How Chess and Chess Braille Can Level the Playing Field

The game of chess is both an ancient, exotic sport credited with teaching the art of war to sophisticated civilisations long before our own day; and a favourite way for primary-school teachers to fill in some time near the end of the year when energy is flagging and attention is waning. There are numerous health benefits associated with chess, as with many other things like gardening; among them: increased memory activity, delay of Alzheimer’s, better concentration levels and a sharper mind.
So you learn to move the pieces around the board: the Queen can go anywhere she likes; the Knight can jump over other pieces; the Castle, (or is it a Rook?) always gets stuck behind all the other pieces except when he can jump over the King; the King doesn’t really do anything; and the Pawns, well they charge ahead and crash along, creating as much havoc as they can until they are felled with equal zeal by your opponent.
How do you learn more sophistication than that?
There are uncountable numbers of books, games, diagrams, chess analisys engines and now YouTube videos of course, which impart numberless grains of wisdom to those prepared to mine them. Many villages have a chess club; with divisions at county level and nationally as part of the, slightly mis-named, UK-wide <a href=”>english Chess Federation</a>.
If, however, you cannot see, the art of chess becomes exponentially harder to learn. Leaving aside the books with their endless diagrams, the lines of play; the open squares; the attacked squares; the weak lines of defence; the spatial advantages and combinational tactics are much more easily apprehended through our vision and must be sorted out one from the other. Along with playing for a local club, or as part of a correspondence league, there must be a code, a way for blind chess players to study and analyse the immortal games of champions, those who have dominated the chess world and influenced future generations in our thinking about this most esoteric and endlessly fascinating of sports.
The Braille Chess Code of the UK joins other codes internationally in providing this service. It is a hybrid of the codes used in North america which mirror print chess notation closely; and the <a href=””>Informator chess code</a>, (preeminent in Eastern Europe, singular in its ability to transcend language by its universality.)
The British braille chess code uses special symbols, specific Braille formatting, and a strict adherence to minimal Braille cell space, thus affording a blind aficionado a quick means of analysing a position or puzzle. The preferred diagram notation is the Forsyth system, which uses symbol order and dot patterns to indicate piece and square, much as music Braille and non-latin alphabets get increased mileage out of 64 dot combinations to perform multiple tasks. It was necessary, because until quite recently, producing chess diagrams was virtually impossible. Not any more, thanks to companies like ours, but enough shameless promotion on <a href=”″>my own bespoke, braille transcription website</a>)!
For anyone who’s interested in learning more about chess for the blind, I suggest visiting the <a href=””>Braille chess association</a> for more information. It is the UK’s primary promoter of chess for the vision impaired. The <a href=””>BCA</a> sponsors chess in schools for vision-impaired students; subsidises adapted chess sets from quality sources; offers coaching via Skype; holds regular tournaments and much, much more. It is a veritable battalion in the march toward a level playing field.