FM Drayton, Callender lead National Qualifiers

The National Open and Women’s Chess Championship Qualifiers began on Saturday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence with the first four rounds being concluded over the weekend.

FM Anthony Drayton

In the Open qualifiers, FIDE Master (FM) Anthony Drayton is leading, having played unbeaten so far. In round four, the two players favoured to win faced off in the tournament-deciding match: FM Drayton and Candidate Master (CM) Wendell Meusa. Renowned for their skill and respected for their rivalry, they faced off in the classical format after two years of quarantine. Drayton with the white pieces led a solid opening to which Meusa reciprocated. Meusa played one inaccuracy, and Drayton struck. Drayton began his attack on Meusa’s king as his pieces surged into black’s territory. Lanes of attack opened and pressure began to apply. Meusa defended well, securing the squares around his king and trading off Drayton’s attacking pieces for his defenders, but the damage had been done. In the aftermath of the attack, Drayton’s remaining pieces captured pawns and began to claw away a material advantage in the endgame. This advantage multiplied, and Meusa resigned as Drayton’s pawns stormed down the board on their way to promotion. Meusa gained three points with his wins against Frankie Farley, Justino De Silva and Loris Nathoo. Drayton also racked up wins against Ethan Lee, Roberto Neto, who are on three points each, and Rashad Hussain, who is on two points. Other players close to the top are Nathoo and Rai Sharma, who are both on 2.5 points. Veteran player Errol Tiwari also competed, along with Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) President Frankie Farley, with both gaining two points after four rounds. De Silva, Godfrey Taylor, and Juniors Mayas Khan and Ethan Persaud are on 1 point each.

Frankie Farley v Godfrey Taylor

In the Women’s tournament, Jessica Callender also leads the table on four points after four rounds. She defeated Anaya Lall (three points), Pooja Lam (three points), Waveney Johnson (two points) and received a free point from a bye. In round three of the tournament, the 14-year-old Lam faced off against Callender. The two young women were considered to be two of the strongest in the country, and it was possibly the tournament deciding match. The game began and Lam with the white pieces played her opening. Perhaps it was unfamiliar territory for Callender, because an advantage was achieved for Lam very early on in the game. Lam went in aggressively, sensing weakness in Callender’s position. Unfortunately, disaster struck for Lam. Callender’s counterplay led to Lam blundering a piece. Lam’s wonderful attacking game ended in disaster as she resigned a few moves later, letting Callender get away. Waveney Johnson and Adia Alphonso also played in round three, where another wonderful attacking game took place. Both sides played a solid opening, but it set the stage for an exciting middle game. In an exchange, Alphonso blundered a piece, giving Johnson the momentum to strike. Alphonso played well to avoid being checkmated, but she was still down material.

Waveney Johnson v Jessica Callender

The middle game ended and the endgame began. Johnson had the clear advantage, but converting a winning game to a win is sometimes the hardest thing to do in chess. Alphonso’s cunning led to Johnson blundering the material back, leaving the game equal. It was then time for Alphonso to shine. What could only be more experience in endgames led Alphonso to a winning position. A material advantage was achieved and that advantage multiplied. Alphonso converted the game to a win via checkmate a few moves later. Alphonso would then go on to face Johnson’s sister in the next round, but unfortunately lost that game. Eleven-year-old deaf player Anaya Lall racked up impressive wins against Adia Alphonso, Maliha Rajkumar and Alexia McAdam.

Pooja Lam v Angel Rahim

Also on three points is Nellisha Johnson, with Adia Alphonso, Maliha Rajkumar, and Angel Rahim on two points respectively. Elizabeth McRae, Gabriel Oliver and Alexia McAdam are all on one point each. However, with this only being the halfway point, it is still anyone’s game. Action continues on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15. The final four rounds over the two days will determine which players go on to compete in the national tournaments for a shot at the respective championship titles.
The top nine players from the Open Tournament will take on defending champion CM Taffin Khan who is expected to defend his title. Meanwhile, reigning women’s champion Sasha Shariff will face the top nine finishers from the Women’s Qualifier in hopes of retaining her title.