THANKS to Looking Back reader John Saunders, who responded to our query from Julie Leonard about the chess equivalent of the Paralympics being held in Weymouth in 1968.

Julie, editor of the Braille Chess Association Gazette, got in touch because she was wondering if anyone had photos or information on the Braille Chess Olympiad in Weymouth in 1968, for blind and partially sighted players.

It was only the third ever tournament of its kind in the world and the first to be held outside of Germany

The Braille Chess Association made the query because the association would like to mark the 50th anniversary of the event, which will be next year.

Unfortunately we haven't been able to get our hand on any photos of the tournament. but we have got plenty of information about it - and can reveal that the winners of the tournament was the U.S.S.R.

John Saunders told us: "I don't have access to photos of the 1968 Braille Chess Olympiad but I have a seven page British Chess Magazine report on it by Harry Golombek which may be of interest.

"John also directed our attention to the website which has extensive information about the tournament."

So here, thanks to John we can bring you a short report of the 1968 event from The British Chess Magazine, May 1968.

"This event, which took place at the beautiful seaside resort of Weymouth from March 29th to April 10th, has good claims to be an historic one. It was the third Blind Olympiad but the first event of its kind on a really worldwide scale. Nineteen countries sent teams— an immense increase on the seven of the previous Olympiad—and if we in England can be proud that it is this country which staged it our thanks should be primarily due to John Graham, whose activities would have put the beaver to shame and whom alas we shall sadly miss when he emigrates to America in a few months’ time.

"Nor should we forget that devoted couple, Mr. and Mrs. Cohn. How Mr. Cohn managed to play in the Olympiad and also pursue his enormous work as secretary and treasurer I cannot imagine.

"It may be that some of my readers do not know how blind players play chess so before going on to describe the course of play (which was, let me assure you, just as exciting in its ups and downs as the normal sighted Olympiad) just a few brief words as to how this is done. Each player has his own small Braille set. He moves a piece on his board and announces the move to his opponent. The latter, to show he has heard it, repeats the move and plays it on his own board. They take their moves down in braille and the chess clocks are especially fitted so that the blind player can feel how much time he has left for his moves. The Russians brought with them larger Braille sets so that a certain number of the players were able to use these and so dispense with their own smaller ones.

"Turning to the quality of the play I must confess I was surprised at the calibre of the players of the leading teams. These, in particular the Yugoslavs and the Russians (but there were also fine players from Czechoslovakia, Roumania, and the two Germanies), struck me as being of near master strength.

"From the first it was apparent that the struggle for first place was to lie between the title-holders, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet team. The latter constituted an unknown quantity in one way since this was their first attempt. But what was known was that they had some 15,000 registered blind players in the U.S.S.R. from which to draw and that vast eliminatory and training contests had preceded their entry.

"After the event had been officially opened by Sir Theodore Tylor, himself the best blind player this country has produced, play started in the spacious Pavilion. Later on, the remaining rounds, with the exception of the last one when we reverted to the Pavilion, were played in the restaurant adjoining the hotel where the players stayed.

"The final scores were: U.S.S.R. 35, Yugoslavia 33, Roumania 31£, East Germany 28^, Czechoslovakia 28, Austria 25^, Hungary and West Germany 23^, Spain 23, Eire 22^, United Kingdom 22, Poland 21^, Denmark and U.S.A. 21, Executive Team 19, Holland 18^, Israel 16, Sweden 14, Finland 10, and France 3.

So the U.S.S.R. succeeded in wresting the World Championship title from Yugoslavia at their first attempt. The success was well deserved, since, though man for man I believe the Yugoslavs were more talented, the Soviet team was much the better trained and disciplined. It seems that the team was the product of a series of eliminatory contests held all over the U.S.S.R.

"There were prizes for the best score on each board. On top board there was a tie between Demian (Roumania), Florian (Yugoslavia), Kristensen (Denmark), and Rudenski (U.S.S.R.), with a score of 8. Best score on second board was that of Novak (Czechoslovakia) 10; on third board Cabarkapa (Yugoslavia) 9; and on fourth board Turukin (U.S.S.R.) 11, i.e. 100 per cent!"

*Thanks very much to John for digging out this information.