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Jamaica Int'l Chess Festival to showcase international masters

Published:Saturday | October 7, 2017 | 12:11 AMRachid Parchment
Jamaica Chess Federation vice president and organiser of the Jamaica International Chess Festival, Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke.

Five of the world's International Chess Masters (ICM) and one of the sport's top coaches will be in the island next week for the first-ever Jamaica International Chess Festival.

The three-day event starts on Friday, October 13, wrapping up on the following Sunday, and the organiser, Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke, says that this is possibly the first time that so many grand masters have visited the island at once.

One of the five is Awonder Liang, who, at 14 years old, is the youngest grand master in the world. He is a former world champion, claiming that title at eight years old, and he is the current United States junior champion.

Another is 16-year-old Grand Master Akshat Chandra, who Clarke describes as a prodigy because he became a grand master only five years after he started playing competitively at nine years old.

Chandra held two national titles in 2015 and is the number-one rated player under 21 years old in the United States.

Woman Grand Master Qiyu Zhou is a 17-year-old Canadian player, who learnt the sport in France, but who moved to Finland, where she was the Under-10 champion for five years in a row. She then returned to Canada to become the Under-12, Under-14, and World champion.

Akshita Gorti is a woman international master. The American is the No. 1-rated female player in the world under the age of 14 years old. Gorti is a former North American champion and the current US female junior champion.

 

HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT

 

Maurice Ashley is the fifth international master involved in the festival. He grew up in Tower Hill, Kingston, and left the island at 12 years old and became the first-ever African-American grand master.

David MacEnulty, one of the most recognised scholastic chess coaches in the US, will also participate in the festival. MacEnulty is a US Chess Federation Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and was also featured in a made-for-television movie called Knights of the Bronx in 2005.

The first day of the festival will see the ICMs visiting schools in the Corporate Area, while the next two days will see the Emancipation Park transformed into a chess hub, with boards "dotted across the park", as Clarke described it. He said that on the second day, the sport may be played in various exhibition formats.

"We'll have a chess exhibition with a number of activities, which could include some simultaneous chess (where one player takes part in multiple games at the same time), some blitz (two-minute games), some blindfolded games," Clarke said.

Day three of the festival also takes place at Emancipation Park and features a rapid team chess match.

"It's a way of getting our kids to interact with elite players who, even if you are a strong player attending a school in the US, you wouldn't normally come across," Clarke said.

"It's for our young and developing players to see what is possible. We are limited only by our own imagination. In developing young minds, you want to widen the boundaries of imagination. If you've never met a 14-year-old grand master before, you don't believe it's possible, but when you meet one and see that they are human like you, then suddenly your thoughts about your own potential are transformed. That is the aim - having this kind of direct engagement."