Albert Sandrin (1923-2004)
Probably Sandrin’s best tournament results were first prize ($35) at the Illinois State Tournament in 1944 and winning the U.S. Open in Omaha in 1949.
Sandrin learned chess from his uncle who taught him and his brother, Angelo, how to play. Well, they were “sort of” taught how to play. Sandrin told how they made up their own rules and it wasn’t until a few years that he and his brother got serious and borrowed some books from the library and learned how chess was really played. Shortly after that they both began playing in local tournaments where both Sandrins became regulars on the Chicago chess scene for many years. Throughout most of his career Sandrin maintained a solid master rating.
Sandrin’s vision was damaged in August, 1929 when, while playing outside the family home on Chicago's south side, the bored six year old stared directly into the sun for a long period of time. His eyesight deteriorated very slowly over the following years. In 1952 he entered the Marshall School for the Blind and studied piano tuning. After learning how to tune pianos, he advertised in the telephone book for customers and soon found himself tuning pianos all over the Chicago area. He was totally blind by 1968. Sandrin played a small part in US airline history when he was a passenger aboard the first PanAm 747 flight from Chicago to London on April 26, 1970.
In the US Open in 1965, one player described how Sandrin would sit at the board with a female companion sitting beside him and when it was time to make his move, he would announce it and then move the piece. His companion would then write down the move.
Another player described his meeting with Sandrin in another US Open during the 1980s and was surprised to see that Sandrin did not use a special set designed for blind players but used their regular set. He was shocked at the beginning of the game to see Sandrin use his little fingers to locate the edge of the board then pick up a Pawn and move it right where he wanted it. This guy explained that he thought that because Sandrin was blind, a good plan would be to complicate the game as much as possible, figuring Sandrin was bound to make a mistake. It turned out Sandrin avoided all the traps and simplified into a won ending.
A good collection of his games can be found HERE and a nice photo HERE.