Reports | November 06, 2008 5:41

Russia wins Olympiad for the blind and visually impaired

Olympiad for the Blind and Visually ImpairedIn one week the Olympiad in Dresden will take off, but a different Olympiad finished last week: the one for the blind and visually impaired, held in Heraklion, Crete (Greece). Russia was victorious by a wide margin, followed by Ukraine and Spain.

The 13th Olympiad for Blind and Visually Impaired Chess Players took place 18-29 October at the 5-star hotel Apollonia in Heraklion, Crete (Greece). It was organized by the IBCA (the International Braille Chess Assocation) in cooporation with the Greek authorities. We take it as an opportunity to pay attention to a small, relatively unknown world within the chess world: that of chess for blind and visually impaired players. First some background.

IBCA
The International Braille Chess Association is the apex body of chess for the blind in the world. Affiliated to FIDE, the IBCA was formed in 1948 and currently has 71 member countries. It strives to promote chess for the visually challenged across the globe.

The most important team events are the Olympiads and the Team World Cup, held in four year cycles. Apart from those, a number of individual events is being played on a regular basis: the Individual World Championship for men and women, the U21 World Championship and the continental Championships.

The venue at the 13th Olympiad in Crete

Differences
Naturally chess for the blind and visually impaired has some differences compared to "normal" chess - which, by the way, in this context should be called "chess for sighted"! The main difference is that the players use special boards and pieces. The boards have a little aperture in each square and all pieces are equipped with pegs to fit these apertures. This way the players can feel the pieces without moving them.

The FIDE Handbook states the following requirements for these chess sets:

The specially constructed board must meet the following requirements:

1. at least 20 by 20 centimeters;
2. the black squares slightly raised;
3. a securing aperture in each square;
4. every piece provided with a peg that fits into the securing aperture;
5. pieces of Staunton design, the black pieces being specially marked.

Special requirements

The games are played at two boards; each player makes the moves on his own board so he can feel the pieces (look at the position) on his own board.

Each plays on his own board

The players have to tell the move they play to their opponent. While the organisation itself took an English name, the International Braille Chess Association decided a long time ago that German would be the official language for naming the pieces and announcing moves in international IBCA competitions. And so the rules state:

To make the announcement as clear as possible, the use of the following names is suggested instead of the corresponding letters, algebraic notation to be used: A-Anna, B-Bella, C-Cesar, D-David, E-Eva, F-Felix, G-Gustav, H-Hector. Ranks from white to black shall receive the German numbers: 1-eins, 2-zwei, 3-drei, 4-vier, 5-funf, 6-sechs, 7-seiben, 8-acht. Castling is announced "Lange Rochade" (German for long castling) and "Kurze Rochade" (German for short castling). The pieces bear the names: Koenig, Dame, Turm, Laeufer, Springer, Bauer. When promoting a pawn the player must announce which piece is chosen.

The famous "touch, move" rule is also different: touching a piece is OK but you have to move a piece when you have picked it up. Some visual impaired players can still write the moves down as in sighed chess, but blind people use braille to write their moves, or record them on tape.

The clocks are different too, of course. It has the following features:

1. A dial fitted with reinforced hands, with every five minutes marked by one dot, and every 15 minutes by two raised dots.
2. A flag which can be easily felt. Care should be taken that the flag is so arranged as to allow the player to feel the minute hand during the last 5 minutes of the full hour.

13th Olympiad
The Olympiad was a Swiss system of 9 rounds in which 32 countries participated (the organizing country was allowed three teams instead of one). The rate of play was 2 hours for 40 moves + 1 hour for the rest of the game for each player.

Olympiad for the Blind and Visually Impaired

As the favorites for the title, the Russian team didn't lose a single match, and so they collected no less than 17 match points out of 9 games. Only the team from Ukraine could hold them to 2-2 (all games were drawn) and ended, as expected, second, but Spain surprised by finishing shared second, also on 13 match points (but much less board points).

2-2 between Ukraine and Russia

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A match at the Olympiad

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In 1994 the IBCA became a full member of FIDE and since then, an international team of blind players is allowed to take part in Chess Olympiads for the sighted people, on the same basis as national teams. This means a team of the strongest blind and visually impaired players will also travel to Dresden next week.

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Thanks to Sergio Harnandan, who helped me preparing this article. Sergio is a member of the Dutch team and he wrote that on the rest day, besides an IBCA conference there was organized an excursion to the ruins of Knosses. He was satisfied about his team's result: "We ended 20th, which was a good result for our team since it was five places higher than our starting number. We where happy with our results in this tournament and also with the social aspect of meeting chess players from different countries."

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

Stephen's picture

I was a guide at the 1996 IBCA Olympiad in Brazil. It was a fantastic experience. I would definitely welcome more coverage of IBCA events on chessvibes.

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