The chess community in T&T owes a profound debt of gratitude to the Knights Chess Club, the oldest, most venerable and by far the most progressive chess club in the country. It is difficult, in fact, to consider what would have been the state of the sport in T&T without the tremendous contribution which Knights has made to its development over the last four decades or so. Indeed, outside the national championship tournament complex, the chess arena would be poor indeed without the two open annual events organised by Knights. It would be poor first for the fact that these two prestigious contests regularly attract not only the cream of the country’s chess players but, increasingly so, a group of enthusiastic youngsters happy for the opportunity to test their skills against more experienced players. It would be poor also for the fact that the two competitions, the Knights Open and the De Verteuil Memorial, offer fairly substantial cash prizes to its winners - the first tournaments to do so - and the opportunity for participants to obtain FIDE ratings or to improve the ones they already have.
Such is the status that these two competitions have acquired, in fact, that victory in them ranks second only to winning the national title. Knights has also enriched the culture of the sport by its lasting tribute to the memory of Andrew De Verteuil, “the grand old man of chess.” DeVerteuil, a leading player of the late 30s to the early 70s, acquired that beloved image by his love for the game, his encouragement of youngsters and his selfless willingness to help them improve their skills. Most of these progressive benefits are the results of the pioneering efforts of Knights Chess Club under the forceful leadership of Lucio Araujo who served as its president for more than 30 years. An ex-St Mary’s boy, government scholar and UWI lecturer in chemical engineering, the Knights leader also became the central figure in a stormy period of change which served to usher the sport into the modern era. Most significantly, the tumult resulted in a revolutionary change in the administration of the national chess body with a group of young outward-looking enthusiasts taking over.
Araujo also brought a fresh vision to Knights and was largely responsible for a number of historic innovations including the first open Swiss-type contest in 1974, a local rating system and the introduction of cash prizes for the club’s Open tournament winners even at the cost of annoying some other sectors of the sport. Next year, in fact, the Knights Open will mark its 40th year as a major event on the nation’s chess calendar, having among its winners a long list of national champions. The contribution, then, which Knights and its late president have made to developoment and advancement of the sport in T&T is unprecedented and worthy of the highest commendation from the country’s chess fraternity. Even now the club, under the leadership of retired T&T Ambassador Louis Wiltshire, continues to be an example for others, setting exemplary standards of administration, performance and appreciation of this wonderful mind game. It seems natural then that the T&T Chess Association would have nothing but the highest regard for its oldest, most active and respected member, that in issues of uncertainty or procedural difficulty it may even want to tap the accumulated wisdom acquired by Knights.
Amazingly enough, however, this kind of relationship is not the case. Instead of appreciation and support from the T&TCA, the club has received appallingly shabby treatment from the national chess body in its attempt to gain rating status for the invitational tournament it held some months ago to honour the memory of its late president Lucio Araujo. The Association’s response not only amounts to a gross insult to Knights but it also exposes the disarray and sad lack of administrative acumen within its management.
Next Week: What the T&TCA did to Knights.