Throwback Thursday Object: 1950s Game Board for the Blind




Our object of the week is a 1930s game board from the National Institute for the Blind.  You could use the tactile board and pieces to play traditional chess or checkers—or as the English called it “draughts.”  The board is embossed with dots that indicate "black" squares and left smooth to indicate white (or red) squares. Holes in the middle of each square hold the plastic game pieces. Holes on the margins hold pieces that are not in play. Game pieces are black and brown, with the brown side having a central point on top. Pieces are further distinguished by their top shape. For example the knight has a conical top and the rook has a ring.  Our set is missing one pawn. 

The NIB was founded in 1868 as the British and Foreign Blind Association for Promoting the Education and Employment of the Blind.  Its name changed to the National Institute for the Blind in 1914, and to Royal National Institute for the Blind in 1953.  In 1920, NIB expanded its mandate to include the production and sale of "Apparatus for Use by the Blind" and produced its first catalog soon after.  You can still buy a chess set from RNIB, although their modern pieces more closely resemble standard chess pieces than this unique set.  Chess sets adapted for players who are blind or visually impaired have a long tradition and blind players are often encountered in chess tournaments.

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