HAVING topped their group at the last event, Jamaica's 12-member team left the island yesterday in confident mood for Istanbul, Turkey to compete among over 160 countries in the 40th Chess Olympiad from August 27 to September 10.
Jamaica Chess Federation president and non-playing team captain Ian Wilkinson told the Jamaica Observer as the team had a final practise session at the Magnificent Chess Foundation's Swallowfield Road headquarters Friday that while the female local players were able to top Group E in Siberia, Russia at the last meeting in 2010 it would be difficult for a country such as Jamaica to win the Olympics overall with the winner being determined by the country with the highest number of points.
"It's difficult for Jamaica to win the overall Olympiad because we are amateurs. The people who play in the Olympics are full time professionals.... that is their job. We work. Chess is a hobby for us," Wilkinson said.
FIDE Masters Warren Elliott and Deborah Porter, International master Jomo Pitterson, Candidate Masters Damion Davy, Ariel Barrett, and Duane Rowe, national master Andrew Mellace, and Krishna Gray, Zhu Hui, and Melisha Smith as well as coach Russel Porter make up the Jamaican contingent.
A 13th person, Robert Wheeler, is already in Turkey where he will act as an FIDE arbiter during the Olympiad.
Gray, who was with the team in Siberia two years ago, told the Sunday Observer that she believes she has the opportunity to earn her international masters title this year in Turkey.
"I feel prepared. I put in time, training, effort, a focus into my preparation for this year's Olympiad and I'll do my country proud," the third year business student of the University of Technology (UTech) said.
Meanwhile Wilkinson, who has long touted the social benefits of chess, was pleased with the news that a study is being conducted by students of the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) on the impact of playing chess on the decision-making skills of managers.
"I have done tremendous research on various continents... Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and there have been numerous tests done over decades and they all show that people who play chess on a consistent structured level tend to outperform their peers," he stressed.
"... It is about thinking, planning, looking ahead, so for somebody to be doing a study on it is very exciting because I know what they will find will vindicate and verify all of what we have been saying for years," Wilkinson said.