Chess battles make comeback in Tobago

Winners of the Open Chess tournament held in Scarborough on Saturday. From left Joshua Johnson, Carl Jacobs (behind), Olivia Clarke, Chantal Fitzpatrick, Jabari Lewis and Tamara Drakes

After some 20 years, tournament chess returned to Tobago on Saturday not with a bang, but not with a whimper either. The open event, following an eight-week programme of training for Tobagonians of all ages, did not attract as many “graduates” as expected but it turned out to be an enjoyable experience nevertheless. The training sessions and the contest which followed were a joint effort of the Rhand Credit Union Society Ltd and the T&T Chess Foundation aimed at reviving the sport of chess in the sister isle after two decades of inactivity. Saturday’s tournament, played at Rhand’s Scarborough branch office, was contested in two divisions, adult and junior.

The first attracted 12 players while six juniors competed in the second. Chantal Fitzpatrick, former Ladies National and Under-16 Champion, won the senior trophy via the tie-break as she finished the five round event on four points alongside veteran Carl Jacobs. Joshua Johnson, national Under-10 champion, and Vaughn Laptiste, teacher at Mason Hall Primary, who finished on three and a half points each, took third and fourth places respectively. Closely behind them were Gabriella Johnson and Ray Charles, both on three. Other places went to Andre Sims, Eli Williams, James Baptiste, on two points each, Marielle Sims and Julien Lewis, one point five each and Raymond Wallace.

Jabari Jabez Lewis of Bishop’s played unbeaten to top the juniors with four and a half points. Other results: Olivia Clarke and Tamara Drakes three each; Erin Wallace two; Akiel Adams one and a half; Seth Aqui one. After the games, the trophies were presented to the winners by James Baptiste, Branch Manager of Rhand and a former Tobago junior champion. Baptiste expressed the hope that the effort to reactivate the sport of chess in the sister isle would continue, particularly for the benefits the game could bring to the island’s young people. In his turn, Edison Raphael, president of the T&T Çhess Foundation, pointed out that while the Let’s Play Chess training programme was a success, attracting some 36 participants, including youngsters and their parents from all over the island, the turnout at the tournament was not as strong as expected, and this indicated the amount of work that still has to be done to revive the sport in the island.

He commended Rhand Credit Union for its enthusiastic partnership in the enterprise and, speaking to Double Rooks later, indicated that, apart from continued training, the need was to find a centralised venue where players can meet and enjoy the game on a regular basis. He hoped that Tobago veterans such as Denise Charles, former national junior champion, Nigel Duke, Anthony Arnold and Tuco Moheini, all former top players in the island, would come forward to assist the resuscitation effort. Raphael even looked forward to the time when starting a new chess club in Tobago would become feasible. “We are happy to have brought back tournament chess to Tobago, although we expected a wider participation,” said Raphael. “But after such a long time we are virtually starting from scratch. We believe, however, the sport can contribute to building the Tobago society, particularly the thinking skills of its youth, as it is doing in other parts of the world. “So we are certainly not giving up the struggle,” he assured.

Carl Jacobs receives his trophy from James Baptiste, Branch Manager RHAND Credit Union Tobago

Chantal Fitzpatrick receives her first place Trophy from James Baptiste, Branch Manager RHAND Credit Union Tobago

Vaughn Laptiste revices a Special Prize for the top performing player from Tobago