Jamaicans dominate the 2013 CARIFTA Junior Chess Championship

The Chess Drum Report: April 9th, 2013

“Gladly!” The single response given by Shreyas “the FM-slayer” Smith who won the U-20 title in the 2013 CARIFTA Junior Chess Championships which concluded with a bang in Kingston, Jamaica on Monday April 8. The Championship, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, was a five-day chess festival consisting of 7 rounds in a Swiss format.

Many may not appreciate his response, but this quiet and unassuming Calabarian always fancied his chances of finishing numero uno. After meandering through 6 rounds of gruelling play, Smith ended with 5 ½ points after his last round draw with Nathan Hinds (JAM). Horace Sinclair (JAM) also ended the Championship on 5 ½ points but finished in second place after tie-breaks.

Smith, easily the best player at the Championship, played solidly, and after mass exchanges carefully managed the imbalances. He demonstrated his end game prowess, went up an exchange and carefully extinguished counterplay. Up the exchange, he weathered his opponent’s pesky knight and troublesome passed pawns and after relieving Hinds of said pawns, Hinds threw in the towel – a draw – a very fair result. Sinclair ensured a Jamaica 1-2 finish after he, with the white pieces won, against Andrew Ellis (JAM). Orlando Husbands (BAR) took home the bronze. Defending champion NM Stuart James (JAM) finished a disappointing eighth.

Yu Tien Poon (BAR) captured the U-16 Section with Jamaicans Alistair Waker and Romell Gyles claiming the silver and bronze respectively. Walker, who has dominated local scholastic chess, was thrilled with his performance. National Master (NM) Mikhail Solomon, his coach, attributed Walker’s placing to “many hours of hard work and, of course, MY tutelage”. While the jury may be out concerning Solomon’s second reason, there is no denying Walker’s steady ascent in the chess arena. Jamaica’s newest rising star Rachel Miller finished a creditable fifth on tie-breaks after registering a last round victory over Elias Issa (JAM). Miller, coached by FIDE Master (FM) Warren Elliott, showed much ability beyond her years.

It was a keenly contested affair in the U-12 Section with the top three players all tied on 6 points. Brian Diaz (ARU) claimed the gold medal on tie-breaks with silver and bronze going to Jamaicans Jaleel Thorpe and Joshua Christie, respectively. In the U-12 Female Section, Della-Marie Walcott (T&T) wrested the gold medal from Ashley-Renee Gregory (JAM) after both finished with 6 points. Rochelle Porter (JAM), coached by her parents, the chess couple NM Russell Porter and his wife Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Deborah Richards-Porter, got the bronze medal.

Jamaica, by virtue of inspired performances by many players, won the “best team” category with a whopping 211 points, lifting the CARIFTA trophy in the process. Barbados finished second on 40 points and Trinidad and Tobago third on 28. In fact, Jamaica captured 44 of the 57 places up for grabs in the Championships!

The CARIFTA Junior Chess Championships, following closely on the heels of the CARIFTA Track and Field and Swim Championships, reinforced Jamaica’s place as the sports factory of the region.

The Jamaican Chess Federation (JCF), on behalf of all the players and administrators local and from abroad, wishes to thank the sponsors without whom this tournament would not have been possible: the Government of Jamaica (especially the Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley, Minister without Portfolio In the Office of the Prime Minister with Responsibility for Sports); the Sports Development Foundation; the Urban Development Corporation; the Magnificent Chess Foundation; From Thought to Finish; Touchline Industries; Burger King; Knutsford Court Hotel; DesignCopi-Centre; and Pulse. The JCF is also indebted to all the volunteers whose contribution was priceless.

Look out for the upcoming tournaments including the National Championships (April 26-May 12) and the President’s Invitational and the Robert Wheeler Open (May 25-26).

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~ Contributed by Raglon G. Wynter

CARIFTA Junior Chess Championship 2013