Schoolgirl Chantal is T&Ts new chess queen

When she learned to play chess from her father about the age of three, Chantal Fitzpatrick must have felt she was just learning another board game. The fascination of chess, however, evbentually grew upon her to the extent that she became determined to play it well.

How well the Providence Girls Catholic School student has progressed in that quest is now demonstrated by her becoming T&Ts new ladies chess champion. Chantal, daughter of noted veteran player Kenneth Fitzpatrick, won the open national title by playing unbeaten in the seven round tournament held at the RAND Credit Union building in Port-of-Spain over the last six weekends.

Her performance was impressive as she finished with a perfect score of seven points. On the way, Chantal disposed of defending champion Aditi Soondarsingh and a list of other strong players, Jayne Kennedy, Sinead Furlonge, Arlene Blackman, Camille Chung and Lindy Ann Guiseppi.

Although she obviously shares her fathers love and enthusiasm for chess, Chantal has not really played as much with him as would be expected; instead, she attributes her skill in the royal game largely to the consistent coaching she has received at the T&T Chess Foundation centre at Brabant Street, Woodbrook.

I enjoy playing with the children at the centre, she says. I became motivated by their desire to improve and I found myself getting better and better from the coaching of Cesar Ramos, Mr Raphael and the Cuban master Pecorelli.

As Chantal began playing in tournaments, her results also improved. She placed second in the Sagicor Under 20 tournament in Barbados last year and won the prize for the best Under 16 female player. Earlier this year, she captured the T&T Under 16 ladies championship and has now made chess history by being the first holder of that title to win the national open womens crown as well. She also represented T&T at the at the now notorious World Junior Chess Tournament at Belfort, France.

Now Chantal is looking forward to again testing her skills against a strong international field of juniors at the Miami Orange Bowl tournament at the end of next month.

How far does she want to go in the chess arena? Well, she says, I have been thinking about a career in chess, but Im not really sure. I am impressed by the Polgar sisters and the heights they have achieved. But I still have a lot of time to decide on my future. In the meantime, Im going to continue enjoying playing chess and see how it goes.

Like several other young devotees, Chantal plays a lot of chess on the Internet and uses the popular Chessmaster programme as another learning tool.

How has her chess ability assisted her studies? I think it has helped me generally to become more focused on what I am doing, also to think ahead and to approach matters in a more analytical way.

At Sundays prize giving ceremony, T&T Chess Association PRO David Jones noted that Chantal was not among the favourites in the tournament, but as it turned out she was the one handing out the licks. If her devotion to and progress in the game contiues, it seems that Chantal will have a lot more licks to hand out.

Article by Carl Jacobs
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