Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Jamaican chess has bright future - Wilkinson

Published:Tuesday | December 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence/ Gleaner Writer
Excelsior A's Romar Smith (left) and teammate Kymani Hurge calculating their next moves during the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) National High School Chess Championship, held recently at the Campion College Auditorium.

"Landmark moments in 2018 have paved the way for a bright future in Jamaican chess." That is the viewpoint of outgoing Jamaica Chess Federation President Ian Wilkinson. Citing the World Chess Sub-Zonal tournament and Jamaica's strong run at the World Chess Olympiad, Wilkinson says good things lie ahead.

"Well, 2018 is fantastic," Wilkinson intoned with a broad smile on December 6. "We had never hosted what is called the Sub-Zonal 2.3.5, which is how they organise sub-zonals and zonals and ways to qualify for the World Championships individual title, so you are officially the best player in the world," he explained of the event that had been held elsewhere in the region previously.

Wilkinson was full of praise for the team that worked to stage the tournament which was held at The Knutsford Court Hotel in June, and noted his thanks to the Government and the Sports Development Foundation for support.


Miraculous outcome


"It was a miraculous outcome because, let's face it, Shane Matthews won totally against the odds," he said, still bubbling from the 54-year-old player's performance.

"You don't normally win a tournament of that calibre if you're over 40," he stated. "I mean, even at 40," Wilkinson said, "It's miraculous, because chess is now a young person's sport."

To bolster the point, he enunciated, "You know, people are becoming grandmasters at 13, 14, and the older you get, the more difficult it is to compete."

The Jamaica Chess Federation President said, "The Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia, former Soviet Union, was bittersweet for me."

Pinpointing the fact that Jamaica's women met world number 7 France in round 7 of 11, he glowed, "We were absolutely fantastic, and with a little bit more experience, and bearing in mind, we fielded St Jago's Adani Clarke, a teenager who has tremendous potential to dominate regional chess if she sticks to it, certainly in the women's field."

Wilkinson himself was named an honorary vice president of the World Chess Federation and he believes this appointment will allow him to help Jamaican and regional chess even more. Now a member of the sport's Presidential board, Wilkinson observed, "You have access to technical minds to see how administrations work, so I've learnt a lot in just a few weeks."

"That board has some real influential people in world chess, the most influential people, I would say, including presidents of the various continents because you have a President for the Americas, for Africa, for Europe and Asia," he outlined.

He expects to share that knowledge at home even after he demits office next June. "That has put me in pole position to help even much more with Jamaica's chess in terms of the transition into 2019 and 2020," he envisioned.

Wilkinson, who has been president of the local federation since 2003, thinks the big moves this year open a pathway to success.

"So, the platform is well set,"he concluded, "paved for launch into the future in positive ways going forward."