Dominating COVID-19 as chess goes uncheckedMonday, March 01, 2021
COVID-19 came at a bad time for the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) as the organisation was ramping up preparations for the juniors to defend their Carifta title in Georgetown, Guyana, and the senior teams were preparing for the Olympiad in Moscow, Russia.
With little or no knowledge of what to expect, the beautiful game of chess played over the board was taken away from us, our almost weekly staged private and national tournaments were gone. It was now up to the council to chart the way forward.
Thankfully, chess can be played online, and many persons were already competing online against friends locally and internationally. Chess players could communicate across borders while continuing to develop their game against much stronger and titled opponents. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) was also quick out the blocks with many initiatives, with the focus on having chess being played worldwide. They launched the FIDE Online Olympiad, in which 12 Jamaicans were entered in Division Four of five divisions. The team managed to earn promotion to Division Three before bowing out of the competition, then FIDE celebrated International Chess Day worldwide which focused on introducing a child to the game.
Next, FIDE hosted the World Cadets and Youth Chess Championships and again Jamaica participated with 12 age group champions with one participant actually making the final among the world's elite junior chess players. The Caribbean and Central America also got involved via T&T Chess Federation who hosted the First Regional Youth Chess Championships (U18), to name a few of the initiatives that materialised.
Locally the Jamaica Chess Federation organised several online tournaments starting with the IA CM Robert Wheeler Chess Rapids followed by the Frederick Cameron Online Chess Rapids. The National Junior Rapids and Blitz Chess Rapids, dubbed “Rumble in the Jungle”, took us into Christmas 2020.
This year kicked off with the IA FM John Powell Chess Rapids, the JCF also hosted a coaches seminar and a “Learn to play Chess” initiative islandwide which attracted over 200 participants while offering free online tournaments bi-monthly to interested persons.
Clearly we have seen where chess has worked wonders by keeping our members in recent times fully engaged. We see where young Adani Clarke of St Jago High School achieved 10 Grade One in her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinatons (CAPE) results; Jhustice Dimonte and Seren-Angelus McDonald of St Catherine High School captaining and competing in the ongoing TVJ School Challenge Quiz 2021; WCM Raehanna Brown making the finals of the FIDE Online World Cadets and Youths Rapids.
Also, three Jamaicans —Darren Mckennis, Jaden Shaw and John Stephenson — claimed the top three positions in the First Regional Youth Chess Championships, with Shaw winning the FIDE Checkmate Corona Rapids from a field of 567 participants worldwide. Victoria Lewin won two online tournaments (U1300); twins John and Amy Stephenson emerged as National Junior Blitz titles, with all alluding to their chess background as they continued to achieve excellence in chess and academics.
As we anticipate the restart of over the board competitions, the JCF remains optimistic and thankful as we stand by our most recent mantra, “Dominate COVID, chess still a keep”.
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