FM Ryan Harper’s victory over Grandmaster Oscar De La Riva Aguedo in the third round of the Chess Olympiad is one bright spot in a general scenario that is not very encouraging. The six-time national champion of T&T, with a FIDE rating of 2222, outplayed the Andorran GM, rated 2540, and thus enhanced his performance record in foreign tournaments. The big question, however, is how close will this win bring Harper to achieving his dream of becoming T&T’s first International Chess Master. Over several years, Harper, now 35, has been hunting the IM norm in international contests abroad, but has failed to reach the mark by a hair’s breath on more than one occasion. At the Guelph Pro-Am International in Toronto, for example, the T&T FM triumphed over two GMs but missed the IM norm by half a point.
His win over GM Aguedo at the Olympiad will surely boost his rating and, if he continues to score well in Istanbul, he may well finish this world-class contest at least within striking distance of the elusive norm. Harper remains the country’s best candidate to break the IM barrier and thus bring T&T virtually on par with other leading chess-playing English-speaking countries of the Caribbean; Jamaica which has IM Jomo Pitterson and Barbados which has IM Terry Farley and IM Kevin Denny. Harper will have to gain approximately 180 rating points to achieve his first norm, as IMs usually have an ELO rating between 2400 and 2500. But even so, the journey is far from over as he will have to score two more norms in international tournaments involving other IMs or GMs before FIDE will agree to confer the title on him. The T&T champion’s forceful win against the Andorran GM is worthy of study particularly by young players as it contains a number of basic lessons. Aguedo, playing the white pieces, opened badly and had a strategically lost game by move six. His uncastled king and ill-defended kingside eventually led to his undoing. Harper proceeded to demolish his opponent’s weakened position with an economical skill that gives the game its main interest.
After seven rounds, T&T’s performance at Istanbul was far from impressive having scored two victories against little-fancied Jersey, 3.5-.5 and Bermuda 4-1, drawing with Mauritius 2-2 and losing to Austria 4-0, Andorra 3-1, Denmark 4-0 and the Dominican Republic 3-1. So far, Harper, on board one, tops the team with 3 points out of 7 games. On average, however, young Alan Munro, on board four, has the best score with 2 from 3 matches; while Ravishen Singh has 2 from 5, Marcus Joseph 2 from 6 and Mario Merritt 2.5 from 7. Up to this point in the contest, T&T’s female team has not performed as badly as DR had expected. Surprisingly, they managed to overcome their Barbadian counterparts 2.5-1.5, defeat Namibia 3-1 and hold Ethiopia to a 2-2 draw. However they were humbled 4-0 by Turkey and Bangladesh and crushed by Botswana 3.5-.5 and Zambia 3 -1. WCM Javanna Smith has emerged with the best individual score, 3 from 6 games, while Nikeilia Chuniesingh, representing T&T on board one, has lost all her five encounters. Della Marie Walcott, CAC gold medallist among Under-10 girls, looks the most promising with 2 points from 3 games, while national champion Aditi Soondarsingh and Gabriella Johnson both won 2 games out of 7. Round five saw an interesting clash between two English speaking Caribbean heavyweights, with Jamaica gaining a 2.5 -1.5 victory over Barbados.
GM Aguedo vs FM Harper:
1) e4 e5; 2) Nc3 Bc5; 3) Nf3 d6; 4) d4 exd4; 5) Nxd5 Nf6; 6) Nb3 Bb6; 7) Qe2 Ng4; 8) Nd1 00; 9) f3 Ne5; 10) Be3 f5; 11) Nc3 fxe4; 12) Nxe4 Bf5; 13) Bg5 Qe8; 14) Bf4 Bxe4; 15) Bxe5 Bxc2; 16) Bc3 Qg6; 17) Qc4 ch d5; 18) Qxd5 ch Kh8; 19) Nd4 Nc6; 20) Nxc2 Qxc3; 21) Qqd2 Rfe8 ch; 22) Be2 Qg6; 23) Kf1 Rad8; 24) Qe1 Re7; 25) Rd1 Rde8; 26) Rd2 Be3; 27) Rd5 Bh6; 28) Bd3 Rxe1 ch; 29) Bxe1 Rxe1; 30) Kxe1 Qxg2. 0-1.