Jamaica junior chess team strikes gold at Carifta Champs

Sunday, April 28, 2019

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The 2019 Carifta Junior Chess Championships came to an end on Easter Monday in Curaçao, with Jamaica taking home the gold for top country after seven rounds over four days.

The Jamaica team was relatively small compared to some of its rivals but dominated, scoring a total of 29 points compared to 18.5 for Trinidad and Tobago, who edged out Suriname with 18 points.

Head of delegation and national junior coach National Master Mikhail Solomon, described his satisfaction with the team's result.

“While Carifta usually favours the larger delegations, this year those placing in the top five of each category contributed points to the country's overall total. Jamaica had a relatively small delegation, but we had 13 strong players.

“We didn't even have anyone competing in the Under-20 Open section, but because we finished strong in every other category we were able to capture the win. I am delighted for the team members, who were disciplined and diligent throughout the tournament and in the lead-up to Carifta,” he said.

To illustrate the might of the team, after seven rounds of competitive play Jamaica came away with an astounding 17 awards, including the gold for top country. This was the third Carifta championship for Jamaica, and the only time a country has won the championship three times.

It was also special for the Jamaican team, as it is the first time that Jamaica has won the championship outside of Jamaica.

Pride of place in the Jamaican camp went to Jaden Shaw, who was named the Under-12 Open Carifta champion, and Raehanna Brown who was named the Under-16 female Carifta champion for 2019.

Shaw, who was the strong favourite to win the category, was unbeaten into the fifth round and then drew with Candidate Master (CM) Rayden Rampersad of Trinidad & Tobago in the sixth round. This placed him in a precarious position on 5.5 points, just half a point ahead of several other competitors, going into the final round.

Shaw remained calm, but had to beat one of Trinidad's highest-ranked players in the category, Juninho LaFleur, in round seven. Happily, Shaw was one of the first Jamaicans to come out of the playing hall, after delivering a convincing win over La Fleur to capture the Carifta gold.

The journey to capture the title for the Under-16 female champion was no less exciting, with two Jamaicans vying for the top prize. Both Raehanna Brown (Jamaica's reigning junior female champion) and women Candidate Master WCM) Adani Clarke entered the final round on five points.

WCM Clarke had beaten Brown in an earlier round of the tournament, but drew her final game against Barbados hopeful Vanessa Greenridge, who was on 4.5 points. In the final round Brown faced teammate Amy Stephenson, who was on four points, to end the tournament with six out of seven points and the win.

The Jamaican contingent of 13 included Under-12 females Laila Griffiths, WCM Zaina O'Connor, and Gabriella Watson; Under-12 open players Cameron Coe and Jaden Shaw; Under-16 females Raehanna Brown, WCM Adani Clarke, and Amy Stephenson; Under-16 open players Nicholas Lyn, Darren McKennis, and John Stephenson; and Under 20 Females Ashanti Blackwood and Alliyah Yankana.

Trophies awarded for the official Carifta categories included WCM Zaina O'Connor — second place Under-12 females; Laila Griffiths — third place Under-12 females; Jaden Shaw — first place Under-12 open; Raehanna Brown — first place Under-16 females; WCM Adani Clarke — third place Under-16 female; Darren McKennis — hird place Under-16 open; and Ashanti Blackwood — second place Under-20 females.

Medals awarded for the unofficial age group subcategories included WCM Zaina O'Connor — second-place Under-10 females; Cameron Coe third place Under-10 Open; Laila Griffiths — first place Under-12 females; Jaden Shaw — first place Under-12 open; Raehanna Brown — first place Under-14 females; Darren McKennis second place Under-14 open; WCM Adani Clarke — first place Under-16 females; Nicholas Lyn third place Under-16 open, and Ashanti Blackwood — first Under-18 females.

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