by Nicolette Mok
Nothing stops national para chess player Edwin Tan from enjoying the game.
The first thing Edwin Tan noticed, upon arriving at his photo shoot, was that there had been an error in the way the chessboard was arranged. Set up as a prop, the pieces were all in position but the 21-year-old pointed out that they were at wrong ends of the board.
However, the Team Singapore chess player, who is visually handicapped, should certainly not be considered uptight. Despite his diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that will cause his sight to deteriorate over time, he has kept a positive attitude and remained driven to pursue his passion for chess.
Edwin, who still possesses some of his sight, does not require a designated official to read out his opponents’ moves to him, as with others with complete visual impairment.
“I do fear losing my sight completely. The doctors said that it might happen eventually. But I just try not to think about it, and live life normally,” he revealed.
Balancing out his steadfast quest for chess excellence with an easy-going and upbeat outlook towards life, the Temasek Polytechnic business student has been training hard with the national chess squad for the past few months.
Well-versed in different types of chess, Edwin professed not to have a particular preference for any version. However, the expert strategist, who also enjoys running and would like to take up bowling, has placed his focus on international chess for now.
“I play both Chinese and international chess, but some of my friends only know how to play international chess. I usually play more international chess, to be fair to them. I’m not too bad at both, though,” he shared.
Having chalked up some competition experience and finishing third at this year’s National Disability League chess competition, Edwin has been gearing up to compete in the first major meet of his chess career: the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG).
Expressing his goals for the Games, he said: “I hope to [advance] as far as I can in the competition. We’ll always hope for medals, but I’ll just be trying to do my best. I have confidence in myself, but I won’t know what the competition will be like; anything can happen. If I get medals, that’ll be great. But I’ll just be enjoying the process.”
Indeed, despite taking on a less recreational approach to the game while training with the national team, Edwin has continued to experience the same joy that he did when he played for leisure.
“Chess is good entertainment for me. Winning and losing is not so important – it’s more of the process that appeals to me. I enjoy the use of logic in a chess game,” he enthused.
In fact, engaging in a chess match has become an activity of social value to him. Relating that he had used to play chess online when he was younger, he remarked: “As my eyesight worsened, I began playing with people instead. I prefer playing with people, because you can interact with them and talk about things other than chess!”
It is, then, no wonder that Edwin is so enthusiastic about welcoming more people – regardless of ability – into the world of chess, and also aspires to coach newcomers to the game some day.
“Chess is very accessible; anyone can play it. For example, goalball players need to be blindfolded, and not many may be comfortable with that. Wheelchair basketball necessitates the use of wheelchairs. But chess can be played with anyone, sighted or not,” he observed.
“But I just hope that other persons with disabilities out there will realise that their disabilities should not stop them from doing what they want to do.”
Over the next couple of months, though, Edwin will only be focusing on his chosen game. Support him as he trains hard to outwit his opponents at this year’s 8th ASEAN Para Games, from 3 to 9 December!