THE 2023 National Age-Group Chess Championship held at The University of West Indies ended in dramatic fashion, with three play-offs to decide the champions in those categories.
The Jamaica Chess Federation event featured over 300 participants from more than 50 schools competing to become the national champion in their respective age categories.
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke opened proceedings, and when the curtains closed 12 new champions were crowned to potentially represent Jamaica internationally.
The Under-8 Absolute section was won by Rajvir Shergil of Porter Center for Knowledge; he won all six of his games. Finishing second and third were Christian Brooks and Jordan Mantock, respectively.
The Under-8 Female section ended in a thrilling finish as three players were tied for first place with points points from six matches. They had to face off against each other in a speed chess play-off and, after one full round of ties, the players were asked to play another round with shorter, blitz time limits. Following the rigorous play-off, Dayna-Simone Swasey of Immaculate Preparatory won the section and became Under-8 female champion. Leah Morgan and Rhea Gardner finished second and third, respectively.
aheem Gayle from Mona Preparatory came up with a superb performance to top the Under-10 Absolute section with a perfect score of 6/6. He was closely followed by Tevaughn Tennant and Austin Xiang, both on 5/6.
Candidate Master-Elect Emilia-Rose Leake of Creative Kids Learning Academy pulled off a similar result by finishing with a perfect 6/6 in the Under-10 Female section. Elisha Patel finished second with 5/6 points while in third position was Mai Chin with 5/6 as well.
In the tough Under-12 Absolute section Aaron Mckoy emerged victorious. The Harrison's Preparatory student ended with 5.5/6 points to win with a close margin. Ronak Shergill was 2nd with 5/6 points, and Liam Logan was 3rd on tiebreaks with the same 5/6 points.
It took a similar 5.5/6 points to crown Victoria Salazar from Hillel Academy as champion for the Under-12 Female section. Sofia Petrut-Trandifir was second on 5/6, while Victoria Powell finished third with 4.5/6 points.
The tournament took another exciting turn when the competitive Under-14 Absolute section saw a tie for first place among three young players. Corbin Harvey, Cameron Coe and Zahmir Smikle all tied on five points each. This meant that they had to battle it out in a speed version of the game. Corbin Harvey of Wolmer's Boys' emerged victorious by winning both play-off games to become champion. Coe was second and Smikle third.
Olympian player Kaia Gayle from St Andrew High School for Girls did not need a play-off to secure her hold on the Under-14 Female title as she completed the Grace Vienna Sausage-sponsored event with a perfect 6/6 points. In second position was Glory Murphy on 4.5/6, followed closely in third by Dedipya Sunkara on 4/6.
Candidate Master Jaden Shaw of Wolmer's Boys registered another impressive victory, finishing with 5.5/6 to win the Under-16 Absolute title. J-Loy Chin and Gabriella Watson both finished on 4.5/6 to end at second and third, respectively.
The merged section saw Gabriella Watson of Immaculate Conception High finishing as the Under-16 Female champion with 4.5/6 points. Suraiya Matandara-Clarke was second with 4/6 points and Arielle Mckoy third with 3/6 points.
More excitement was to be had in the Under-18 Absolute section when top juniors Darren Mckennis and Woman Candidate Master Raehanna Brown from Campion College both tied on 5.5/6 points. They had to do a speed chess play-off, which was also tied. After the blitz portion of the play-off was also tied 1-1 they had to go to a sudden death match. It was in that match that Raehanna won to claim the Under-18 title to add to her already-secured Under-18 Female title. Darren Mckennis was second and Aayush Jain third with 4/6 points.
Second place in the Under-18 Female section was Amy Stephenson, while third went to Kaity Gayle.
The championship was sponsored by Grace Vienna Sausages and Tile City Home & Center.
GraceKennedy brand assistant Sha-Tara Carter said: "We were excited to see the huge hall of youngsters playing, and even more thrilled to see them rocking it at the chess board."
Director of Tile City & Home Center expressed her company's excitment to be a part of the event. "Congratulations to the organisers for an amazing and successful championship. A huge congratulations to all the players and coaches. We will continue to show support in 2024," she expressed.