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Knights still gallops ahead
It is safe to say that among members of the T&T Chess Association, the Knights Chess Club holds an exceptional and treasured place.
Indeed, it is difficult to think of what the sport would have been, what progress it would have made, what stability it would have maintained over the last three decades or so without the committed contribution made by Knights.
After the natural death of the once predominant RVI, Knights automatically assumed the mantle of the country’s foremost chess club and, by its vision and energy, carried the sport into the present era of openness and competitive advancement. The fact that for several years now Knights has been organising two annual open tournaments that carry almost the same prestige as the national championship itself tells a major part of the story.
But not all of it. At the club’s annual general meeting last Sunday, president Louis Wiltshire, retired T&T ambassador, saw the need to again pay tribute to the enlightened leadership of his predecessor, the late Lucio Araujo, whose contribution he described as “out of all proportion in the national sport.” Araujo, St Mary’s graduate and chemical engineering scholar, presided over the affairs of Knights for more than three decades and was personally responsible for most, if not all, the historic innovations made by the club over that period.
He introduced Knight’s second annual open tournament, the DeVerteuil Memorial, to commemorate the memory of Andrew DeVerteuil, a veteran member of RVI who became known as “the grand old man of chess.”
Although he never won the national title, DeVerteuil was a formidable competitor who invariably finished high in the tournaments he played. But what endeared him to a rising generation of young chess players, including Araujo himself, was his singular and selfless readiness to pass on to them the skill, experience and enjoyment he had gained during a lifetime in the game.
“Devi”, as he was affectionately known, even opened his humble Woodbrook home to young enthusiasts who, in an age before established coaching and when chess books were scarce commodities, deeply appreciated his big-hearted gesture.
So that while the DeVerteuil Memorial has become another major annual event organised by Knights and attracting the country’s best players, it will also remain a gesture of Araujo’s personal gratitude and appreciation for the grand old man of chess. The late president’s legacy also includes several modernising innovations which the chess community now takes for granted.
Against the “horror” expressed by conservative administrators of the game, Araujo broke with tradition and introduced the award of substantial cash prizes for winners of the club’s tournaments.
His expertise in mathematics enabled him to introduce the Swiss system into local competition and to devise a national rating system which eventually merged into that run by the world chess body. And such was his skill in this effort that when the country’s players acquired FIDE ratings by competing abroad, there emerged little difference between the two rankings.
Participants in Knights’ events also have Araujo to thank for having the full record of play placed on the Internet.
President Wiltshire was effusive in his praise for the unfailing support Knights has received over the years from Rhand Credit Union Society and its General Manager David Maynard, once a talented tournament player himself. Apart from its cash sponsorship, Rhand has provided Knights with a comfortable venue for both its open tournaments, a facility that accounts largely for their continuing success.
He also recognised the assistance the club has received from Endeco, its other sponsor.
With respect to the club’s relations with the T&TCA, Wiltshire sensed a “different atmosphere” existing since the departure of former president Kamla Rampersad De Silva who, he noted, had made “remarkable efforts” to reach out to member clubs, to make them a part of the Association’s operations. “I was disappointed when she was kicked out,” he said.
The Knights president noted that the club was still active and vibrant. “We pull our weight and pay our dues,” he observed. Last year, in fact, the club added another successful annual tournament to its schedule, the Knights Invitational, which was won by ex-national champion Anderson Gordon. This contest, played at Wiltshire’s Federation Park home, is now FIDE-rated.
Wiltshire also commended three management committee members for their long and stalwart contribution to the success and administrative quality of the club: former secretary Sharma Khan, present secretary John Everon and treasurer Clayton Gomez.
Looking to the future, however, he recognised the need to recruit more younger members into the club.
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