Rapid Rooks lift Ashley Trophy
The Rapid Rooks chess team clinched a narrow, suspense-filled victory over the Dark Knights to capture the inaugural Maurice Ashley Trophy in an exciting climax to the Jamaica International Chess Festival at the Spanish Court Hotel on Sunday.
Led by Grandmaster Awonder Liang, the youngest chess grandmaster in the world, and Woman International Master Akshita Gorti, the highest-rated 14-year-old female in the world, the Rapid Rooks amassed a total of 22 1/2 points, one ahead of the Dark Knights after four rounds of play consisting of 44 individual games in aggregate.
The Rapid Team Chess match featured two 11-a-side teams comprising international chess prodigies and Jamaica's national and CARIFTA chess champions. The top boards featured matches between GM Awonder Liang and GM Akshat Chandra, who played on Board 1, and WIM Akshita Gorti and WGM Qiyu Zho, who faced each other on Board 2.
Intense See-Saw Battle
The match was an intense see-saw battle over the four rounds with the Rapid Rooks and Dark Knights exchanging the lead, with neither allowing the other to get too far ahead. It was the Dark Knights who struck first, coming out of Round 1, with a 6-5 lead with draws both on the two top boards.
By the end of Round 2, however, the lead was reversed, with the Rapid Rooks leading 12-10 after they came away with seven points compared with the Rapid Rooks' four points.
Tables were again turned during Round 3, and the Dark Knights again captured the lead going into the final fourth round with 17 points and a narrow one-point advantage over the Rapid Rooks, who had 16 points.
The high-intensity match featured a titanic struggle between local National Masters Shreyas Smith of the Rapid Rooks and Joshua Christie of the Dark Knights.
In the first round, Joshua survived with a victory after maintaining his composure with only 15 seconds remaining on his clock, relying only on the incremental five seconds gained after each move.
In all, the French Defence was used twice by Joshua to counter Shreyas' aggressive Kingside play. In the crucial last-round encounter, Joshua sprang a surprise Reti Opening, and after skilful manoeuvring in a Rook and Pawn ending, emerged victorious winning his encounter 3-1.
GM Maurice Ashley, Ian Wilkinson and FM Warren Elliott provided live commentary, and the match was broadcast on one of the most prestigious international chess media platforms, the Internet Chess Club.