In its 90th year, the Braille Chess Association returned to pre-pandemic activity that included a tournament with players from around the world. Norman Wragg reports
We are pleased to say that 2022, our 90th anniversary year, was very successful. For the first time since the pandemic we were able to run our full programme of over the board events, concluding with a very enjoyable tournament at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Solihull at the end of October. It was so good to meet face to face again and return to playing chess over the board. We are still committed to holding remote events. In such events, games are played over the telephone or via an online platform such as Skype or Zoom, which helps our members who are less mobile.
The 90th anniversary tournament produced an excellent turnout, including players from Sweden, Ireland, Iran and Spain. The Open tournament attracted reigning champion, Stan Lovell, and three former champions. Steve Burnell won the Open tournament and Simon Highsmith the Challengers’ event.
At the end of January we held our annual Chess Theme Break, this time at the Lauriston Hotel in Weston-super-Mare. The week started with small groups of trainees receiving coaching over a few days. Some members of the local chess club came in one afternoon to play simultaneous displays against the trainees. The chess activities culminated in a mini tournament so the trainees could put what they had learnt into practice. The week also included social activities such as a visit to a local museum where we were allowed to handle some of the exhibits.
We recently held our AGM weekend and chess congress at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. This was our first in-person AGM since 2019 and we were pleased to have some members joining in our AGM remotely. There were five rounds of chess
and the results were sent to the English Chess Federation for inclusion in the national chess ratings.
In July we are holding our Chairman’s Cup at the Marsham Court Hotel in Bournemouth. This is a week-long event with one round of chess each day. Players of any level can enter but competition for the Chairman’s Cup is limited to those players who have not yet attained the highest levels of playing ability. In 2024 we will hold our British Championship where the winner is crowned the British Visually Impaired Champion.
Alongside these events we have continued providing chess coaching over Skype and Zoom, supplying adapted chess equipment and producing our quarterly newsletter (available in various formats). We are proud that we provide a friendly and supportive environment for visually impaired people to learn chess, to improve their playing ability and to meet their aspirations in the chess world.
How it works
Chess is a very accessible game for people with a vision impairment.
Tactile chess sets
The dark squares on a tactile chessset are slightly raised above the light squares and the black pieces are capped by a small spike or pin. Pieces are secured in place by pegs that fit into holes in the centre of each square. There are also sets that use magnets, one in the base of each piece and another in the centre of the square.
Two boards are used if either player has a vision impairment. This is because a visually impaired player needs to feel the board at all times which prevents their opponent from seeing or feeling the position. Each player moves all of the pieces on their own board – including their opponents – so that both boards always reflect the same position. When a player makes a move, they announce it so their opponent can copy it on their own board.