The 11th IBCA World Women’s and Junior Chess Championships for the Blind and Visually Impaired, organized by the IBCA, the French Blind Chess Association, and the Maison d’Échecs de Toulouse Lardenne, chief organizer Mr. Laurent Kruk, took place in Castelnaudary, France, from July 10-18, 2022. The participants, representing 18 federations from three continents, used specialized Braille chess boards, talking clocks, and voice recording equipment. On a rest day, the organizers kindly offered a boat trip on the Canal du Midi, France’s major navigable waterway that connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and an excursion to the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, inhabited since 3500 BC and famous for an eponymous board name.
The battle for the junior title went down to the wire. Tage Johansson, a student of renowned Swedish coach and Braille organizer Jörgen Magnusson, showed a lot of character coming from behind. Ranked 5th-4th-3rd-2nd as the tournament progressed, he climbed slowly but steadily and claimed gold after pulling off a decisive victory in the last round. Bravo to a talented player and to a magnificent teacher!
Gold Medal Tage Johansson (SWE)
Silver Medal Aryan B Joshi (IND)
Bronze Medal Michal Racis (POL)
In the Women’s championship, WIM Liubov Zsiltzova-Lisenko from Kyiv, Ukraine, dominated the field, scoring 8.5 points out of 9. Her achievement was universally cheered as yet another manifestation of cohesiveness and solidarity. Players from war-torn Ukraine faced numerous obstacles to their participation in the 2022 IBCA World Team Ch. in North Macedonia and the 2022 IBCA World Women’s Ch. in France but were able to overcome them all with the help of the worldwide Braille chess family that organized a successful fundraising effort and ensured players’ safe passage.
National Braille associations of Sweden, Germany, Canada, North Macedonia, France, Italy, as well as the IBCA itself, generously contributed enough money to make possible both the participation of Team Ukraine in the Championship in Ohrid and the participation of Liubov Zsiltzova-Lisenko, Ukraine’s best female Braille player, in the Championship in Castelnaudary. This is a great example of solidarity that transcends borders!
Gold Medal WIM Liubov Zsiltzova-Lisenko (UKR)
Silver Medal WFM Anna Stolarczyk (POL)
Bronze Medal Emilia Egeman (POL)
In an emotional interview taken after the completion of the final round, the Women’s Champion Liubov Zsiltzova-Lisenko said:
“I came from a country which is ravaged by war. On February 24, Russia started unprovoked aggression, which is universally condemned by the United Nations and other international bodies. Every day, Russia is bombing our peaceful cities, killing civilians, including children. It was very difficult for me to play in this competition. I didn’t train or prepare. I was crying non-stop, mourning relatives, friends, and colleagues who were killed. I would like to thank the IBCA, the worldwide Braille community, and the French organizers for resolving all financial issues and making it possible for me to come here. I tried very hard to win this championship for my country and to tell you the truth about the situation in Ukraine. Thank you for your solidarity. Please continue supporting Ukraine.”
The closing ceremony on July 17 featured Mr. Patrick Maugard, Mayor of Castelnaudary; Mr. Philippe Greffier, President of the Unions of communes Castelnaudary Lauragais Audois (CCLA); Dr. Charudatta Jadhav (IND), the IBCA President; Ms. Diana Tsypina (CAN), the IBCA 2nd Vice-President; Mr. Pierre Leblic, President of the Ligue Échecs Occitanie; Mr. Jérôme Reboul, director general of Mutualia Alliance Santé, the principal sponsor; Mr. Guy Spanghero, owner and general manager of the IBIS Style hotels; Ms. Laurie Delorme, Vice-President of the French Chess Federation (FFE); Mr. Franck Drouin, Chairman of the Health, Social and Handicapped Commission of the FFE; Ms. Sabine Chabert, Ms. Nicole Cathala, Ms. Valérie Gomez, authorized representatives of municipal agencies in charge of tourism and the affairs of the disabled.
The ceremony started with a live rendition of the French anthem. Then, Mayor Patrick Maugard thanked all participants and officials for coming to Castelnaudary and reminded them of the rich history of the province of Lauragais and the Occitane region. For ten days, the world capital of Cassoulet opened its heart to disabled players. He highlighted excellent collaboration between the IBCA, the organizers and local authorities that made it possible for the participants to meet in Castelnaudary in person and to enjoy chess.
Mme Clementine Kruk read the heartfelt message from Mr. Bernard Duthoit, President of the French Blind Chess Association, who sadly couldn’t attend in person due to COVID-19.
The IBCA President, Dr Charudatta Jadhav, thanked the French authorities, the local organizers, and the IBCA Board members for all the hard work they put into two very difficult events. When we were looking for a venue for this competition, we were immediately won over by the enthusiasm of the teams from the town of Castelnaudary, led by Mayor Maugard, and from the Union of communes Castelnaudary Lauragais Audois, led by Mr Greffier and Ms Chaubert, and we would like to thank all team members warmly for going an extra mile to ensure great conditions for players and officials. Your devotion and selflessness allowed the best women and juniors to shine.
Chief Arbiter Stephen Boyd (FRA) announced the official results. The dignitaries presented the players with medals and trophies. The winners were met with a huge applause. National anthems of Sweden and Ukraine were 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.