Do you play chess? Try playing it blindfold,” says Shashidhara K M, while sharing details for this article. He tries the following routine each time he is on his way to a chess tournament — jumping with the knight across the entire board, working out the shortest route from one square to another. “For example, what is the best way for my knight to make it from b1 to g8? It helps me prepare for my game,” says the visually-impaired chess player who recently won a chess tournament hosted by RC Bangalore (RCB), RID 3190, at Rotary House of Friendship, the club’s auditorium.
For the visually-impaired player “the game is all about visualisation, imagination, calculation and touch. The touch of the pin on the pieces helps the player from distinguishing a white piece from a black one and can also determine whether the piece is a pawn, rook, bishop, knight, queen or king.” A special chessboard is used where the squares on the braille board are raised and have dots on them to identify the different squares on the board. The player is, therefore, able to have a clear picture in her mind of the position on the board. And a special clock keeps note of the time each player has taken to make a move.
The one-day Speed Chess Tournament for the visually-challenged was organised in association with the Karnataka State Chess Association for the blind, and 34 players from Bengaluru, Raichur, Mandya, Bagalkot, Mysuru, and other cities, pitted their skills against each other in a Swiss League format. Here no player is eliminated and the winner is chosen on the basis of the highest number of moves in the time given. All participants received a certificate in Braille, while 10 winners were given cash prizes totalling ₹25,000.
Sandeep Ohri, RCB’s vocational services chair, says “Chess is the only game where the blind can play on par with the sighted. Not only is it interesting to watch but the accuracy with which they play is mind-boggling.” In tandem with Rotary’s DEI policy, his club has been actively promoting “inclusiveness for the visually-challenged. We chartered RC Bangalore Abilities (RBA), probably one of the few Rotary clubs in the world that is formed of disabled members, doing work for the disabled!”
We chartered RC Bangalore Abilities (RBA), probably one of the few Rotary clubs in the world that is formed of disabled members, doing work for the disabled.
The club has also bought an annual subscription to a lifestyle Braille magazine for the members of RBA. “There are course and subject books, but the visually- challenged have no access to lifestyle magazines or light reads.” When the club came across White Print, a 64-page English monthly with a variety of articles on entertainment, leadership, fiction, news, sports, and current affairs, “making it truly an enjoyable experience for the visually-challenged, we bought subscriptions for RBA members. They identified 25 institutions across Karnataka, who will be given multiple copies of the White Print, for a year at a cost of ₹1.3 lakh and will benefit close to 1,000 visually-challenged people.”
Once the chess tournament had concluded, copies of the magazine were handed over to RBA president Aravind, who says “It’s entertaining as we will have more topics to discuss with the people we meet and the joy of owning something made exclusively just for our community is indescribable.”