Checkmate: Vision for the visually-impaired


Recently, I ran into Rufina Fernandes. She’s the Chief Executive Officer of the Nasscom Foundation (some difficulty to get through this page currently, but can find some links to its cached site here).

As its name suggests, the Nasscom Foundation is linked to the National Association of Software and Service Companies, which in turn calls itself “the premier trade body and ‘voice’ of the IT software and service industry in India”.

Rufina holds responsibility for overall operations of Nasscom Foundation. She has also been working in the field of CSR (“corporate social responsibility”). An alumni of The Xavier’s Institute of Management in Mumbai, when we met she was talking chess.

Why? Because the Worli-Mumbai based All India Chess Federation for the Blind is holding the XI Individual World Chess Championship for the Blind in Goa from October 8-19, 2006. It’s scheduled to be hosted by India “for the first time in history” that this event is being held outside Europe.

Ms Fernandes pointed out to one section in their brochure:

Chess is particularly relevant for visually-challenged persons. It is the only game that the visually-impaired can play against the sighted on an equal footing. In fact, visually-impaired players have pitted their wits and outshine sighted players in open tournaments. After all, it is the battle of the minds!

Ms Fernandes says they expect 41 countries to take part, and currently the network has 100+ participants, including international masters and grand-masters. India will have two teams of four people each, as host.

In India, she informs, this activity started in 1997. Currently some 14 states are active in the network. Lots has been done by states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and more recently, by West Bengal and Gujarat. In 1998, India stood a joint second, inspite of lacking the infrastructure and support back home.

Everywhere, the advertising world equates chess to a strategic move. Consulting firms and banks use chess coins when they want to convey a message through their adverts, suggesting their strategic moves. But when it comes to the brasstacks, there is very little support (from officialdom and others). Everyone in India supports cricket

, says this spokesperson who has been associated with this network.

Some links: International Association for Blind and Visually Impaired Chess, braille chess associations from all over the world, useful links from the US Braille Chess Association, United States Braille Chess Association, Braille Chess Association of Ireland. Even the All India Chess Federation for the Blind is among the top seven to ten Google.com-ranked websites.

In India, you could also contact Charudatta Jadhav, the general secretary of the All India Chess Federation for the Blind at charudattaj at gtllimited.com or chess at eth.net.

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