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The History of the BCAI


Written and compiled by Philip Doyle

Abridged version


In this account of the activities of Irish blind Chess players, I will, as the title suggests, concentrate mainly on international events. In the early years this meant Correspondence Chess, while more recently the emphasis has been on over-the-board activities. I will not be covering local Chess, in which blind players are fully integrated, but I will be touching on some local matters which are of particular interest to blind players.

The early years

St. Joseph's School for the Blind in Dublin, is where most Irish players learned to play Chess. In the early years there was no organised method of teaching the game and the younger boys had to pick it up from the older lads, or from the adults. Clonturk House was not purchased until 1959 and therefore, the men's section was still attached to the school.

The first players of note that we are aware of were Joe Barret who was partially sighted and left the school and Joe Byrne who remained on in the men's section. We know that the latter learned his Chess from a man called Kevin Turner in 1914.

The next important player we come across is Willie Breen who was taught Chess by a prefect called John Nolan about 1930. As Willie had no other boys to play against at this time Joe Byrne was permitted to come from the men's section to play against him twice weekly.

It was Joe Byrne also who made contact with Victor Nelson of the Braille Chess Association, which was established in 1931. Willie and joe both joined the BCA and ever since, that organisation has played a vital part in the careers of Irish players. In these early years this meant running Correspondence tournaments and having Chess books published in Braille.

Another important development around this time was the founding of the Braille Chess Magazine by Reg Bonham, a teacher at Worcester College for the Blind, in England. This quarterly bulletin which is still published, contained instruction, games analysis, and Chess problems as well as news from the wider Chess world. It did much to keep players abreast of the latest developments in the game, at a time when Chess publications for the Blind were almost non-existent.

International Braille Chess Association

April 1958 saw the official founding of the International Braille Chess Association which had been operating informally since 1951. In the beginning, the IBCA mainly concentrated on Correspondence Chess and organised the first international Championships for the Blind. The Irish players, Willie Breen and Dan Barry, took part in these, and soon showed that they could compete with the best.

BCM April, 1960

"The German Association of Sports Among the Disabled (East Germany) has found itself forced to cancel the IBCA Congress which it was hoped to hold there this year, because of its other commitments, but offers to run one next year. However, the West German Chess Association of the Blind has now issued invitations to an IBCA Congress in the form of a team tournament for Easter, 1961, and if the response is satisfactory, this event will probably take place."

Blind Internationals at Meschede

"The first Chess Olympiad for the Blind was run in conjunction with the second IBCA Congress, under the aegis of the West German Chess Association for the Blind and to celebrate the latter's tenth birthday. Eight teams of four competitors took part, unfortunately the Swedes had to cry off and so a second team from West Germany took their place. East Germany was unlucky in that their board two Mr. Wuensch, had to drop out in round five because of a heart attack, whilst it was encouraging of Switzerland and of Denmark too for that matter to compete at all in so strong a field. This occasion, the biggest event so far among Chess for the blind, concluded with a gathering once more graced by music.

The final scores in this tournament were:

Note: The tournament was held from March 26th to April 2nd, 1961.

BCM July 1964

The IBCA Olympiad Congress

"The second Olympiad for the title of Team Champion was held from March 24th-April 3rd, 1964, at the East German Baltic spa of Bad Kšhlungspornn. It resulted in a triumph even more convincing than at the first Olympiad in 1961 for the Yugoslav team. They dropped only half a point out of a possible 32 points, only Beratic of Hastings fame dropping any points at all. He was at board one. Mirkovic, Chabarkapa and Jukanovic all scored 100% on boards two, three and four respectively. Hungary came second with 20.5 and the host country third with 18.5.

The young Irish team, (Breen, Loftus, Keane and McElroy) quite inexperienced in foreign competitions were by no means disgraced by their lower position. On the contrary everyone was full of praise for the spirit and enterprise displayed in their games, most of which were tense long drawn out contests. The experience gained will stand them in good stead in the future."

Note: The Irish team's attendance at their first Olympiad was due in no small measure to the encouragement which they were given by Harry Booth of the BCA, when he visited Dublin in 1963.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were, in board order:

The Irish team finished 8th out of 9 teams, having scored a total of 10.5 points.

Note: Although the Poles were not as strong then as they became later, the Irish victory in round five, and by such a large margin, was nevertheless, a remarkable performance.

BCA Gazette, July 1966

First European Championship for the Blind

"the Champions of 17 European countries met at , Timmendorferstrand near Lubec, from April 2nd-12th, for the first Individual Championship organised by the IBCA. The tournament was staged by the West German BCA who together with their sponsors collected about œ900, to cover the expenses of 22 players with guides, as well as most of the IBCA Executive. The event was a resounding success, reflecting much credit on the near perfect organisation and the referee expressed himself most favourably on the lack of incidents during play. It was generally felt that 22 was too many for such a short tournament but for this first venture of its kind, it was felt that no applicant should be refused entry. As a result several countries which previously had not been in a position to send a four-man team to either of the Olympiads were able to participate. Nine rounds were played using the Swiss system. The favourite were the two Yugoslavs Jukanovic and Chabarkaba, Pokorny of Czechoslovakia who done so well at board one in the last Olympiad and the West German Champion, Zeitler, who had made tremendous strides in the last five years."

Final scores:

Ireland was represented by Michael Keating who finished 16th having scored 4.5 points, a very creditable performance in view of the fact that he was competing for the first time at international level.

3rd Olympiad, 1968

"On Thursday 28th March, 1968, 150 players, guides and officials from 19 countries arrived at the Fairhaven Hotel Weymouth, to participate in the third World team Olympiad. The Opening Ceremony which took place at the pavilion on the Friday morning, was a simple affair and play got under way in the first round on Friday afternoon.

The two favourites were USSR and Yugoslavia, (the former participating for the first time in an IBCA Olympiad) these two teams each had easy wins in the first round and so this meant that they were drawn against each other in round two. The result of this encounter was perhaps predictably a draw but not in true Grand Master fashion as there were two definite results.

With one round to go USSR were one point ahead of their main rivals Yugoslavia and in the final round as soon as it was apparent that there would be no run-away victory for Yugoslavia against Hungary, the Soviets agreed two quick draws, having already won the other two against West Germany.

After a Civic Tea, the Closing Ceremony got under way at the pavilion and the prizes were awarded by the Lady Mayor and Mr. J. C. Coligan of the RNIB."

"Among those who must be well pleased with their effort are Spain and Ireland; the latter must be the smallest group of blind players of the countries competing (no more than a dozen) but they have prepared for this Olympiad, financially and Chess-wise, ever since returning from the 2nd and will do so again for the 4th."

The Irish results were:

The individual scores from 11 rounds were: in board order

The Irish team finished in 10th position with a total of 22.5 points.

Note: This I feel was Ireland's best performance in the Olympiads, with the team playing consistently throughout, the highlights being a draw with the Americans in round two and a whitewash of the Israelies in the final round. There were many fine individual performances as well, including Sean Loftus's game with Sandrin, (USA) which won the Brilliancy Prize. Sean eventually lost this game but only after a titanic struggle.

4th Olympiad, 1972

"The 4th Olympiad for the Blind was held at Pula, in Yugoslavia, from April 6th-18th. The event was organised by the Yugoslav Chess Federation, and 22 countries participated, compared with 19 at Weymouth. For the first time the Tournament was run on the FIDE pattern, i.e. teams were divided into four preliminary groups according to the results at Weymouth. The first two teams from each preliminary group going into Final Group A, the next into Group B etc.".

The Irish team were drawn in the same Group as the USSR, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Sweden. The Soviets as expected qualified easily for Final Group A, with the second place going to Spain but only on tie-break after finishing on the same number of points as the Czechs. The crucial matches for Ireland were in round one and round five when we had good wins over Sweden and Finland respectively, and in so doing secured the remaining place in Final Group B.

In addition to Czechoslovakia Ireland were joined in this section by: Poland, Austria, West Germany, Holland, Israel and Bulgaria. Many of these teams would be more at home in the top section and so points were hard to come by, and although we did well against some of these, we could have hoped for better in our matches with the Austrians and the Dutch.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were, in board order:

The team finished 16th having scored a total of 13 points.

October BCM, from the Times of 23rd August 1976

soviet Union wins Blind Chess

The Soviet Union on Saturday narrowly won the 5th Chess Olympiad for the Blind, held at Kuortanen, Finland. 21 countries took part. The Soviet Union, World Champions since 1968, defeated Yugoslavia in their 4th-round match of an 11- round Swiss Tournament, by the odd point of a 4-board match. In the penultimate round Russia faltered, giving away two points to the Czechs, while Yugoslavia moved to within half a point of them by defeating England four nil. Everything depended upon the last game, in which Russia defeated Austria after a 9-hour struggle. Russia and Yugoslavia finished with 34.5 each, the former winning the Gold medal on the count of match points, 10.5 to 9.5."

The Irish results were:

The individual scores in board order were:

The Irish team had a total score of 20.5 points and finished in 12th position.

BCA Gazette, October 1980

6th Olympiad, 1980

"The 6th Chess Olympiad for the Blind, held in nordwijkerhoud, Holland, from 12th-26th August last: The top three places went to USSR Yugoslavia and East Germany.

Since there was an odd number of teams, the Swiss System was not used on this occasion. The Tournament was broken down into two stages. In the first stage there were four groups of six, with one of them having a bye. After an all-play-all of five rounds, the top two of each group went into the top section of the finals. The middle two went into the middle group and the last two into the bottom section.

Not only was the Tournament well organised, the Dutch must be congratulated on laying on numerous activities for the guides and players, such as Bingo, Tandem riding, excursions (including a trip to a smelting works) and a shopping spree. The food was plentiful and of a very high quality."

The Irish team were drawn in group C along with two of the favourites, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, also Israel, Holland and Norway which gave us reasonable hopes of qualifying for Final Group B. Inexplicably however, we could only manage a half point in each of our first two matches against Israel and Holland and our chance had already vanished. Our two remaining points in this group came in the next round against Norway who accompanied us into Final Group C. There were seven teams in this section and we had a bye in the first round which was followed by another disappointing result, this time against the Italians. At this stage we were already a long way behind the leaders and with morale at rock bottom, when our fortune took a sudden turn for the better with successive good wins over Sweden, France and Switzerland. Going into the final round we were three points adrift of the leaders Norway who had a bye. After many ups and downs and near heart attacks, eventually a 3-1 win was achieved against the Belgians bringing us level on points with Norway but taking the medals on the tie-break.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were, in board order:

The team finished 17th out of 23 countries taking part, with a total of 17 points.

BCA Gazette, July 1981

Dublin tournament

"To mark the International Year of the Disabled Person, a special tournament for blind and disabled players took place at the Montrose hotel, Donnybrook, Dublin, from May 22nd to May 25th 1981. The event was sponsored by the National League of the Blind of Ireland. There was also generous support from Mr. P. V. Doyle, owner of the Montrose, who made a spacious function room available for the event free of charge. There were 22 entries for the competition, all but one of whom were blind. 9 participants came from England and one from Austria. No sooner had the draw for the first round taken place when it was learned that Dr. R. Teefenbacher, Austria, would be unable to compete. An accident on the boat had resulted in his having to go into hospital soon after his arrival in Dublin. With no "seeding" being used the first-round draw brought two of the favourites, Horrocks and McElroy, into opposition. This game was drawn. Horrocks had better luck in round 2, being successful against another of the favourites in Ted Williams. McElroy's challenge appeared to have gone after losing to Keane in round 3 while Horrocks dropped another half-point to Loftus in the same round. At this point Casey was the clear leader with 3 points followed by Keating and Keane each with 2.5. Casey's fine run came to a sudden halt after losing to Keating in round 4 and Horrocks in round 5. Keane also won his round 4 game and drew with Keating in round 5. Going into the final round there was a three-way tie for first place between Keating, Horrocks and Keane. Williams would also have been in this group had he not blundered in a won end game against Loftus. This blunder cost Williams half a point. The final round saw Horrocks paired against Keating and Keane against Williams. An opening miscalculation gave Keane a pawn advantage which he turned to good use winning in fine style. With Horrocks and Keating playing a drawn game leaving Keane the clear winner. McElroy finishing strongly with three wins also had 4.5 points and a tie for second place.

Final scores:

The special prize for an ungraded player went to Martin Kane on 1 point. The tournament organisation, hotel accommodation and meals were highly praised by all participants. Dr. Teefenbacher who sustained a shoulder injury after a fall was discharged from hospital on May 30th after a stay of eight days."

Author: Sean Loftus.

BCA Gazette, July 1982

5th World Individual, 1982

"The fifth World Individual Championship for the Blind, held in Hastings from 4th to 16th April, 1982, resulted in the players finishing in the following order after eleven rounds:

These are the bare facts of two weeks of intensive Chess during which Krylov confirmed his position as the leading blind Chess player in the world. With two rounds to go it was already certain that he would retain his title. However, Rudensky was pressed hard by Waunsche for second place. Ludwig Zier, the West German, proved in his first attempt that he is a force to be reckoned with.

But this was not all! to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the BCA two tournaments were held for our own members - the "King's" during the first week and the "Queen's" during the second. Ted Williams, with a spectacular victory in the last round against Graham Lilley, took first prize, a point ahead of the field. Final positions in the "King's" Tournament were:

In the "Queen's" Tournament Sean Loftus set a cracking pace by winning his first four games. Graham Lilley was very close behind with 3.5 points and the two met in the last round with Graham finishing on top. Final placings were:

Now that it is all over it is only natural to wonder how successful it really was. It is difficult to pass judgement when one has been so involved for so long. There seems little doubt that, from the point of view of the tournament, things went smoothly and this must be regarded as one of the most important considerations. Perhaps of equal importance is the spirit in which it was played. Grandmaster Olafsson paid tribute to the sportsmanship of the players and expressed the view that the example could be followed in other places. Certainly the friendship between players and guides from many countries was again a feature of an IBCA event. It was good to have a contingent of our members from Ireland who always liven things up not only in the Chess but in the social side of any event in which they participate.

Visits to a wine cellar and Finchcocks Museum of keyboard instruments were arranged for the two rest days and both of these were very much enjoyed and appreciated by those who attended."

Author: Stan Lovell.

Note: In the World Individual Ireland was represented by Michael Keane who finished 18th In a field of 27. Michael's final total of five points included excellent wins against Tonteri of Finland and Free of New Zealand.

In addition to those already mentioned, the large Irish contingent included Martin Kane, Michael Keating and Philip Doyle.

7th Chess Olympiad

"The 7th Chess Olympiad for the Visually Handicapped was held at the Hawaii Hotel, Benidorm, Spain, from 5th to 19th May, 1985. Twenty nations participated and the slight decrease in numbers seemed mainly due to the collapse of the Olympiad arrangements in the USA in 1984. However, it was good to see Greece and Portugal involved for the first time.

The twenty teams were divided into four groups for the preliminary rounds and the composition of these groups was determined by previous performances. The top two teams from each preliminary group qualified for Final Group A and played for places 1 to 8. The next two teams qualified for Final Group B and played for places 9 to 16. The bottom team in each group was placed in Final Group C and played for places 17 to 20."

The Irish team were drawn in Group B along with Poland, East Germany, Spain and Portugal. Although this meant having to face three very strong teams and virtually no chance of qualifying for the top section, we were almost certain of making it into Final Group B due to the presence of new-comers Portugal. Our confidence was confirmed when we met in round three and Ireland won on all four boards. Having lost to The host country by a score of 3-1 in the qualifying Group, we had to meet them again in the first round of Final Group B but we could only manage a half point this time. Our best performances were: a win against Holland and draws with Sweden, Norway and Denmark. In our final match we could only manage a solitary half point against Austria and this perhaps was due to the very early morning start imposed so that all games would be finished in time for the Closing Ceremony.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were: in board order,

The team finished 15th having scored a total of 16.5 points.

BCA Gazette, July 1986

Message from Dublin

"The Braille Chess Association of Ireland was formed following the 1985 Olympiad, in an attempt to bring new players - especially young players - into the game. So far 17 members have been recruited - not many perhaps, by BCA standards, but the population of the whole of Ireland is only about five millions. In October, the first official Chess championship for the Blind was held. There were 12 entrants and it was won by Ernie McElroy. Michael Keating took second place and Sean Loftus was third. A correspondence tournament for novices was not too successful! however, a couple of friendly matches were played against clubs in Limerick and Dublin.

We have also been able to help new members with advice about books, Chessboards etc. As a result about half a dozen have become members of clubs. The BCAI, will of course, never be as active as the BCA, but its founders will be well pleased if it helps to keep the game alive and healthy among the Irish blind in the years ahead."

Author: Philip Doyle

BCA Gazette, January 1987

In Dublin's fair city

"The Dublin Open Tournament was held from Saturday, 25th to Monday, 27th October, at the headquarters of the League of the Blind. 16 people took part - 12 from the Republic and four from England, including Graham Willis, a friend from East Ham Chess club, whose help on the trip was invaluable. There was a striking spirit of comradeship about the whole weekend. The draw was ably managed by Sean Loftus in the absence of a controller and the event ran smoothly. Phil Doyle's wife, Noreen, worked tirelessly providing soup, sandwiches and tea for players as they finished their games. Although we had little time to explore the city, we had plenty of time to chat to our hosts and enjoy the excellent Guinness. Ernie McElroy won the tournament with 5 out of 5, followed by Sean Loftus, Michael Keating and myself with 3.5. Philip Dunne won the grading prize (under 1400) with 3 points.

The BCAI hopes to hold another Dublin Open Tournament in two years' time. If this proves to be as successful, BCA members taking part are in for a fine time!"

Author: Voldi Gailans.

8th Chess Olympiad of the Blind, 1988

"For me Sunday usually means a lie on but on the 17th of April I was up at 06.30 to begin a long and tiring journey, which for myself and five colleagues (two of whom joined us at London) would end 14 hours later with a hearty and welcome meal in the hotel Balaton, in Zalaegerzeg, Hungary. The latter part of the journey was a three hour coach trip, much of which was spent in view of the broad Danube. The terrain eventually changing from flat farmland to hilly forested country, which lies close to the Austro-Yugoslav border. This district has Zalaegerzeg as its capital, tourism being the main industry.

The Balaton is a modern hotel with comfortable rooms, however, many of the teams would be staying at the hotel Arany Barany about 200 metres away and this proved to be a slight drawback to the social side. The tournament was also staged at the other hotel and this could have been awkward if the weather had been rainy but the sun shone most of the time and the first week was very warm. The meal on our arrival proved to be a good omen and the food continued to be good for the remainder of our stay. Interpreters were assigned to us and they were a great help especially when shopping.

To introduce our team:

During the first week the 23 teams were divided into four groups and there followed an all-play-all in each group. For the second week the top two teams in each group would form a premier section, with the middle two forming an intermediate section and the bottom two forming the minor section. We were drawn with Austria, Yugoslavia, Finland, France and Belgium. Yugoslavia, as expected qualified easily for the premier section but there was a close race for the second position between Finland, Austria and Ireland, with the Fins just getting there. Ireland had good wins during the first week over Finland, France and Belgium. Saturday was a day off and for anyone not attending the Congress, a coach trip was laid on. First a visit to a magnificent stately home, and after an excellent lunch a visit to the forty-mile-long lake Balaton, before returning to base. Other spare time was spent shopping or at night having a drink in the beer keller, adjournments permitting. We also made an enjoyable trip to the spa at Heviz, accompanied by our sprightly 72-year-old interpreter, Dommie.

During the second week Ireland and Austria were joined in the intermediate section by England, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Israel and the host country. Having played the Austrians already, our first match was against England and we scored a fine draw. Other good draws followed against Sweden, Israel and Hungary, also a win against the Netherlands. This gave us over all, four wins, four draws and three losses.

The premier section was won once again by the USSR, Yugoslavia was second and West Germany finished third. England won the second section and Belgium the third. Following the closing ceremony all that remained to be done was to say goodbye to our many friends, new and old and especially the Hungarians who did so much to make us feel at home. Then the long journey home and for me 12 hours of badly needed sleep."

Author: Philip Doyle.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores from 11 rounds were:

The Irish team scored a total of 21 points and finished 13th.

BCA Gazette, April 1989

Dublin Millennium Tournament

"14 players took the field for the BCAI's special tournament to celebrate a thousand years of Dublin's history. The competition took place over the October bank holiday weekend at the splendid new headquarters of the National Council for the Blind in Whitworth rd. The tournament room was spacious, cosy and well lit, with nearby a comfortable lounge and coffee-bar. After games, players usually congregated in the latter to relax and enjoy the sandwiches and other refreshments which were being served there.

After four rounds, Philip Doyle held a half point lead. However, he lost his final game to Joe McAloon, leaving the way open to Ernie McElroy and Charlie Marshall, who were playing against each other. With time running out for both players, Charlie was up the Exchange and a Pawn. but he lost a Rook dramatically and resigned soon after, leaving Ernie to pocket the œ100 first prize. Philip Doyle and Joe McAloon shared second place, and the remaining prizes went to two new, young and promising players, Michael Delaney and Larry Currid. We were privileged to have a Swedish player present, Roger Svensson, who, like his ancestral cousins a millennium ago, proved to be a tough opponent and finished with three points."

Author: Philip Doyle

Note: The tournament would have been better attended except for an unfortunate clash of dates with the BCA's Autumn Tournament.

BCA Gazette, October 1989

IRISZ Kupa (IRIS Cup) 1989

"The third tournament for the IRISZ Kupa took place in the little town of Szentendre, on the banks of the Danube and just 22 kilometres from Budapest. The English and Irish parties met up at Heathrow, and had Ernie McElroy to thank for making the booking, at a very favourable rate, with Liffey Travel of Dublin. When we reached the hotel Danubius, we were to find that it had received a face-lift and, in fact, work was still going on at a pace, bringing the bar up to the standard of the rest of the hotel. Speaking for myself, I found the food very good and interesting, and the service excellent. I realise, however, that food, and particularly the food of another country, is very much a personal matter. Prices of all food and drinks and many other articles are quite exceptionally low, and we were able to get a very favourable rate of exchange,which meant that our trip out cost us very little. Some of our party spent time wandering around the craft shops in Szentendre and picked up some very good bargains. One of the most enjoyable days was spent on a cruise up the Danube, to the town of Piszegrad, the former seat of Hungarian kings. The return trip, an hour and a half in each direction, cost us just 65 pence each. Now to the Chess. The Rumanians had withdrawn from the tournament at short notice, so Hungary entered a B team to make up the numbers. The ten teams were divided into two groups of five for the first phase of the tournament. This meant that each team had a day off during the week. The English team of Graham Lilley, Paul Benson, Colin Chambers and Stan Lovell found themselves along with the Irish team of Ernie McElroy, Sean Loftus, Phil Doyle and Mike Keating, in the stronger group with Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary A. The other group consisted of West Germany, Austria, Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary B. The final day, the group winners, seconds, thirds etc. played off for the final placings.

Final placings were:

The organisation was generally good, but one hitch occurred when both the Irish and the Czechs were told that it was their day off, leaving Bulgaria waiting for opposition which did not show.

Finally, I must mention the simultaneous given by Sofi and Judith Polgar. Only three of a very strong field of 40 managed a win."

Author: Stan Lovell.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were,m in board order

BCA Gazette, January 1990

Dublin Open Tournament, 1989

"This event took place at the National Council for the Blind, over the Irish Bank Holiday weekend of 28th-30th October. There were 18 participants, including players from Sweden, Holland, UK and Ireland.

The Irish BCA, which hosted the event, had some money over from a previous occasion, and so were able to offer free bed and breakfast accommodation for three nights to the visiting players and their guides at local guest houses.

We were all met at the airport and taken to our guest houses on the Friday afternoon, and after having a meal at a local restaurant we were entertained and supplied with free drinks by the Irish players at the National Council building. We also had a very enjoyable social evening on the Sunday at the same venue, and during and between playing sessions, the ladies kept us plentifully supplied with sandwiches, tea and coffee etc.

Turning to the Chess, the tournament was a 5-round Swiss, with two rounds on Saturday, two on Sunday and one on Monday. It was no surprise that Graham Lilley won the tournament with a 100% record as he was clearly the strongest player there. The grading prizes were won by Stan Lovell and Michael Meaney.

The Swedish party had to leave early on the Monday, so Derek Spink and Ivor Wagner were subjected to an 8-30 AM start to the last round to play against them. However, both proved equal to the task and won their games!

I believe that a similar event is planned for 1990, and I for one cannot wait to sample more of the friendly Irish hospitality.

Author: Stephen Eastwick-Field.


BCAI Open Tournament, 1990

The BCAI held their European Chess Tournament in the NCBI headquarters in Drumcondra, Dublin, over the October bank holiday weekend. This increasingly popular Tournament attracted 24 players from Sweden, Holland, Scotland, and England as well as the host country.

The eight-strong English contingent was led by Stan Lovell, Secretary of the British BCA and included the highly rated British Champion Graham Lilley who won this event last year. In the party also was the well-known FIDE Arbiter Gerry Walsh. The Dutch group had the leading player Jan Van Gelder who has competed previously in this event. All three Swedish players were familiar with the Irish Tournament having also played here before. They included the veteran Roger Svensson and the Canadian born Georgibell Frojse, the only lady entrant, who insists that she comes "not only for Chess but to buy Christmas cakes and puddings to bring home, because they are hard to buy in Sweden and taste nicer from Ireland". The lone Scot was Bryan Kilgour who was paying his first visit to this event.

It was a hard-fought Tournament with no quarter asked and none given. Not a Tournament for the nervous, with endgame battles fought out like gladiators in the arena. Going into the last round, the three big men (all over six feet tall) McElroy, Lilley and Van Gelder shared the lead on 3.5 points each. In the final round Lilley beat McElroy and Van Gelder won on time in a nail-biting finish against the up-and-coming young international from Ireland Michael Delaney. As the tie-break could not separate them, Graham Lilley and Jan Van Gelder shared 1st and 2nd places with McElroy, Chambers and Doyle sharing 3rd place. Grading prizes went to: Section (a) Michael Delaney; Section (b), Eamonn Casey and Sean O'Brien; Section (c), Derek Spink, all in all a fair sharing of the spoils."

Author: Tim Conlan, Tournament Controller

World Cup Chess Finals

"ONCE the Spanish organisation for the visually handicapped organised the finals of the Chess World Cup in Segovia, from December 1st-11th 1990. Segovia is a pleasant city of about 400,000 situated some 50 miles North-West of Madrid. The city, which is built on very hilly ground, often necessitating steps to connect adjacent streets, displays strong Roman influences, the most obvious of which is a massive viaduct which in places is over 200 feet high. The Cathedral is also of great architectural importance and is maintained by the Local Authorities.

The 12 top placed teams from the previous Olympiad qualify for the final of the World Cup but Ireland came 13th in Hungary in 1988. Another country would have resigned itself for non- participation, but we did not give up! A scout was dispatched to Berlin to remove a few bricks from a well-known wall, initiating the reunification of Germany and, more importantly, moving Ireland up to 12th place. You see international politics makes sense when you know all the details.

As was to be expected the opposition was very tough, but we were determined to show we were deserving of our place in the finals. Our only match win did not please the local crowd however. This was not surprising as the team we defeated was none other than Spain itself. The winning of other matches was well within our grasp, especially against England, Finland and Israel but excellent chances were let slip. We can be pleased nevertheless with the fact that we took points off all the teams competing, with the exception of the USSR and Poland who finished in first and second place respectively. Ireland's 10th place was then very creditable for a 12th ceded team.

The Irish team comprised: Ernie Mcelroy, Sean Loftus, Michael Delaney, Joe McAloon and Larry Currid with Manager Gerry McElligott."

Gerry McElligott

The Irish results were:

Individual scores:

Benasque international, 1991

"ONCE the Spanish organisation for the visually handicapped, which organised the World Cup last December, scaled greater heights when it organised "Ajedrez u montana" (Chess in the mountains) in July. This 9 round tournament, with 32 participants representing 14 countries, was held in Benasque, a village high up in the Pyrenees mountains. At the same time an individual open tournament with 200 participants including many GMs and IMs was also held. This meant the village was populated almost exclusively by chess players, sheep and goats.

The tournament was of mixed strength, 1400 Elo to 2300 Elo but with 11 prizes on offer our representatives Ernie McElroy and Sean Loftus had reasonable hopes of winning a prize. Both players began with a draw in the first round but by round 6 Ernie was disputing the lead on board 1 with Novak, however, Novak isn't 2300 for nothing and Ernie lost a hard fought game. Meanwhile, Sean, having nearly drawn with the same Novak in round 2, was content to stay in the middle of the field. A last round win by Sean gave him a respectable 4 points. On board 2 Ernie was playing Dukaczewski, needing a win for a share of second place however the Pole won an excellently played rook and pawn ending, giving him a share of first place as Novak unexpectedly lost his last game, his only defeat.

Author: Gerry McElligott.

9th Chess Olympiad, 1992

"The 9th Chess Olympiad for the Visually Handicapped was held in Ca'n Picaford, Majorca from April 14th to 29th, 1992. The four-yearly event was organised by ONCE, the Spanish organisation for the blind which also runs the national lottery. The event, with a record 33 national teams, was excellently run and the fact that (unlike in Hungary four years ago) all the teams were accommodated in one hotel made for a very sociable event. The return to the international community of a multi-racial South African team, after a number of years in exile, together with the debut of six Latin American teams: (Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba and Mexico) was warmly welcomed. Also welcomed were the new countries of Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia and Lithuania.

The Latin American participation led to some minor culture shock. While the weather for the most part was excellent, with clear skies and temperatures in the high twenties, the first three days were rather cold. During this time one of the Colombians could be seen travelling the hotel corridors wearing a fur coat, with the hood up. We may safely assume Colombia is a hot country. Not to be outdone, Joe McAloon could be observed tucked up in bed wearing a plastic raincoat, with only his hooded head protruding from under the covers.

On the other hand, the Europeans were to learn about the Latin American temperament. This revealed itself when at every opportunity the Latins gave a raucous rendition of their national football chants, each country trying to out-do the other. Hitherto peaceful meal times began to sound like football matches. Who said Chess is a quiet sport?

The whole event ran very smoothly, however, on one occasion a power failure doused the playing hall into darkness for about five minutes. The evident consternation of the referees during this period remained a total mystery to most of the players. They continued to play on unaware of what had happened until after the games were finished.

The best Irish results were: wins against Norway, Holland, Finland and Italy (revenge for their defeat of us in the Soccer World Cup) and draws against Sweden and Cuba. I suppose there is always the story of the one that got away. Sean Loftus had the Ukranian women's world champion Zsiltzova, on the brink of defeat, when an own-goal saved her bacon.

The competition was won by Russia, second was Yugoslavia, third Ukraine with Ireland in 22nd place.

The Irish team were:

Author: Gerry McElligott.

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were, in board order:

BCA Gazette, April 1993

Dublin Open Tournament, 1992

"On 23rd October, a party of 24 BCA members and friends flew or sailed to Ireland to visit our friends in the lovely city of Dublin for the Irish Open Chess Tournament for the visually handicapped. This was held at the National Council for the Blind in Dublin and the event was sponsored by Telecom Eireann and the National Council.

Half of the party were housed at a guest-house nearby and the other half stayed at a very nice hotel called the Maples.

On the three evenings we were there, we were entertained by our hosts, especially one of the Irish players, Mike Meaney, who sang some Irish songs and was very humorous. Some of our party also contributed to the entertainment. We got a reduced rate for the evening meals and of course, the drinks went down a treat. At the Chess venue the ladies supplied us with plenty of food and drinks during the day.

There were some hard games played in the five-round Swiss, in particular, the game between Larry Currid and Graham Lilley. This ended as a draw, an outstanding result for Larry, whose grade is approximately 95. The prizes were handed out by Mr. Charles O'Brien, representing Telecom Eireann."

Author: Derek Spink.

The results were:

BCA Gazette, January 1995


"This event took place as usual during the October bank holiday weekend at the National Council for the Blind in Dublin. The Tournament was of 5 rounds with, for the first time, a senior and a junior section and this arrangement seemed to be popular with the weaker players who participated in greater numbers than on previous occasions.

The visitors, who's numbers were somewhat down on last time, along with a few of the locals were accommodated at the Maples Hotel which once again proved very satisfactory. On Saturday night, following an excellent meal, we were entertained with music and songs by Michael Meaney as well as some less well known artists from among the players and guides.

In the Senior section there were fourteen players and after 3 rounds Michael Delaney stood alone on maximum points. In round 4 he was drawn against Collin Chambers from England and Collin won this nerve-racking game on time to leap-frog into a half point lead. In the final round Chambers was drawn against Philip Doyle while Delaney was matched against Sean Loftus. This proved to be a dramatic climax, with Philip defeating Collin, giving Delaney the chance to regain his lead and this he did to take the top prize of œ70, leaving Chambers and Doyle to share second place. The grading prize was shared as well between Sean O'Brien and Steven Thacker both from England.

There were ten players in the Junior section and here Willie Britten seemed to be all set for victory having won his first 4 games on the trot, however, on the morning of the final round he got caught up in the Dublin City Marathon traffic diversions and arrived for play 50 minutes late. Despite this setback Willie was winning his game comfortably only to lose on time to Paul Bellew allowing Paul a share of the spoils. Third place in the Junior went to Eric Gallacher from Scotland with another tie for fourth between Michael Meaney and Darren Butler."

Author: Philip Doyle

Sportslink, April 1995


"36 players from 31 countries came together for the 8th World Individual Chess Championship for the Blind, which was held in La Mata, Spain, from January 14th to 22nd 1995.

The competitors came from 4 continents and from as far away as Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and Kazakstan, and their abilities varied as well, ranging from Master standard down to your average club player.

La Mata is a small town south of Alicante but with the exception of warm sunshine it had little to offer at this time of the year, being entirely geared to the tourist industry. Fortunately the organisers laid on a bus each morning to the nearby large town of Torrevieja, which has an abundance of shops and other amenities as well as the best open-air market I have seen.

The Tournament organisation left a lot to be desired and the Spaniards lived up to their reputation for not communicating with their guests but nevertheless they must be given great credit for taking on the project with only a few months notice. This came about due to the cancelation of the arrangements to hold the Tournament in Byelorussia in the summer.

In the absence of the holder the obvious favourites for the title were the 2 Russians Krylov and Berlinski, both former Champions, but few suspected that there was a dark horse in our midst. Jounoussov who hails from Kazakstan soon made his intensions plain when he defeated Suder from Poland in round 3 and Berlinski in round 4. At this point the entire Tournament was shifted from the Hotel in La Mata to the Royal Sea Club in Torrevieja, but the newcomer was unperturbed by this and went on to win 7 games in a row. He was already assured of the title when in the 8th and final round he met Krylov and in this game the Russian came out on top.

First was Jounoussov (Kazakstan) with 7 points: second Berlinski (Russia) 6.5 and third Suder (Poland) with 6 points. For my part, i had wins against players from Hungary, Latvia and Greece; draws with Denmark and the Czech Republic and losses to Slovenia, England and Israel, giving me a total of 4 points and twentieth position over all.

I was reasonably pleased with this result but feel I played well only in patches. I believe I would have done better had I had the assistance of my Coach Gerry McElligott, who unfortunately had a road accident only a few days before leaving which forced him to withdraw. After initial doubt and indecision on my part as to whether to continue, my Wife Noreen stepped into the breach and with the cooperation of Iberia airline the show once more was back on the road.

On my return I was pleased to find that Gerry was making a good recovery following an operation for a fractured cheek bone which detained him in hospital for a week."

Author: Philip Doyle

BCA Gazette, April 1997

Irish Open Tournament, 1996

The Irish BCA held its European Chess Tournament at Barry's Hotel, Dublin, between Friday 25th and Monday 28th October. The Tournament consisted of 6 rounds in the Swiss system, and it attracted a record entry of 31 competitors. There were 15 players from England, 13 from Ireland, and 3 from Germany. The Major section (players graded above 100) had an entry of 18, and the Minor section (players graded below 100) had an entry of 13.

The guests stayed in the Belvedere Hotel, but visited Barry's Hotel on the same street, to play Chess and to have evening meals. Most of the visitors expressed satisfaction with their accommodation, and the late opening hours of the bar in the Belvedere were widely appreciated by the thirsty Chess players. Each evening there was plenty of chat and singsongs, and on Saturday night Michael Meaney performed a number of old favourites on his accordion.

There were many hard battles fought on the Chessboards during the Competition, and a significant number of games went all the way on the clock.

The final results were as follows:

Senior section:

M. Keating and S. Loftus shared the Grading prize for Section A, while Section B was shared by 4 English players: J. Gallagher, D. Hodgkins, S. Eastwick-Field, and R. Murphy.

Junior section:

In this section the Grading prize went to K. Harris.

Chris Ross (134) deserves a special word of praise for his performance in the Senior section. Chris managed a win against the second cede Stephen Williamson (168) and a draw against the top cede Jorgen Pohlers (198). Chris is still only 17 years of age, and he is certainly one of the most promising young English players to have emerged in recent years.

Author: Stephen Kennedy

Sportslink, September 1998

9th World Individual Championship

Held in Brno in the Czech Republic from the 4th to the 12th July, 1998. This Tournament is normally confined to one player from each competing Country, but on this occasion, because of the 40th anniversary of the International Braille Chess Association, it was thrown open to up to four competitors from each Country. Ireland decided to send three players, our 1997 Champion, Michael Delaney, Sean Loftus and Eamonn Casey.

With Kieran English and Gerry McElligott as our guides and mentors, we set off for the Czech Republic on Thursday July 2nd. Our journey wasn't actually totally uneventful! On arriving in London, when our tickets were checked we were informed that we were travelling a day early. As the one who made the travel arrangements, I imagine I turned a whiter shade of pale! However, on closer inspection, it was discovered that they were the tickets for our bus journey from Prague to Brno the following day, so, everything turned out all right.

Having arrived in Prague on the night of the 2nd, we found our Hotel but not without some difficulty. The following day we proceeded to Brno, the Capital of Moravia, near the Austrian border. The accommodation proved to be adequate as was the food, although the helpings could have been better. Having said that, the local restaurants were so cheap that we ate out on several occasions. An excellent meal with drinks could be had for as little as 9 pounds.

Turning to the Chess, there were 86 players taking part from 32 countries. There was a good-sized Tournament room and the playing conditions were very satisfactory. The playing session would be six hours. Each player would have two hours for 40 moves followed by one more hour to complete the game. The standard was extremely high, however, all three Irish players performed to their best level. The first 29 players were ceded according to their Elo ratings of over 2200, while the remaining players were ceded alphabetically. In the first round on Saturday, I was drawn against Smoliakov, a very strong Russian but lost, having given him a good run for his money. Sean also lost to Bischoff, the German Champion while Michael had a good draw against the Dutch player, Verboom. On The Sunday, unfortunately, all three of us went down to defeat. From there on, things started to improve as we found our level. On Monday, Both Sean and Michael won while I was still on zero. On Tuesday, I picked up my first half point and was very relieved to get it. From there on, we all took our turns at winning and losing. I managed to get my last 2.5 points from my last three games and I was glad to be able to get these results under my belt. Sean and Michael finished a half point ahead of me with 3.5 points. Michael looked like doing better but was unlucky to run into two very strong opponents in the last two rounds and suffered two losses.

The Tournament was won by Smirnov (Russia) with 7.5 points from 9 rounds; then came four players on 7 points: Wassin (Ukraine) Berlinski (Russia) Durban (Spain) and Tatarczak (Poland).

Author: Eamonn Casey

Sportslink, December 1998

Irish Open Tournament, 1998

The Irish Open Chess Championships were held at the Metropole Hotel, Cork, from Friday 9th to Monday 12th October. The Host Club, The Red Abbey Chess Club for the Visually impaired, were delighted with the turnout which attracted a record entry of 34 competitors, including 5 from India, 4 from Sweden, 3 from Germany and 11 each from the UK and Ireland.

The Tournament had six Rounds in the Swiss System, but for a time it looked like it might be only five. this was due to a problem with the runway at Cork Airport on the Friday afternoon which held up several flights which, as luck would have it, were carrying nearly half our players. Fortunately however, landings were resumed just in time to allow the Tournament schedule to go ahead as planned.

The Tournament consisted of a Senior Section for players graded above 1400 Elo, and a Junior Section for players graded below 1400. The draw was made by computer which very cleverly kept players of the same nationality from meeting during the first two rounds.

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Joe O'Flynn, performed the official opening and also took the opportunity to present, a very surprised Ernie McElroy, with the trophy for the Braille Chess Association Postal Championship, which he won recently.

The Senior Tournament:

There were no upsets in round 1 but Michael Delaney gave Magnusson, the top cede from Sweden, a good run for his money. Eventually however, Magnusson sacrificed a Knight for two Pawns to make the breakthrough for the win.

In round 2 The only surprise was the defeat of Williamson from England by Madan from India. At this stage, it was clear that the Indians would be a force to be reckoned with.

Round 3 brought the two top cedes, Magnusson and the defending Champion Pohlers, together. Pohlers from Germany was beaten after a long struggle, and at this stage the Swede, a former professional player, was the hot favourite to become the 1998 Champion.

In round 4 Pohlers dropped a further half point behind, having lost a Pawn in the Opening to Doyle.

On the top boards in round 5, Magnusson beat Williamson, Delaney beat Sanjay, Pohlers beat Chambers, Charudatta beat Madan and McElroy beat Doyle.

In Round 6 Magnusson beat McElroy to finish with a perfect score. Delaney, who had won 4 games on the trot, agreed a draw with Pohlers when he had winning chances. Sanjay lost to Charudatta, Shirish beat Williamson, Doyle beat Loftus, Chambers beat Madan and Casey, the bottom cede beat Hodgkins to finish with an excellent 3 points.

After 6 rounds, the top 5 places were filled by:

The Junior Tournament:

The most notable points about the Junior were the poor showing of the top cede, George Plechaty, who could only manage 3 points and by contrast, the excellent performance of Stephen Kennedy from Drogheda. Stephen, was unable to play in round 1 for which he was awarded a half point "travelling bye". For the remaining 5 rounds however, Stephen entirely outclassed the field, while adding a further 5 points to his total.

A special word of praise is due to Trevor Hussey who was playing in his first ever-adult event. Trevor is only thirteen years of age and gave a great account of himself against top class chess players from all over the world.

After 6 rounds, the top 4 places were filled by:

At the prise giving on Monday afternoon, Mrs. Rita Murray presented her late Father's Cup, The "Red Abbey Challenge Cup", To Mr. Magnusson on a score of 6 out of 6. A truly worthy champion, and Mrs. Martina Corrigan presented The "Dan Seaman Cup" to Stephen Kennedy on a score of 5.5. Again another worthy champion.

It fell to our Chairman, Eamonn Casey, to perform the final official duty of the weekend, when he presented Tim Conlan with a certificate and badge to mark his recent appointment by the International Braille Chess Association to the position of International Arbiter. After so many years of devoted service to Braille Chess, it's hard to think of a more deserving recipient.

It would be entirely remiss of us to end this report without mention of the off-the-board activities, which were A central feature of this Tournament. On Saturday morning, when the Chess was in full swing, a coach left the Metropole Hotel taking relations, friends and guides on a guided day trip of Fota Island Wildlife Park and Cobh Heritage Centre. While on Sunday, the party visited Blarney Castle and Cork Heritage Gaol.

On the Saturday night, the Attridge Traditional Group treated the visitors to an Irish Dancing Display and this was followed by informal dancing until the early hours. While on Sunday night, the Martin O'Donoghue Traditional group did the honours.

We take this opportunity to thank all those who generously volunteered their time to assist with the fund raising and the efficient running of the event. Many Organisations and Companies provided funding and for this we acknowledge their generous support. Overall, this was a great weekend and our visually impaired visitors enjoyed themselves both on and off the Chessboard.

Authors: Philip Doyle and Barry O'Brien

CA Gazette, February 2001

BCAI Open Tournament, 2000

This year's open tournament for blind and visually-impaired players organised by the Braille Chess Association of Ireland took place over the weekend Saturday 28th to Monday 30th October. The number of participants did not reach the record 34 who were in Cork two years ago. The big difference was to be seen in the top section, where this time just ten players took part. In the minor tournament for players graded under 1400 there were twelve participants. In all nine players travelled from England and one from Germany. Our visitors were accommodated at the Maples House Hotel, Iona Road. This is about 15 minutes' walk from the headquarters of the National Council for the Blind, where the chess was played. By late Friday evening all our visitors had arrived and were settled in at the Maples.

Play got under way at 10 o'clock on the Saturday morning. In round 1 of the major tournament all five games had the expected results. On top board it took the strong German player, J`urgen Pohlers, almost the entire 3.5 hour session to get the better of our own Michael Keating. In round 2 Pohlers won again as did Ireland's Philip Doyle to move into joint leadership on full points. Just half a point behind were the two leading English players, Chris Ross and Colin Chambers. Sunday morning saw the Pohlers-Doyle encounter. Philip went into the game knowing that he carried a grading disadvantage of more more than 300 points and that he had just one half point to show from his five previous games with the German. This seemed only to make philip all the more determined to turn the tables at last. Holding his nerve when the game reached a critical phase Philip found a winning plan and moved into outright leadership of the tournament. But Philip was not given long to enjoy his success. In the afternoon he had to take on Chris Ross, who now trailed him by half a point. The young Englishman had nothing less than victory on his mind, but our Philip was not easily to be brushed aside. Declining a draw offer, Chris's effort succeeded only in opening up his own king position. Philip seized his opportunity and won a pawn. The former British champion still went all out for the win, but an oversight cost him a knight and the game. With one round to go Philip found himself a full point ahead of Pohlers and Chambers with Ross a further half point behind. A draw with Colin Chambers would now be enough to give Philip outright first place. With black against the experienced Englishman, Philip played solidly to secure the half point. Ross defeated Pohlers to secure a tie for second place.

Leading scores:

The grading prize for those rated under 1700 went to Sean Loftus. The minor tournament was won by George Plechatty, England, with a maximum score ( 5 points. In second place was Michael Meaney from Limerick on 4 points.

Equal third were Derek Spink, England, ahead on tie-break of Martin Kane and Tony Murray, both Ireland. Tony won the first grading prize and his fellow Dubliner, John Carroll took the second grading prize. A special word of praise for John who was taking part for the first time in one of these tournaments.

For those not involved in the chess there was a coach trip on the Saturday to Newgrange Heritage site and Drogheda Cathedral. This proved a great day's outing and all were full of praise for the organiser, Barry O'Brien. Indeed, Barry played an important part in the preparation of the weekend's activities and both he and his wife, Mary, worked tirelessly to make sure that everything went according to plan.

For one of our English visitors things perhaps did not go quite according to plan. On the Monday morning Mick Murphy felt quite unwell and was taken by ambulance to the Mater Hospital. We were all naturally delighted when he and Francis Collisson, who had gone with him, later appeared at the prize-giving. Mick had been given the "all clear" to travel home later that day.

Author: Sean Loftus

BCA Gazette, August 2001


"The Six Nations Tournament has been in existence since the 1960s to promote chess competition and friendship between visually handicapped players of different countries. It is held every two years with each nation taking turn to be the host.

This year it was Great Britain's turn, and the BCA organised the event from the 2nd to the 6th April. The Hotel chosen was the Elmbank in York, which proved to be an excellent venue in terms of playing conditions, food and assistance from staff of the hotel.

The tournament was controlled by Gerry Walsh and Julie Leonard, with assistance from Phil Smith and from several members of the York chess club, who acted as guides and scribes throughout the event, particularly Peter Cloudsdale who gave us a great deal of support.

The tournament was organised as a five-round contest with teams of four players from each nation playing each other once. The entire tournament was played in a spirit of great friendship and sportsmanship between the teams: old friendships were renewed and new ones were made. Players and guides enjoyed a trip to York Minster and a canal cruise. The opening ceremony was attended by the Mayor of York and her husband; and the prize giving, on the final evening of the tournament, was a great celebration with laughter and music and singing from many of the participants.

The final placings were:

The Irish results were:

The individual scores were, in board order:

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