Claire Clarke, Contributor
Volume 2. No.6
One of Jamaica's most respected chess players is Fide Master Shane Matthews. His passion for the game is equalled by few, his talent and amazing skill have resulted in him being affectionately called "The Magician". FM Matthews is one of a few highly rated players who is generally very active, once he is in Jamaica and available to play.
Last year, he was off the island so was not seen much on the local circuit. But unable to resist any sort of chess competition, Shane reigned supreme at a blitz tournament in the Eastern Caribbean in the last quarter of 2012.
"Well, I took part in an event in Barbados, which was decided at the time to be a round-robin event with only 10 players. Included in the line-up was FM Delisle Warner and several of Barbados' strongest junior players, including the National Junior Champion. I won my first-round game pretty quickly and was surprised that I had to face Warner in the next round. After winning this game, there was no stopping me. I beat all the other players, though there were two close calls, but again, the complications were to my advantage."
This blitz victory added yet another fast-paced chess success to FM Matthews' catalogue, he has so many, he can not even count them anymore.
"Well I'm not sure how many, I have won the blitz title several times," FM Matthews said. FM Matthews was Jamaica's first ever blitz champion and has won the Red Skorpion blitz tournament, a recent addition to the chess calendar.
He recalls what he refers to as "titanic struggles" against Jamaican chess stars like NM Robert Wheeler, NM Neil Fairclough, FM Grantel Gibbs, IM Jomo Pitterson and FM Warren Elliott.
With such amazing success over the swift mode of the game, FM Matthews shares his valuable experience on the virtues of the game.
"In blitz chess, speed counts a lot. So it's preferable to make moves that force your opponent to consume time. My style favours complicated positions, maybe because my intuition helps me find solutions quickly. I play attacking chess in the long format, but with far less risk as compared to when I play blitz," FM Matthews told Chessmate.
When asked to name some of the top local blitz players, he mentioned FM Elliott, NM Andrew Mellace, IM Pitterson, NM Ryan Blackwood, FCM Russel Porter, NM Mark Smith and NM Geoffrey Byfield. But his three all-time Jamaican blitz players are: NM Wheeler, NM Fairclough and NM Gibbs. Of course, ChessMate would add FM Matthews to this list.
FM Matthews cautions though that blitz can be bad. "For me, blitz chess is better than no chess at all. But it has been said that it is generally bad for development, because it may encourage or influence some bad habits."
There are, however, positives to blitz play if it is used correctly."I think it has a place in that you can train through an opening with several games, to get a feel of how the middle-game of such an opening should be played, the possible endgames arising etc," he added.
Email feedback, send in your games or upcoming tournaments to firstname.lastname@example.org and join the facebook page chessmate. Claire Clarke is a former Women's National Champion, three-time Jamaica Women's team Chess Olympiad representative, trained journalist and editor.
High School playoffs (rural and urban) resume: January 19.
National Age Group Championships: February 2 and 3 (Under 8, 12 and 16).
John Powell Memorial Open: February 9 and 10.
National Age Group Championships: February 23 and 24 (Under 10, 14 and 18).