IX IBCA World Team Chess Championship for the Blind and Visually Impaired took place in Ohrid, North Macedonia, from June 27 – July 08, 2022. The event was organized by the National Sports Federation of the Blind of North Macedonia in cooperation with the Chess Federation of North Macedonia. Every team featured four players and up to two reserves. Players used specialized Braille chess boards, talking clocks, and voice recording equipment. The competition followed the “trademark” IBCA format that combines round robin and double knockout, similar to some high-level football tournaments. Sixteen strongest teams, according to the results of the 2021 IBCA Olympiad, were seeded into two groups of eight teams each, where they played a seven-round RR. In the Yellow Group (Y), the top-3 finishers were Poland (13 match points), Ukraine (12 MP), and Hungary (11 MP). The Red Group (R) was won by Serbia (10 match points, 20 game points), followed by Spain (10 MP, 16 GP), and India (8 MP).
On the rest day before the playoffs the organizers kindly arranged a free boat excursion on Lake Ohrid, a unique aquatic ecosystem of worldwide importance that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which culminated in a visit to the Monastery of Saint Naum, an Eastern Orthodox holy site established in 905 AD. In the evening, players and officials got together to celebrate the life of Dr Ludwig Beutelhoff, the longest-serving past IBCA president (2005-2017), who passed away at the age of 74. The IBCA 2nd Vice-President, Ms Diana Tsypina (CAN), read a tribute on behalf of the IBCA that commemorated Dr Beutelhoff and outlined his numerous achievements in philosophy, governance, Braille chess, and the Deutscher Schachbund. Then, other IBCA Board members, coaches, and players shared personal stories live or via pre-recorded video messages and reflected on how the deceased acted as a patient mentor and a role model and touched their lives profoundly. Dr Beutelhoff’s widow, Christine, was the guest of honour at this commemorative ceremony.
In the top-four semifinal bracket, Poland (Y1) prevailed over Spain (R2) 2.5-1.5, while Serbia (R1) defeated Ukraine (Y2) 3.5-0.5. The decisive matches were:
For the bronze medal: Ukraine (SF2-L) - Spain (SF1-L)
For the championship title: Serbia (SF2-W) - Poland (SF1-W)
Both hard-fought matches ended in a 2-2 draw, so the winners were decided on the tiebreaks. Final standings:
Champion – Team Poland (GM Marcin Tazbir, IM Jacek Stachanczyk, IM Piotr Dukaczewski. Ryszard Suder, Michal Wolanski, Andrzej Migala; captain Marcin Tazbir)
Silver medal – Team Serbia (FM Pavle Dimic, CM Damjan Jandric, Stefan Janjic, Mile Bjelanovic, FM Sretko Avram; captain Nikola Ivanovic)
Bronze medal – Team Ukraine (Vladyslav Kolpakov, Igor Shepelev, WIM Lubov Zsiltzova-Lisenko, Ivan Yatsishin; captain Oleksandr Frantsuzov)
Individual board prizes were won by players from seven countries, with gold medals awarded to:
First board GM Marcin Tazbir (POL)
2nd board Soundarya Kuman Pradhan (IND)
3rd board Stefan Janjic (SRB)
4th board Ivan Yatsishin (UKR)
Reserve board Michal Wolanski (POL)
The closing ceremony on July 07 became a huge celebration for Braille players and their supporters. Non-seeing players, their accompanying persons, captains, coaches, officials, and spectators gathered in the sumptuous Biljana Hall at the Metropol Luxury Resort Ohrid, which was exclusively adorned with national-motif posters, and the flags of all sixteeb participating nations. A real constellation of dignitaries attended, including authorized representatives from the Agency for Youth and Sports of the Republic of North Macedonia and from the Ohrid municipality; Dr Charudatta Jadhav (IND), the IBCA President; Ms Diana Tsypina (CAN), the IBCA 2nd Vice-President; Mr Sasha Bogdanovikj, President, the Chess Federation of North Macedonia; Mr Blagoj Mishevski, President, National Sports Federation of the Blind of North Macedonia; Mr Zarko Selkovski, President, Braille Chess Association of North Macedonia.
In his opening speech, Mr Sasha Bogdanovikj, President of the Chess Federation of North Macedonia, stressed that the IX IBCA World Team Championship for the Blind and Visually Impaired was the first world-level event for the non-seeing players organized in North Macedonia. The strategic thinking of Macedonian national and regional authorities, the excellent collaboration between the IBCA, the National Sports Federation of the Blind of North Macedonia, the Chess Federation of North Macedonia, the organizers, and local authorities made it possible for close to one hundred participants from about twenty countries to meet in person and enjoy chess.
An extended address by the IBCA President Dr Charudatta Jadhav, summarized new accomplishments of the Braille chess community. He noted that the IX IBCA World Team Championship for the Blind and Visually Impaired was a complete success and a remarkable achievement for players, officials, and the organizers, made possible by the hospitality and friendliness of North Macedonia and its people. Fair play and good sportsmanship were demonstrated by everyone.
Dr Jadhav thanked the Chief Arbiter and both Deputy Chief Arbiters for their excellent work. They always acted in the best interests of the competition and ensured the best conditions for the blind and visually impaired players. The CA and the DCAs also generously used their considerable skills in Braille chess to train local arbiters in the intricacies of these specialized type of competitions, thus ensuring cohesiveness and excellent functioning of the arbiter team for this event.
The IBCA President told the audience that on July 03, the IBCA Board held a hybrid in-person/teleconference meeting from Ohrid and adopted several important documents that would strengthen the IBCA governance and allow the organization to advance in accordance with its strategic development plan for 2021-25. The IBCA and its national members – the organizations, specifically established for the promotion of Braille chess for the blind and visually impaired – work in harmony with respective countries’ governments, NGOs, national Paralympic Committees, the International Blind Sports Federation, FIDE, and other international associations as partners respecting each other’s core areas of expertise and advancing the goals set in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and similar documents.
Mr Blagoj Mishevski, President National Sports Federation of the Blind of North Macedonia, reflected on the importance of government and societal support for players with disabilities and described how advanced North Macedonia has become in this direction.
Chief Arbiter Vadim Tsypin (CAN) announced the official results of the team competition and the board prizes. The dignitaries presented players and captains with medals, certificates, and trophies. The winners were met with huge applause. A national anthem of Poland was played.
The International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) is the supreme body responsible for chess for the blind and visually impaired. The IBCA is part of the International Blind Sports Federation and an Affiliated Member of FIDE. Founded in 1958, the IBCA has grown to more than sixty countries on four continents. Its major competitions include the Blind Chess Olympiad and the Blind World Chess Championships.