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Chess makes giant move in Tobago

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Winners in the first Open Junior Rapid Play chess tournament held in Tobago proudly hold their trophies. Top row centre is Joel Peters teacher in charge of chess at Pentecostal Light and Life High School. Third from right, top row, is Edison Raphael, president of the T&T Chess Foundation.

The revival of organised competitive chess in Tobago made another giant step forward last Saturday. It took the form of the first open junior rapid-play tournament held at the Pentecostal Light and Life High School, Scarborough, together with arrangements for launching a new chess organisation in the island. 


These developments are outgrowths of the chess-in-schools programme launched in February last year among eight secondary schools by Rhand Credit Union in partnership with the T&T Chess Foundation.


The sport died a natural death in Tobago about two decades ago when most of the leading players eventually gave up the game to pursue their individual professions. Now, thanks mostly to Rhand’s chess-in-schools programme, a new generation of Tobago’s youngsters has become active in the game and efforts are now being made to provide a more permanent footing for development of the sport.


The Pentecostal Light and Life High School at Sangster’s Hill has emerged a leading centre of this chess revival. This was seen in the enthusiasm of the youngsters who came from different parts of the island to participate in Saturday’s open tournament. It was also evident in the keeness of Joel Peters teacher in charge of the school’s chess programme and organiser of the event.


Discussions on formation of the chess club centered on the name and nature of the proposed organisation - an association, society or league - and its constitution. Edison Raphael, president of the Foundation, which provided the technical needs of the tournament, offered to assist the founders in setting up the organisation. Others taking part in the discussions were Tobago chess coaches Lewson Thomas and Fidel “Crocodilian” James who also saw the need for a central location and proper storage for laptops, videos and other training equipment of the club.


DR sincerely hopes this initiative would give birth to a vibrant new chess body in Tobago which would generate a lasting revival of this mind-enhancing sport among the island’s young people. Expectations are that the retired stalwarts who once represented the island at the national level would come forward to assist in this revival movement.


The five-round rapid play tournament at PLLHS was contested in three age groups and attracted a total of 19 players. As expected from early novices, their standard of play demonstrated the need for a consistent programme of practice, competition and coaching, but there was no mistaking their youthful interest in and enthusiasm for the royal game. 


The youngest participant in the tournament was six-year-old Rayden Rampersad who was also the only entrant from Trinidad. A student of Exchange Presbyterian School and a member of the Grant Memorial Chess Club, young Rampersad emerged the star of the event, finishing with a perfect score of five points in the Boys Under 10 category, three ahead of second placed Trent Brent-Harris and third placed Jade Quashie. Topping the girls in this group was Shakonia Meade with four points.


Rampersad’s performance was another indication of the benefits of belonging to an active and progressive chess club, the kind that Tobago would need if it is to produce a young generation of strong players.


Winners in the Under 14 category were Josephine Broome, three, and Kezia Franco, two. Winners in the Under 18 category (Boys) were Aaron Floyd 4; Darrion Nelson 3.5; Matthew Chung 3.5. Girls: Sarah Baptiste, Shawnea Andrews, Brithney Brathwaite.


The effort to revive the sport of chess in Tobago is long overdue and deserves all the help it can get from the country as a whole. DR hopes that, sooner rather than later, the island would be producing players strong enough to compete with the best in Trinidad.


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