The Caribbean Chess Carnival, marking its tenth year as T&T’s lone annual international event, has scored another success in bringing together youngsters from various countries of the region to participate in keen and friendly competition. The tournament which took place at Queen’s Royal College last week, however, will be remembered mostly for the sporting bridges it built between T&T and the neighbouring republic of Venezuela which was represented by a contingent of 20 junior players, the largest visiting group ever to play in the Carnival. Included in this Venezuelan “invasion” were leading youngsters from Nueva Esparta state. Among them were Mirian Rodriguez, the state champion, and Ricardo Perez, Juliet Yepez and Catherine Yepez, the Under 16, Under 12 and Under 10 champions respectively. This year’s Carnival has also attracted players from Barbados, Suriname and the United States. While the visitors did not win any of the first prizes, which all went to T&T players, they gave a good account of themselves and their enthusiasm, for the challenge of the game was all very obvious. The spirit and amity which prevailed must have been pleasing to Edison Raphael, president of the T&T Chess Federation, whose original vision for the Carnival was to create not only “a high level international competition” but also a forum for building bridges among the many participating countries.
Venezuelan Ambassador Maria Eugenia Marcano Casado spontaneously reflected those sentiments when she addressed the prize-giving function following the tournament. She was happy to see so many young Venezuelans coming to T&T to play chess. The two countries, she observed, share the Gulf of Paria, and a competition such as the Carnival must help to build a lasting friendship between the two nations. She told the young participants that there were no losers among them; that in a tournament such as this they were all winners. One well-known Venezuelan chess player who had long built amiable bridges between himself and the T&T chess community is Cesar Ramos who returned to T&T to serve as one of the Foundation’s arbiters. Cesar, who lived in Port-of-Spain for more than a decade, will be remembered for the notable impact he had on the local chess arena, not only as a prominent performer in tournaments but also as a Foundation coach, boosting the skills of several leading youngsters. Cesar came to love this country, to the extent of attempting to fill a long-felt need; to write a history of T&T chess. Unfortunately he never completed the self-imposed assignment before returning home. The feeling among local players was also quite mutual as Cesar, with his unique brand of chess humour, delighted in jousting on the Promenade tables with all comers, destroying most challengers with his own esoteric opening which he dubbed, “Nobody Can Beat it.”
The connection which Cesar has made with T&T may well have provided the impetus for the influx of young Venezuelans at this year’s Caribbean Chess Carnival. Speaking at the closing function, Judy Oxley-Fullerton, Marketing Manager of First Citizens Asset Management Ltd, sponsors of the contest, also had some words of wisdom for the chess-playing youngsters. Apart from those who would receive prizes and trophies, she declared that all the players were winners if they had participated wholeheartedly and given of their best. “If you have exhibited great sportsmanship during this competition, then consider yourself a winner,” she added. “If you have reached out to a fellow student and shared goodwill with him or her, then consider yourself a winner. If you know you tried your best and you played fairly, even if you were at the wrong end of the checkmate, you can still call yourself a winner. “I’m sure you’ve heard it said before that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. It may be a cliche, it may sound corny, but it’s absolutely true! These traits of discipline, fair play and genuine effort will serve you well, not only in the sport of chess, or in any other sport, but also in the game of life.” The FCAM Marketing Manager said her company was proud to be associated with the Chess Carnival. “What could be more critical than developing the next generation? What could be more rewarding than instilling good habits and engendering self esteem in our youth?” She promised that FCAM “would be here next year, “because we recognise that the best investment that we can make is to invest in our people, especially our youngsters.”
In his address, Foundation president Raphael said he was pleased to note that, after ten years, the Caribbean Chess Carnival “has become a permanent fixture on the national and international chess calendars.” Its success, he added, was due “significantly to the strong support from its initial sponsor CMMB whose operations are now part of the First Citizens group.” He recalled that over the years the contest had attracted players from Azerbaijan, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, Martinique, Nigeria, St Lucia, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela. One of the highlights of the closing ceremony was a mini-concert performed by Rhian Guerrero who was recently awarded two silver medals representing T&T at the prestigious 16th annual World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood, California. Rhian, brother of prominent chess player Rafael, graduated from the Middlesex University, London with a Bachelor’s degree in music performance and production. Since then, Rhian has appeared in several musical productions at home and abroad.