Spanish Tony and Blindfold Chess
Top Spanish eye doctor Antonio Aguirre has worked in some of the very best hospitals all over the world from Saudia Arabia to America, from Switzerland to Frankfurt. But now the 57-year-old has finally found contentment in Huddersfield. Reporter Robert Sutcliffe found out why...
ALTHOUGH Dr Aguirre makes his living from improving other people's eyesight he is at his happiest when his eyes are closed.
It is then that he is able to indulge his passion for blindfold chess. He first started playing without a board and pieces when he was 14 and by his own admission could only make two or three moves. He tried again when he was 17 and this time succeeded.
He said: ''I found it relatively easy and since then I have been interested in playing blindfold chess even more than 'seeing' chess. I think it is more challenging and more mysterious. I organised a blindfold tournament when I was working in the States which I won so I was officially the Blindfold Chess Champion of Jackson in 1992.''
After arriving in Huddersfield in 2004 he soon joined the illustrious Huddersfield Chess Club and became one of its leading players. His desire to stretch himself further was acceded to and he began to organise a popular annual blindfold tournament - the current winner of which is one of Yorkshire's top 10 players Jos Woolley.
At one time though his passion for chess was such that it almost derailed his successful career. He was studying at Stanford University for two months in a bid to pass examinations set by the American Board of Opthamology.
He said: ''For the first three to four days I was a model student and then I got hooked into playing chess with a Russian physicist and electrical engineers at a coffee shop which was full of chess players. All of a sudden I was just playing chess and not studying. Eventually I thought I had not saved all winter long and travelled 10,000 miles to spend time playing chess.''
He buckled down and passed his exams and spent 14 happy years in the States and still holds the position of Associate Professor at the University of Texas in Huston. Every year he pops back to lecture and for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Opthamology.
One of his professional highlights while working in Tennesse was successfully handling a life-changing operation on a blind and deaf black man aged 110 whose parents had been slaves. Following the operation the man, who had been consigned to living on a sofa was able to live a much more active life.
While in the States he was able to indulge another of his hobbies - wildlife. He kept a snapping turtle, a baby possum and a squirrel and says a love of nature and biology is one of the reasons why he was drawn to a career in medicine originally.
Currently he is interested in becoming a member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and is also investigating the possibility of keeping a tame fox and cockerels at his home which he shares with his wife Laura and daughter Stefania. A second daughter, and Stefania's twin, Itziar, lives in Huston, America.
After an enjoyable spell at the highly regarded King Khaled Hospital in Riydah, Saudia Arabia, between November 2002 and February 2004 he rejoined his wife who didn't care for the lifestyle - ''it was worse than hell'' - and wondered where they would see out his final professional years.
They decided to give the UK a look and notched up 10,000km over four weeks as they visited Aberdeen, Cardiff, Cumbria, the Isle of Man, Bournemouth, Leeds and Southend-on-sea. Finally he was offered a job as a consultant opthamologist at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust. One of his patients, Gladys Stratford, 85, of Huddersfield said: ''He has the most wonderful bedside manner and all the nurses have a very high regard for him indeed.''
And Dr Aguirre, known to his many chess chums affectionately as 'Spanish Tony', says ''coming to Huddersfield has been one of the best moves we have ever made. It was a very good decision. I even enjoy the British weather - I quite like it when it is misty and rainy.''
Happiness will be complete if he ever wins the prestigious Huddersfield Chess Club Championship and for that he will have to keep his eye well and truly on the ball.