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Where is Chess in the Deaf Community?:

ASLU ASL 2 Research Paper

By: Kevin Osborn Russell McGuire

June 20 2023


Did you know of a field that has been fought over for 1500 years? By two groups, nations I should say. They have fought over the same field in the same bloody way, and in the same formation starting by the two nations lining up their troops on opposite sides of the checkered field parallel to each other. With their eight infantry units in front and lined up behind them are two heavy fortresses of stone, two fast cavalry units, and two bishops. The center has the hardest toughest most ruthless unit of them all. And next to the commander, the one in which if dies all is lost and thrown into an abyss of confusion and disorientation. Welcome to the deeply intelligent world of chess. Now let's cut things down to size because chances are you're not standing in the middle of a field in Germany, England, or India. “You are sitting across a rock table with a chess set on it from Death, as in the movie The Seventh Seal.”(1957) “Or perhaps as in a recent media spin off of The Seventh Seal (1994), which has the last two members of the alternative band Depeche Mode, playing chess in honor of their recently deceased member Andy Fletcher in their music video “Ghosts Again.” ”( 0:00 - 3:56) Ok perhaps that wasn't really cutting it down to size, so let's try again. Perhaps you are like most people sitting across from another human being innocently, with the family’s old chess set in front of you. I for one personally wish that I played chess more often. It is such an ancient sage game, so tactical, and so silent. Gallaudet student Tim Rarus “played the game often as a boy, matching wits with his deaf grandfather”. (Deaf Protesters Test Mettle on Real-Life Chess Board, 2023) Rarus said he “learned valuable lessons about hasty moves, vague strategies, lack of resilience and one other especially important thing: you could win without saying a word.” (Deaf Protesters Test Mettle on Real-Life Chess Board, 2023) I would have thought it was ideally suited for the Deaf community. But yet finding anything regarding the Deaf and chess was as elusive as finding your shadow with no light to cast it. In this research paper, my three points are defining chess within the broad understanding and modern media knowledge of it, where I haven’t found it in Deaf society, and where I have found it in Deaf society. Though I may mention some of where it is in the hearing society since they also play chess, though we will not focus on that.


    According to Chess Invitational, a national chess competition for Deaf and Hard of Hearing high school students, “The beauty of chess is that it can be for everyone.” (The Deaf Chess Invitational) A factor that is indifferent to deaf or hearing is that intelligence is all you need for Chess… well that and a chess set. The fact that it is indifferent makes it really accessible. Though some have been able to play chess without a board like what we see in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. In the chess match between Holmes and Moriarty who can reel off a verbal code that illustrates certain movements of certain pieces to certain places

without looking at the board,( 2012) which is called “sans voir'' or “blindfold chess”. The code is similar to that used by wizardkind to sometimes command huge magic pieces to move across a board on their own. To quote Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone "Knight to H3.”(2001) In the article “Chess is Booming” written by Greg Keener of The New York Times according to them there has been an increase in popularity in chess due to lockdown. During the covid lockdown board games went up in usage. And chess being the grandfather of board games and one of the oldest that is still commonly played has been picked back up. Another reason mentioned in the article was the debut of the TV show The Queen’s Gambit; (Greg Keener, 2022) it appeared also to have also increased the boom in the popularity of chess. Much like how Stranger Things the TV show had an impact on Dungeons & Dragons rebirth as I mentioned in the paper “Dungeons and Dragons and the Difficulties Deaf People Face when Playing the Game”


I was expecting to find a healthy plethora of encouraging websites involving chess and the Deaf. Except you see a field of ruined buildings depicting the rise and fall of ten different civilizations ten different times. (Ten is not a precise number and is a bit of an exaggeration.) So I found this website called The United Deaf Chess Club created by Rogelio Perez, Jr. possibly in 2008. And because it was relevant to the topic of this paper, I printed it out on real paper. The United Deaf Chess Club had nine links that were all nonfunctional. When polishing up this paper I went back to that site, or rather tried, and found it no longer exists (The United Deaf Chess Club, Rogelio Perez, Jr.). Another website called“”) took me to American Chess Association of the Deaf’s website. On the site I found the tab that read “about:.” And there were four entries total. And they were videos. And their titles were thus in numerical order. Test Entry, Test Entry 2, Test Entry 3, and Test Entry 4. Test Entry 2 and 4 were copies of each other that featured an owl hooting in a tree for 1 minute and 5 seconds. Test Entries 1 & 3 were copies of each other again but featured the subtle emotional moving band called Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem performing the song “Jungle Boogie”. Let me make this even more clear: a Muppet song & video. No chess, no sign language, nothing about the deaf.  It had captions, that's about it.(Michael J. Deluca, “American Chess Association of the Deaf”) Then there is CHED, Chess Platform for Deaf People which is funded partially by the European Commission. Whoever was writing it sounded like they are a hearie, the statements feltremoved, they did not capitalize Deaf, almost always refered to “the deaf people”, and referred to them being with disability. To quote the site, “Very few of the deaf people, especially those with hearing parents who have had the opportunity and mood for considerable efforts, have completed normal education…”, “Deaf people are considered persons with disabilities…”, “Chess is the sport that can ensure the development of intellectual potential.” To me this sounds offensive. And it closed 30 months after it was opened on December 30th, 2022. (CHED) Now what we were just talking about were just chess clubs. As far as I’ve found Deaf chess players that have appeared in the press are Anaya Lall of Guana (“Anaya Lall among the youngest at the world Chess Championship for people with Disabilities”), Malika Handa from India (“Malika Handa”), and Yehuda Gruenfeld of Israel.(“Gruenfeld, Yehuda”) Carsten Thorup is a Deafblind chess player from Denmark. (“Interview with deafblind chess player Carsten Thorup”, 0:00-12:27) Though there are a some individuals worldwide, and that is good, none of these people seem to be from the United States or know ASL.


Now for the good stuff. So there are a few actual things. The only thing that seems to hold water is the global organization World Team Deaf Chess that in 2022 hosted a championship in Poland. World Team Deaf Chess only plays every four years. In 2022 they had just 22 countries and in those 22 countries the USA was not one of them. Not even in the crossed out or unconfirmed ones. But where is the United States? It was not in the World Team Deaf Chess Championship.(Webros Maclej Szalko) They seem to be on their own, minding their own business in high schools! The Deaf Chess Invitational’s Nicholas Catalano is looking for deaf schools to add. In 2019 “The tournament was the first of its kind when it was developed last year and has grown since then.”  In 2019 there were ten deaf schools participating. They have had five events, two of which were online during the pandemic. 2023 was held in Texas.(“The Deaf Chess Invitational.”)“”) had a link to ChessMaine 2019 Winter Deaflympics. In the 2019 Winter Deaflympics the American chess team didn’t seem to win any medals but it did say they had a strong performance.(“2019 Winter Deaflympics to Blitz Tournament.”)


For the people who are interested in playing it themselves, here are some chess signs that may prove useful. As far as signs go I found a couple of these videos helpful for ASL chess words. 


chess you like play? ( ← and subscribe)

Chess Pieces

king-chess ASL

queen-chess ASL

bishop ASL

knight-chess ASL

castle-chess ASL

pawn-chess ASL



One can make the argument seeing as how there are some ASL signs created that there must be some interest. But yet the interest in the Deaf community as a whole is lacking. Perhaps it is more of a family occurrence, like Tim Rarus playing his grandfather summer after Summer. (Rene Sanchez, “Deaf Protesters Test Mettle on Real-Life Chess Board.”)


In conclusion, I have to go back to the battlefield. There is a lack of Deaf commanders, even within what seems to be an upswing in the popularity of chess.  The battlefield remains mostly empty. Scattered with the remnants of broken towers, siege weapons, and broken spears, swords and shields. But in the shadows there are the recruits of a high school army. It's not that it doesn't exist, it's just incredibly hard to find.







ASL Connect “Chess Pieces” Youtube, Uploaded by ASL Connect , 22 Jan 2021

ASL Dictionary “King-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 14 Mar 2014

ASL Dictionary “Queen-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 3 Jul 2018

ASL Dictionary “Bishop-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 28 Feb 2014

ASL Dictionary “Knight-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 3 Jul 2018


ASL Dictionary “castle-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 3 Jul 2018

ASL Dictionary “pawn-chess ASL” ASL Dictionary, 18 Mar 2014

American Sign Language University. “chess you like play” Youtube, Uploaded by American Sign Language University, 23 June 2015

Ingmar Bergman ; Svensk Filmindustri. The Seventh Seal : a Film. [Acton, Mass.] 1957 :Home Vision, 1994.

DeLuca, Dan. “2019 Winter Deaflympics to Include Chess.”, Accessed: 5 June, 2023.

DeLuca, Dan. “2019 Winter Deaflympics to Blitz Tournament.”, Accessed: 5 June, 2023.

Michael J. Deluca. “American Chess Association of the Deaf”, Accessed: 10 May, 2023.

“Depeche Mode - Ghosts Again (Official Video)” Youtube, uploaded by Depeche Mode, 9 February 2023,

Alapítvány Hallatian “Chess” Alapítvány Hallatian, 29 Jan 2013

Chris Columbus, et al. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE . USA/UK, 2001.

“CHED”, Accessed: 17 June, 2023

Greg Keener. “Chess is Booming.” nytimes.com : Accessed: 24 June, 2023

Kevin Osborn Russell McGuire “Dungeons and Dragons and the Difficulties Deaf People Face when Playing the Game”

Accessed: 26 June, 2023

Rogelio Perez Jr. “The United Deaf Chess Club” (website absent and no longer functioning by June 2023)

Accessed: 29 April, 2023

Rene Sanchez. “Deaf Protesters Test Mettle on Real-Life Chess Board.”, Accessed: 1  June, 2023

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures ; a Silver Pictures production in association with Wigram Productions ; written by Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney ; produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, Dan Lin ; directed by Guy Ritchie. Sherlock Holmes : a Game of Shadows. Burbank, CA :Warner Home Video, 2012.

Webros Maclej Szalko

Accessed: 25 June, 2023

“The Deaf Chess Invitational.”,,to%2Dhead%20in%20friendly%20competition. Accessed: 17 June, 2023


Accessed: 26 June, 2023

“Anaya Lall among the youngest at the world Chess Championship for people with Disabilities”

Accessed: 25 June, 2023

“Malika Handa”

Accessed: 25 June, 2023

“Gruenfeld, Yehuda”

Accessed: 25 June, 2023

FIDE chess “Interview with deafblind chess player Carsten Thorup” FIDE chess , 23 Feb 2022

Accessed: 25 June, 2023



** The links in the article for signs are not endorsed by Lifeprint. They are signs the student found online and not to be taken as the only sign for chess terminology. **



If you are interested in some similar articles, check out:

Video Games and the Deaf

Gaming and the Deaf


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