The AEPA chess association is a group of blind chess players that meets every year during Ascension Weekend for four days. Francon is where the 20 competitors will be staying for the weekend. They will be accompanied by the Echec de l'Aviron Bayonnais Section in organizing the tournament.
Jean L'Herbon de Lussats and Bernard Duthoit are the presidents of the AEPA. They joke about how "blind chess is not an exceptional skill because all players can see it without having to have it in front of them".
The hardware is appropriate: the board features white raised squares and black recessed squares, and the black pieces have spikes. As the moves are announced, each player places his pieces on his board. A clock with headphones keeps track of the time and each player hears it ticking in his ear. An electronic Braille device records every shot. The referees enforce the rules.
The computer revolutionized chess. But the blind didn't wait until computers were available to them to play online: "The association was established in 1967. Bernard Duthoit explains that we used to send each move via post and a postcard back then. Later, we began playing over the telephone. We can laugh at the fact that we spend our lives staring at screens!
Yann Thevenet (44), lost his sight and all his social connections two years ago. He plunged headfirst into chess for blind people. "I enjoy the game, but the association is a great mutual aid at all levels. He was just a teenager when he represented France at the Olympiad in Rhodes. Clementine Kruk (20 years old), from Toulouse represents the next generation visually impaired French competitors.