Taken from The Braille Chess Association Gazette, May 2021
It’s More Than Just Chess!
by Donna J. Jodhan
In 2014, I and my friend Jackie journeyed from Canada to Windermere where I participated in the Windermere tournament. This is where I met some of the nicest and most welcoming folks. I met Peter Gibbs and his wife Celia. Denis and June Warren, and so many others.
I did not enter the tournament to necessarily win; I wanted to meet other blind and vision impaired chess players and to reacquaint myself with British hospitality and this is exactly what happened.
I lost to Mark Hague, was lucky to defeat Denis Warren and drew my other game. I had the good fortune to benefit from Ernie McElroy’s coaching and so many others reached out to me while I was there.
In 2019, I again visited Windermere this time with my friend Rebecca but having been sick prevented me from entering the tournament. Yet, it was a great visit and a most warm and welcoming one.
My friend Jilla drove me from London to Windermere and stayed with me for two days; leaving on the Tuesday and returning on the Saturday to drive me to Liverpool for a family reunion and then back to London to catch my flight back to Canada.
Both Liz and Mark Kirkham were so very nice to me on this visit. Liz took care of me while I was sick and Mark spent time playing a few friendly games against me.
Since my return from Windermere, I have had the wonderful opportunity to play friendly games against several folks and each game has helped me to learn, play, and even socialize from afar.
Mark has been such a wonderful inspiration to me; always the patient coach and always willing to impart his knowledge. I have made so many friends through the BCA despite being so far away and it just goes to show that across the miles does not pose barriers.
During this time of Covid I have learned that it’s not just about playing chess. It’s much more than just playing chess. It’s all about making friends via email or across the miles. It’s all about having fun, socializing, and getting to know each other. It’s all about the fact that we are all in this together and helping each other to stay strong, stay safe, and help each other to keep positive.
I am so very lucky and fortunate to be involved in the BCA and it does not matter that I live here in Canada and others live across the pond in Britain. I have made so many new chess friends but they are more than just chess friends. We play chess, discuss the weather, talk about our cooking adventures and exchange so many varying ideas.
I thank Julie Leonard for helping me along, Eamonn Casey, Philip Doyle, and Paul Benson. To Ednun Pourtahmasbi for having made it possible for me to purchase magnetic chess sets and to Irene Elbourn and Denis Warren for being such willing friendly game players.
You see, for me, it’s a lot more than just playing chess! Maybe much sooner than later when this horrible Covid choke hold is gone but never forgotten, I will once more venture across the pond where I hope to meet some of my cherished chess friends.