FM Keron Cabralis, T&T’s 16-year-old chess star, has pulled out of the final contest to decide the national champion for 2012.
The talented Arima youngster, who became one of the country’s prospects for breaking the IM barrier, has decided to give up the game he loves, at least for a while, to concentrate on his studies for the CXC examinations which come up in January and June next year.
The decision must have been a difficult one for T&T’s most successful junior player to make, since he had qualified to contest the finals by taking second place at the last preliminary event held in Tobago just a few weeks ago.
The youngest FIDE Master in the English-speaking Caribbean, Cabralis must have been looking forward to competing in the national finals for the fifth straight year, having placed third twice in this premier contest.
Also, his presence in the finals, along with a group of other prominent youngsters, would have imparted to the contest an interesting balance between youth and experience. As it turned out, the exigencies of his schooling apparently gave him no other choice.
After a period of home tuition, Cabralis entered Chevalier’s Private School where his onerous choice of subjects now requires him to attend classes all day on Sundays.
He has given up the chess battleground to tackle an expanded range of disciplines, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Add Maths, English language, Spanish, Principles of Business and Principles of Accounts.
DR, who has reported on Cabralis’ sparkling chess career from national junior championships to the FIDE Master title, is sad to see him leave the sport that he loves and in which he has gained such prominence.
His reason is understandable however. We wish him well in his studies. But, hopefully, his departure from the royal game will only be temporary.
Cabralis is replaced by veteran Tobagonian Thuku Moheni, a former five-time winner of the Tobago championship, who placed third in the fourth qualifier.
The prominent NJAC member, 64, makes a welcome return to competitive chess after many years. He belongs to a well-known Tobagonian chess-playing family most active in the seventies; his sister Ayodele represented the country at the Olympiad on three occasions and his brother, Embau, another leading player of the period, is now an NJAC senator and Minister in the Ministry of National Diversity.
“We learned to play chess from our father and we developed our skills as youngsters by playing with his friends who visited our home,” said the ex-Tobago champion.
Moheni played with some success in open and international tournaments in Trinidad; he recalls tying with FM Mario Merritt in one event and losing “a won game” against a Jamaican player while nursing a hangover from overindulgence in a wake the night before.
Moheni’s excursion in the finals is not going well; he lost each of his first three games. But the feisty Tobagonian is far from discouraged.
“I’m rusty because I have not been playing consistently for a long time,” he noted.
“But the tournament is still young and I have been known to recover from early setbacks.”
After the third round of the finals, being played on weekends at St Georges College, Barataria, national champion FM Ryan Harper is demonstrating his predominant form with a perfect score.
Harper has established himself as a clear favourite to run away with the national title for the sixth time, not simply because he is defending the crown for yet another year but also for a string of recent victories, not the least being his win in the Open section of the Umada Cup in Suriname.
However, at his heels are prominent veteran FM Frank Yee and 13-year-old rising chess star Joshua Johnson who are just half a point behind the champion.
Yee will certainly be striving to crown his marathon career with the national title which has eluded him so far and Fatima College boy Johnson will be going for the glory of being the youngest player ever to win the country’s chess crown.
The final race, however, is still in its early stages and it would be foolhardy to rule out the chances of the other contestants all of whom have the talent to overcome, including ex-champion Marcus Joseph; youngsters Esan Wiltshire, Kevin Cupid and Dev Soondarsingh; veterans NM Cecil Lee and Frank Sears; Hayden Lee; and Roderick Noel. The finals continue this weekend at St Georges.