Inaugural Jamaica Int'l Chess Festival next week

Friday, October 06, 2017

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Some of the world's most prodigious young chess grandmasters are scheduled to arrive in the island next week October 13-15 for the first-ever Jamaica International Chess Festival, Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke announced yesterday.

According to Dr Clarke, the historic three-day celebration of chess is aimed at broadening the reach of the game in Jamaica while inspiring local players to new heights.

The chess festival is being produced by Clarke in partnership with Jamaican-born chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, who was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 2016.

Ashley is a leading world-class chess commentator who officiates at some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and is also a chess author and chess app developer.

“I fervently believe that Jamaica can excel at the highest levels internationally, not only at physical endeavours but also in endeavours of the mind,” a news release quoted Dr Clarke.

“Chess develops the faculties for rational thought and abstract thinking in young minds, while building psychological and emotional fortitude. Jamaica therefore benefits from the growth of chess,” he added.

Clarke said that participants in the festival include Grandmaster Awonder Liang, one of the most dynamic young players in the world who at 14 years old is currently the youngest chess grandmaster globally.

Liang was the Under 8 World Chess Champion in 2011 and the Under 10 World Chess Champion in 2013. He holds a number of impressive world records including being the youngest person in history to defeat an international master in a tournament when he was eight years old, and the youngest person ever to defeat a grandmaster in a tournament when he was nine years old.

Liang is the 2017 US Junior Chess Champion and the highest rated player in the world under the age of 15 years.

The festival will also include Grandmaster Akshat Chandra who recorded one of the fastest rises in world chess, starting at age nine, relatively late for prodigious achievement, and achieving grandmaster status in only five years while still an adolescent.

Chandra is the 2015 US Junior Chess Champion as well as the 2015 US National High School Chess Champion and is rated as the number one U21 rapid chess player in the United States.

Coming from Canada is Woman Grandmaster Qiyu Zhou who at 17 years old is the Canadian Female Chess Champion. Qiyu is a former U14 World Champion who has held a number of Canadian and Finnish national titles including U12 and U14 Female Canadian Chess Champion and five consecutive Under 10 Finish chess championships.

The festival will enjoy the presence of Woman International Master Akshita Gorti, who is the highest rated female chess player in the world under the age of 14 years. Gorti is the 2017 US Junior Girls Chess Champion and the 2014 US Junior Girls Co-Champion. She was also North American U8 Champion in 2010 and tied for Gold in the North American U10 Championships in 2011.

The festival will consist of a series of activities beginning on Friday, October 13 with events at schools in Kingston and St Catherine, to be followed by a chess seminar the following day where teenage grandmasters, former world champions and chess coaches will share their experiences in training and competition.

Later that evening Emancipation Park will come alive with chess and music. With over 200 chess boards being arranged for the park, patrons will enjoy a game of Human Chess with the children having the opportunity to be pieces on the board while the teenage superstars call the moves.

Patrons will have a chance to take on world class prodigies in a game of blitz and later in the evening the five visiting chess masters, including Ashley, will take on 75 Jamaicans simultaneously in 75 games of chess. Those with no knowledge of chess will have the chance to learn the basics at special booths.

The climax of the festival takes place on Sunday at the Worthington address of Spanish Court Hotel where the visiting chess stars go to battle, facing each other, while leading two teams of 11 each in a four-round extravaganza with live commentary.

“I'm thrilled to be involved in this inaugural event in the country of my birth,“ Ashley said. “I believe in the power of chess to help change lives, and I look forward to helping to bring the benefits of this amazing game to the people of Jamaica.”

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