IBCA World Individual Championship – from Owen Phillips

This is a forerunner of the reports that will be winging their way to the ECF in coming weeks from the wonderful island of Rhodes, the ancient base of the Knights Templar! It is a great setting for the 2023 edition of the IBCA World Individual Chess Championship (for blind and visually impaired players), which from 8-18th October will be taking place in the 5* Rodos Palace Hotel. Fortunately this hotel, and indeed Rhodes town, was spared from the damage of the recent huge forest fires on the island!

The lone UK entrant (in the absence this year of the BCA numero uno Chris Ross) is BCA and Witney Chess Club Member Gary Hogan; who in his first year playing chess has achieved an ECF rating of 1820 (quite a marker!). He is coached and guided in Rhodes by English Regional Master and BCA Associate Life Member, Owen Phillips, who also happens to shortly be taking up the post of ECF Chess Accessibility Manager.

Owen notes that Gary is very excited and honoured to be representing the UK at this prestigious championship. His expectations cannot be overly high in what is his first foray into international chess and without (as yet) having a FIDE rating he is ranked 80/80 in a strong field topped by thrice World Champion, GM Marcin Tazbir of Poland. The field also includes five IMs, three FMs and two CMs.

Gary has been training hard with Owen, and also wants to thank ECF CEO and Witney man Mike Truran for some practice and confidence building tips, as well as BCA Members Stan Lovell and Paul Benson for their practice games with him. Owen notes that he wants Gary to have a good time, and whatever his performance he expects they will both fit in some swimming and a few tours between rounds and game preparation!

IBCA, which is the World leading body for blind and visually impaired players has grown since its inception in 1958, to now have almost 70 member federations, and this year’s championship has some 80 participants from some 30 of those federations. Notably, Russian and Belarus players are not eligible to play due to the present hostilities in Ukraine. Other than World Individual Open and European Individual, World Ladies and World Junior events, IBCA also organises an Olympiad, and European, World Team and Pan American championships. It is well recognised by FIDE, and as such also separately sends teams to the FIDE Olympiads.

The current World Open Champion, who is seeded 6th in Rhodes, is IM Nikac Predrag of Montenegro. Past multiple World Champions have included IM Cabaskapa (of former Yugoslavia), IM Sergey Krylov of USSR and then of Russia, IM Alex Smirnov of Russia, IM Jounoussow of Kazakhstan, and IM Piotr Dukaczewski of Poland, who is only ranked 14th in this edition of the event!

The current and multiple World Ladies Champion is WIM Liubov Zjiltzova Lisenko of Poland, and the World Junior Champion is Adam Czajkowski of Poland. So Tazbir is aiming for a current treble for the Polish Federation!

Members can get a good feel for the strength of play in such an event from reading the recent book Blind Faith (Steel City Press) by Chris Ross, who was the 2015 IBCA Olympiad Silver Medallist, and who for many years now has had an ECF grade well over 2200 or its equivalent. Gary is hoping to play alongside Chris and other top BCA players in forthcoming IBCA team events, but first wants to achieve a good first FIDE rating from participating in this elite event.

Your prayers and best wishes would be much appreciated. Keep tuned in for regular updates. Go Go GARY!

Owen Phillips 2/10/23