Starting today, two nine-round tournaments to be played simultaneously at Hotel Normandie, St Ann's, will go down in T&T chess history. They are the major events marking the 80th anniversary of the sport in the country.
The first contest, the International Masters, is particularly significant as it has attracted several GMs and IMs from various parts of the world. The second is an International Open which sets a different record, drawing a total of 71 players, by far the largest participation in any competitive chess event in the country's history.
The four GMs taking part in the first are Elshan Moradiabadi (2597) from Iran, Ilya Zaragatski (2491) of Germany, Sriram Jha (2422) from India and WGM Sabina Francesca Foisor (2260) of the United States. A total of seven IMs will also compete in this contest.
They are Pablo Balinas Herrera (2433) of Chile, Floris Van Assendelft (2350) of the Netherlands, Jose Luis Vilela De Acuna (2337) of Cuba, Arthur Ssegwangi (2366) of Uganda, Jose Raphael Gascon Del Nogal (2428), Juan Armando Rohl Montes (2376) and Ariel Marichal Gonzalez (2268) of Venezuela.
One welcome feature of the IM tournament is the inclusion of T&T's five-member men Olympiad squad comprising national champion FM Kevin Cupid, FM Adrian Winter Atwell, FM Ryan Harper, FM Joshua Johnson and FM Mario Merritt.
Also meeting the Masters are FM Allan Munro, FM Michael Pouchet, CM Ravishen Singh and Anderson Gordon together with FM Roger Matoewi of Suriname and Sheyas Smith of Jamaica. These Caribbean "heavyweigths" who are all rated above the 2000 mark will also have an opportunity in this upper-class company to significantly advance their ranking towards the Master level.
Woman International Master Sabrina Chevannes of England is the highest rated entrant (2069) in the International Open. Also competing in this contest are four players from Venezuela: CM Cesar Ramos Caldera (2028), IM Cleven Jesus Chirinos Cabrera (2012), IM Anibal Gamboa Gonzalez (1991) and Jesus Antonio Blanco Bautista (1724).
CM Esan Wiltshire, rated 2089, heads the long list of T&T players contesting the Open.
The first 30 of them are Kishore Ramadhar (1987), CM Frank Sears (1950), CM Dev Soondarsingh (1943), Leonard Duncan (1912), David Jones (1910), Paul Brown (1906), Hayden Lee (1884), Rickson Thomas (1879), Mikel Martin (1867), CM Cecil Lee (1863), Keevin James (1839), CM Daryl Davis (1827), Andrew Bowles (1812), Simon Ramdath (1808), Ian Ali (1779), WCM Gabriella Johnson (1768), Ian Grant (1751), Sylvan Seaforth (1748), WCM Aditi Soondarsingh (1736), CM Shannon Yearwood (1721), Alana Safer Ramoutar (1691), Kelvin Dover (1680), Carlyle Singh (1666).
The "battles" at Normandie start with round one at 6pm tomorrow, shortly after the opening ceremony which begins at 4 pm. They continue throughout the week, finishing with round nine next Thursday morning and an Open Blitz tournament in the afternoon.
The stage, then, is set for holding the grandest feast of chess the country has ever known. The chess playing community has the T&TCA to thank for staging the twin tournaments as a once-in-a-lifetime 80th anniversary event.
DR can only hope that all goes well, that the tournaments will be trouble free, that our chessists will emerge stronger and more appreciative of the unique memorial experience and that visiting players will return to their countries with pleasant and lasting memories, regardless of their fortunes over the chess board.