In the words of legendary blind American singer Stevie Wonder: ‘Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.’
The same words apply for the 60 visually impaired chess players who are taking part in the four-day long Braille Chess Competition, organised by the National Fellowship for the Advancement of Visually Handicapped, which got underway at the Bangladesh Chess Federation on Saturday.
Even though the organisation is yet to get the formal affiliation from the BCF, they received all kinds of technical assistance from the chess federation to implement such a noble initiative.
Walton also agreed to give financial support to hold the tournament.
A total of 50 male and 10 female visually challenged chess players from all over the country are taking part in the competition.
Some of them were blind by born while some lost their eyesight later, but all of them came here to prove that if you have sheer imagination you can even overcome blindness.
Ejaz Hossain, a 32-year-old English literature student of BRAC University, started his playing career as a normal chess player in 1994 before he lost his eyesight in 2003 due to retina disorder.
Ejaz is the only visually impaired chess player in Bangladesh who has the experience of playing at the national level and has FIDE rating points .
Though he was absent from the game for 10 years, blindness could not take away his passion. After finishing his ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels with outstanding grades, Ejaz returned to chess.
‘Chess is my life which is why I returned to the game after a 10-year gap in 2014 and took part in the second division chess league,’ said Ejaz, who is also a senior teacher at Elegance International Chess Club.
‘I teach chess to the people with eyesight at the club and I also take part in domestic tournaments with normal players.
‘A year before losing my eyesight in 2003, I was nominated for the national team twice and I’m the only blind player in Bangladesh who has FIDE ratings.’
Ejaz claimed that there are many talented visually challenged chess players around the country but they don’t get enough facilities to blossom.
‘In India near about 70 blind players have rating points,’ he said adding that, ‘If we get more training facilities we have a bright future to do better at the international level.’
Rafiqul Islam, who just finished his academic career from Chittagong University, is one of the senior blind players of the country, who started his career in 1996.
Rafiqul, an unemployed person, who finished fourth in the last Braille Chess Tournament in 2014, is competing here to impress the officials and sponsors to get a job.
‘From 1996 till 2015 I took part in every blind tournament and placed in between top 10 every time,’ said Rafiqul.
‘After finishing my education, I remained jobless and this tournament may give me some opportunity to show my potential and also prove that blindness is not an obstacle to do any kind of job.
‘We have seen that some corporate houses like Walton always come forward to offer job facilities to the talented and unprivileged athletes. So, I think this tournament will be a great opportunity for me.’
Abul Hossin, a political science honours final year student of Dhaka University, lost his sight from typhoid when he was only 10 years old but that could not drop his interest to the game.
‘From my early childhood I started playing chess and took part in many tournaments,’ said Abul.
‘I became ninth in a Braille [an association for blind and partially sighted chess players] Chess Tournament in 2008.’
Jahangir Alam, the executive director of NFAVH, who was the main man behind for holding the tournament also hoped to organise this kind of tournaments on regular basis.
‘We work with the physically challenged and autistic people in various aspects. Sport is one of them and we have a wish to hold this kind tournament regularly if sponsors like Walton provide us financial support,’ said Jahangir who is also a visually impaired person.
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