  Saying a date in history and you within seconds being able to tell us what day of the week it was … such an incredible brain.  “Would you like another pint of Guinness Uncle Sean?”  The reply always being, “I wouldn’t say no!”

Sweet dreams and we hope you have your chess board out up there!

1st IBCA World Cup 1990, Segovia, Spain, Round 7, Loftus (Ireland) - Gartner (Germany), Reti Opening.

1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. Bg2 Nc6 5. O-O Nf6 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 d4 8. d3 O-O 9. e3 Ne8 10. exd4 cxd4

11. Qe2 f6 12. Ne1 e5 13. f4 Qc7 14. Nd2 Bd6 15. Ne4 exf4 16. Nxd6 Qxd6 17. Rxf4 g5 18. Rf2 Ng7

19. Nc2 Re8 20. Qd2 Nf5 21. Raf1 Qe5 22. Bxc6 bxc6 23. Re1 Ne3 24. Bxd4 Nxc2 25. Rxe5 fxe5

26. Qxg5+  Black resigned  1-0