She’s a Chess Champion Who Can Barely See the Board


Have you heard this story earlier than? Girl has tough begin in life, discovers chess. She turns into a United States champion. She research Russian. And now she wants to search out a technique to get to Russia to play chess, as a result of she will’t afford it.

No, I’m not speaking about Beth Harmon, the fictional hero of the Netflix megahit “The Queen’s Gambit.” Meet Jessica Lauser, the reigning three-time U.S. Blind chess champion. You can name her Chessica — the nickname her math trainer gave her in eighth grade.

Lauser, now 40, was born 16 weeks prematurely. Like many infants born that early, she wanted oxygen, which broken her eyes, a situation known as retinopathy of prematurity. One eye is totally blind; in the different she has 20/480 eyesight. Her visible discipline is proscribed, and the chess items seem blurred and distorted. She can inform when a sq. on the board is occupied, however she will’t all the time inform which piece it’s.

When she’s taking part in in opposition to a sighted participant in a event, she is going to clarify all of this. The largest drawback is the touch-move rule in chess, which says that if you happen to contact a piece, it’s important to transfer it.

Chess has been Lauser’s refuge for a very long time. She learned the game at age 7, when she transferred from the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind to a mainstream school. At that age, she says, “it was just a game like Monopoly or Parcheesi.” But by seventh grade, when she started at a new school in California, she had begun to take the game more seriously.

“When I walked into class on the first day, the first thing I saw at the back of the room were waist-high cabinets with chess sets on top,” Lauser says. “I knew that the kids were going to call me ‘Four-Eyes,’ and I said, ‘Hey, maybe if I beat them, then they will finally shut up.’”

Lauser, who now lives in Kansas City, Mo., and works for the Internal Revenue Service, has lived in a staggering number of places, as her blindness has made it difficult to secure a steady job. She has been homeless within the past year. It’s a very sore subject with her. “What frustrates me most is not getting a fair shot at life, because of how I was born,” she says. In order to maintain her eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance, she cannot make more than $2,110 a month.

In October, Lauser won her third consecutive U.S. Blind championship — a tournament that was held in person, in spite of the pandemic. It had been postponed from July. Before the pandemic, says Virginia Alverson, the president of the U.S. Blind Chess Association, she had hoped to attract 20 participants. (Normally about 10 players come, out of about 100 members.) But with the pandemic, they had to settle for three: Alverson, her roommate, Pauline Downing, and Lauser. “We felt that if Jessica was willing to travel from Kansas City to New Hampshire to defend her title, we should have some sort of tournament,” Alverson says. “It says a lot about Jessica that she wanted to come. Jessica loves to play chess. And truth to say, I wanted to see Jessica.”

This year’s Olympiad for People with Disabilities, held over Thanksgiving weekend, was a much higher-profile event. Originally scheduled for Siberia in August, it was moved online, and attracted 60 teams from 44 countries. The U.S. team, led by Aigner on first board, tied for tenth place. Lauser started slowly but won a key last-round game against a player from Brazil. And she was arguably the most important player, because each team was required to field a female player. Without her, there would not have been a U.S. team.

“In the middle of the tournament, after she lost the first three rounds, we played about an hour of blitz chess, just for fun,” Aigner says. “She was playing all of her gambits against me, and in some of the games I got in trouble. When she finally won in round four, my reaction was thank goodness someone else gets to see how good you are. She was playing the style she played against me in blitz, and of course she won.”

Currently (subject to change), the next Olympiad is scheduled for Russia in 2022. Lauser would like to go, but she is not sure how she can. This year, before the event in Siberia was canceled, FIDE, the international chess federation, offered to pay accommodations plus 1,500 euro for travel — or about $1,800. “Whether that would get people to Russia and back is debatable,” says Chris Bird, FIDE events manager of the U.S. Chess Federation. Until the pandemic is over, the federation is not giving financial support to teams for international events.

For Lauser, it’s a familiar story. She has also qualified for the world blind championship six times, but has never been able to attend.

In the short run, Lauser hopes to keep her job in Kansas City, as well as her current apartment, from which she can hear the trains rumble by on their way to and from Union Station. Long-term, she says, “My dream situation would be to make enough money to live on, to not be struggling with debt, maybe to have a home at some point. To be able to use Russian every day, to be able to compete, to be able to help others. Maybe live in Russia, teach English and play chess.”




Source link Nytimes.com

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