Claire Clarke, Contributor
Volume 2. No.13
It is D-Day tomorrow when 'country meets town' to prove which high school is the best in the land over the board 64 squares with 32 pieces called chess.
The contest: Campion College (urban) versus Glenmuir High (rural).
New champions will be crowned as defending champions St Jago High lost to Glenmuir in the rural finals two weeks ago. Glenmuir are charged with bringing it home again for the rural teams while Campion seeks to regain urban supremacy.
In the 39 years of this tournament, the urban teams have been more successful at holding this title. There have been 30 urban all-island title holders and 11 rural victors since 1975. (In earlier years, this title has been shared on occasion. Since the late 1980s, title sharing has been stopped).
There are no neophytes here as both teams have held this title before. Campion seven times, the highest record of victories, and Glenmuir twice. Campion were there last year and lost, Glenmuir, the year before and lost to Campion.
The teams, Glenmuir High: board 1 - Andrew Ellis; board 2 - Tahj Davis; board 3 - Andre Nelson; board 4 - Travoy Simpson. Campion College: board 1 - Andrew Folkes; board 2 - Jason Lawson; board 3 - Sekani Boxil; and board 4 - Rachel Miller.
Both coaches, National Master Ryan Blackwood - Campion and Fide Master Warren Elliot - Glenmuir charge in with confidence, cautious in claiming dominance, yet firm in the belief that their team will prevail.
"I expect it to be a well-fought match and a Glenmuir victory," FM Elliot told ChessMate. A little more bravado from the Campion 'sensei': "As would any coach, we are expecting to win against Glenmuir on Saturday to reclaim the all-island title," said NM Blackwood.
Chessmate feels that coaching prep and match sharpness will determine the winners in the end. Whichever team has been putting down the effort this week is ahead. As far as match sharpness is concerned, Chessmate believes that Glemuir's trek to the final was harder and they are, therefore, more prepared mentally for tough games.
But there is one mythical trump that Campion will either prove right or destroy tomorrow. In its 39 years, an all-girls team has never made it to the all-island chess final in Jamaica. In fact, a girl being on a team in the final is rare. But there have been occasions when at least one board is held by the fairer sex, and history suggests that team that has a princess wins.
The trump of the girl on the team in the finals first happened in 1984 and again in 1986 with this writer, Claire Clarke, representing St Jago High and winning the title. Then, in 2003, Campion served up Hui Zhu and again the team with the fairer sex took home the spoils.
And now in 2010, for the fourth time in 39 years, Campion again have a princess on their side in the form of high-flying junior Rachel Miller, just fresh from capturing three age-group national titles. Will Glenmuir be jinxed by the appearance of Ms Miller or will the Chessmate myth be proven wrong?
Campion might also be working with a psychological twister since they were not expecting these opponents in the finals. "To be honest, we were really prepared to meet St Jago in the finals, but with the new situation, we have had little time to really prepare for our unexpected opponents," said NM Blackwood.
FM Elliot will have some mixed emotions himself, having once coached the school he will now try to beat. "I think this would be the third time with me as coach of Glenmuir. We won in the first encounter and drew 2-2 last time, but lost the blitz play-offs. There was another year when I was the coach of Campion College. Campion College won then."
Coach NM Blackwood claims he has a "secret weapon" which will remain unknown until tomorrow. "Campion will be bringing it home," he adds. Score line 2-2, with a win for Campion in the blitz play-off.
FM Elliot is also cagey in details, but says: "I think we will win because of the passion and determination that the Glenmuir unit is displaying this year; there is a good feeling in the camp because of the recent victory in the rural finals and other Glenmuir successes outside of chess. The guys are extremely confident, and this is a huge plus in chess." Score line 3-1 for Glenmuir.
Successes outside of chess that FM Elliot refers to would include that this week Glenmuir beat St Jago in TVJ's Schools' Challenge Quiz match in a thrilling encounter, board one player Ellis is also on that team.
All-Island Chess Finals: March 16 at Campion College.
National Junior Tournament: (date and venue to be announced).
Carifta Championship: April 4-8, 2013, Kingston, Jamaica.
Email feedback, send in your games or upcoming tournaments to email@example.com 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.