Inclusive Chess Playing

chess board for blind with pieces and a hand reaching out to play

We at DSE wonder if days in Turkey have more than 24 hours. Recently we shared with you the Dialogue in Silence participation in the Kocaely book fair and also the tango performance by blind and deaf guides.

Today we share a new initiative by the Dialogue Museum in Turkey: chess playing for blind and deaf persons.

To answer our question about the duration of the Turkish days, our partner Hakan ELbir says: “I am so lucky because I am somehow always inspired by so many beautiful people. Seçkin is one of them. He is a volunteer chess teacher for some of our blind and deaf guides”.

The story of Seçkin is a story of great personal transformation. We had the chance to talk to him.

How did you arrive to chess and people with disability?

“Since 2009 I have been teaching chess to many individuals, ranging from preschoolers to university students, to adults with professions and mostly to high school students. While I was playing for the chess team of Istanbul Bar Association, against a chess team of visually impaired, I got curious as to how blind chess players learned the game. I made their acquaintance and starting from November, 2017, I have become the chess coach of Altı Nokta Körler Derneği. I have started teaching chess over Skype sessions once a week, and volunteered to work at an elementary school. My experience of ten years was not quite sufficient, but I got used to it after a few sessions and in January, in a chess tournament for the visually impaired held in Antalya, one of my students got the second place, tied for the first. At the tournament hall I made the acquaintance of Mr. Ozden Çetin, one of the coworkers of Dialogue in the Dark. He thought very positively of my approach and invited me to Dialogue in the Dark”.

How was your experience teaching chess at the Dialogue Museum in Istanbul?

“When I started teaching at the Dialogue Museum, all I had in mind was teaching chess to the visually impaired but the harmony of the Museum made me face a peculiar problem. I received a huge support from Mr. Hakan Elbir and he encouraged me to do so. I was supposed to teach both the visually impaired and the hearing impaired simultaneously. My knowledge of chess, which I acquired at the age of three and kept improving thenceforth, and my FI document (Fide Instructor) availed to nothing because I was face to face with a problem that I hitherto had not come across and utterly unknown to me. Although I have had experiences with the visually impaired, I was inexperienced with the hearing impaired and it would prove quite difficult teaching both simultaneously. I made their acquaintance and then separated them into two groups, one comprised of those who knew nothing about chess, and the other of those who knew how the pieces moved. In May we united the groups and started working together with purpose. The method had transpired by itself on the way. In virtue of this concord and harmony I was teaching chess both by using the board, and by reciting notations of games. This simultaneous teaching led me to speak more refined and to express myself more clearly.”

Wow! And what happened with you after this unusual experience? Could you sense any personal transformation?

“On the grounds of this interaction and change I have decided to learn the sign language. I have assumed a different perspective on chess, which I previously believed I knew very well. I had to develop an original method when I had no reference points. Thanks to the heterogeneous group that I taught at the Dialogue Museum, the experience I have acquired in time has helped me improve my method of teaching. Aforementioned group loved playing chess and now our common purpose is to start playing it blindfolded (with no board and pieces, playing chess merely by notation).”

Amazing! Here you can watch a video of the inclusive chess playing in action! Thanks a lot Seçkin for your voluntary teaching and your courage to go beyond. Thanks a lot Hakan and the staff of the Dialog Museum in Istanbul for your endless energy!