Russell Smith outlined “a different vision” for the sport of chess when he took up office as the new president of the T&T Chess Association on Sunday. Smith, who served as treasurer in the last term, was elected to lead the national chess body at its annual general meeting held at Chaguanas. In replacing former president Kamla Rampersad De Silva, Smith also became the only member of the previous executive to be re-elected to the new administration, apparently gaining much of his support from delegates of the two chess clubs, UWI and UTT, which were admitted to full membership at the AGM.
This “clean sweep”, as Double Rooks sees it, is all to the good. Firstly, it brings to an end the turbulence and infighting which marked the governance of the previous regime. Secondly it endows the new president with a fresh team as he sets out to fulfil a “different vision” for the sport. Another welcome decision taken at the AGM overturns, by 11 votes to 7, the refusal of the previous executive to submit for FIDE rating the Knights Chess Club’s Lucio Araujo Invitational tournament held late last year. In voting to have this contest submitted for FIDE rating, the AGM virtually joined with DR in condemning the gratuitous insult inflicted on Knights, the country’s most venerable and progressive chess club.
In her comprehensive and candid report, the outgoing president revealed that objection to Knights’ request came principally from Bhisham Soondarsingh, the first vice president, whose attempts to treat her as a puppet, she noted, presented a number of serious problems for her administration. Another depressing revelation concerned the coaching of the female team selected to represent the country at the coming Olympiad. According to the outgoing president, several members of the team were not attending the sessions provided to prepare them for the world’s premiere chess event. Replacing Soondarsingh as first vice president is Roderick Noel who was elected unopposed. A former T&TCA president himself, Noel brings in the kind of level-headed in-depth experience which the new executive should find quite useful. Soondarsingh who resigned as first vice president the day before the AGM, accepted nomination by Ravishen Singh for the post of second vice president. But he was roundly defeated by leading player and chess activist Hayden Lee who collected 22 votes to his seven.
Filling the post of third vice president is Naresh Bhola, president of the UTT Chess Club and lecturer in Spanish at the university. Taking on the key responsibility of secretary is Marva Walker Hernandez, School Safety Officer of Manzanilla. Succeeding Smith as treasurer is Debra Walcott who was elected unopposed. The post of public relations officer fell to Jonathan Forde, Principal of Forde College and well-known member of the Promenade Chess Club. Forde was also elected unopposed. National champion Ryan Harper declined nomination to his former post of second vice president but joined Clayton Gomez and Kena Bartholomew to form the three-man disciplinary committee. Carlyle Singh again heads the Tribunal. Serving with him on this body are Rawlson Paul, Omari Waldron, Kashif Jacob and Adrian Mitchell.
Double Rooks sincerely endorses the compliments which the incoming president paid to his predecessor. Inspite of the contentious nature of her tenure, the reasons for which she dramatically detailed in her report, Rampersad De Silva succeeded in bringing off the Carifta Games marking the country’s 50th anniversary of independence. At the same time, DR also welcomes the new administrative team for the sport of chess. The “different vision” which president Smith outlined as he took office seems impressive enough to inspire the hope that the game may be on the brink of a new and significant leap forward. Also holding the important post of General Secretary of FIDE Americas, Smith should be in a strategic position to assist the T&TCA with inputs from the world chess body. Another reason for optimism is the fact that several members of the new executive are parents of active junior chess players and, as a result, should have the future development of the sport as their central interest.