Dear Nikeilia Chuniesingh, please don’t be depressed by your all-zero performance at the recent Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. It was really not your fault, as you should not have been selected in the first place. The fact that you lost all eight of your games while representing T&T at the world’s premier chess contest can only be surprising to the T&TCA people who sent you there like a lamb to be slaughtered; selectors who clearly lacked discernment for the task and concern both for you and the prestige of our country. Indeed, your inclusion in the female T&T Olympiad team seems to require some kind of explanation from the Association as it appears to run counter to the necessary principle of selecting the strongest players for a prestigious international contest as the Olympiad. What, for example, were the system or criteria, if any, used by the Association in this selection process? And what were the successes in local open tournaments that you have achieved over the last two years or so that would identify you as a candidate for selection? It is hard, in fact, for DR to avoid the suspicion that you may have been set up.
Further evidence for this may be seen in the fact that you, who are yet to achieve an ELO rating, were chosen to play on board one for T&T while your far more experienced team mates with long established ratings were placed on lower boards. National women’s champion Aditi Soondarsingh, with a top rating of 1772, played on board two. On the three boards below her, respectively, were Javanna Smith, rated 1689, Gabriella Johnson, rated 1556, and Della Marie Walcott (no rating) on board four. Who appointed these boards? Was it women’s team captain Cecil Lee, a veteran player with a world of experience both in administration and competition at home and abroad, including a number of Olympiads? This is my advice to you Nikeilia, and it comes from the heart. Regardless of what you may have been made to believe, chess is not a game that is easy to play well.
The world’s great champions have described it variously as a battle, a science and an art. Bobby Fischer even called it a way of life. The world’s greatest game may well be all of these things combined, hence its endless fascination.
The fact that you placed last in the Under-20 category of the Chess Carnival at QRC earlier this year should have brought that reality home to you. But if you really love the game and want to excel in it, you must play and study it as much as you can. If possible, get the assistance of an established coach. And you can judge your progress by the results you achieve in local and regional tournaments. Until you can emerge among the best players in these competitions you would not be ready to represent T&T at the Olympiad which is the chess counterpart of the Olympics where team member selection is based on strict performance criteria. The best of luck to you, DR. If it is any consolation to Nikeilia, the results of T&T’s female team at Istanbul are familiarly dismal. Among the 125 women’s contingents in this competition, T&T placed 119th, even lower than the 107th berth they occupied at the end of the previous Olympiad at Kanty Mansiysk in Russia. Here are the individual scores: The two top-rated players, Soondarsingh and Smith, each won four out of ten games, while Walcott scored two out of five.
Teamwise, they managed to gain two victories; against Barbados, 2.5-1.5, and Namibia 3-1, draw two matches against Ethiopia and Angola, and lost to seven countries, Turkey 4-0, Bangladesh 4-0, Botswana 3.5-.5, Zambia 3-1, Uruguay 3.5-5, Iraq 2.5-1.5 and South Korea 4-0. What these results show is that the standard of chess among T&T’s female players is certainly not improving. If anything, it may well be on decline. Again, DR must ask the vital questions; is the Chess Association aware of this sad situation, is it concerned, and what does it intend to do about it? DR has argued repeatedly for a temporary curtailment of female representation at the Olympiad which has been a consistent embarrassment and, instead, for a reorientation of administrative strategy towards developing the skills of young players including implementation of a strongly supported and well-administered chess-in-schools programme. It should be obvious to all that the future of the sport lies in our young people and the objective should be to encourage as many of them as possible to play it, not only for their own enjoyment and mental strengthening but also with the hope of unearthing talents who could develop into players of international stature. To implement this vision, of course, would require an infrastructure supported by all sectors of the country and administrators of the sport itself.
Still propelled by the conventional mindset however, this vision seems farfetched. But we can dream, can’t we?
NEXT WEEK: What the men did.