The year started off with virtual chess tournaments, as had become the norm throughout the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, the National U12 tournament was the first to be played, with 11-year-old Alexander Zhang winning the Open category and Kristin Xavier copping the first place in the Girls category.
Three Guyanese chess players managed to earn prizes in the Suriname-hosted virtual “Master of the Guianas” chess tournament. Justino DaSilva was rewarded as the top Guyanese finisher in that event. Francis Simmons received a prize for being the oldest competitor in the tournament. Jessica Callender came close to dominating the female division, but finished in third.
Over-the-board chess finally returned after an absence of two years with the annual GAICO Grand Prix in March. The GAICO Grand Prix tournaments marked the beginning of the Olympiad Qualification cycle, wherein players can earn Grand Prix Points by competing in these events. The players with the most points at the end of the Grand Prix cycle ultimately represent Guyana at the biennial FIDE Chess Olympiad, the highest level of international competition.
Chelsea Juma and FM Anthony Drayton dominated the first Grand Prix event. CM Taffin Khan and former Women’s champion Sasha Shariff won the second Grand Prix.
The Junior Nationals showed intense rivalry among Guyana’s younger players, who emerged from the lockdown eager to show their dominance over the board with over 70 students competing, the largest ever contingent. Ethan Lee won the Junior Qualifying event, and went on to battle Ricardo Narine for the Junior Title in a thrilling series of tie breakers from which Narine emerged victorious.
FIDE Master Anthony Drayton and Jessica Callender won the National Open and Women’s Qualifiers in May, to go on to the National Championships among 16 other players. Candidate Master Wendell Meusa earned the National Chess Champion title for 2022. Fourteen-year-old Pooja Lam notably became Guyana’s youngest ever women’s champion.
Top junior players Kyle Couchman and Ciel Clement finished as winners of the one-day National U14 Rapid Open and Girls Chess Tournament respectively. For the National U16 Rapid Open, Kyle Couchman once again copped the first-place prize, with Italy Ton-Chung gaining the first place for the Girls category.
Guyana was represented at the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India by CM Taffin Khan, FM Anthony Drayton, Roberto Neto, Loris Nathoo, and 19-year-old Ethan Lee on the Open team; while 18-year-old Sasha Shariff, 14-year-old Pooja Lam, 12-year-old Anaya Lall, 20-year-old Jessica Callender, and 21-year-old Nellisha Johnson were on the women’s team.
Drayton, Callender and Shariff were the standout performers for Guyana at this prestigious event, where players and team were able to increase their international ranking. A major achievement at this event was Sasha Shariff and Jessica Callender earning their conditional Women’s Candidate Master titles.
Later on, Barbados hosted the annual Margaret Prince Memorial Rapid tournament, where Jessica Callender tied for the top spot in the Under-1400 rated division, and Ciel Clement, a 13-year-old up-and-coming player, was able to finish 18th overall.
Callender also later finished in third place at the Srefidensi Blitz Event, which earned her a spot to go on to represent the Caribbean in a showdown versus China.
In 2022, chess was systematically introduced to children with disabilities and special needs at the David Rose Special School, Schoonord Centre for Children with Diverse Needs, New Amsterdam Special Needs School, Gifted Hands Learning Centre for Special Needs, St. Barnabas Special Needs School, and the Linden Centre for Special Children.
The Federation also formed their Women in Chess Committee this year to promote, encourage and teach the game of chess and increase the awareness of the educational value of chess among women in Guyana. While this year served to build membership and set the foundation for the committee, the committee will continue to expand and host a number of training sessions and engagements for young female players in 2023.
With the formation of the GCF’s weekly chess club at School of the Nations and the rigorous expansion of the Chess in Schools programme, hundreds of children across Guyana were able to become actively engaged in the sport for the first time. Students from various schools, including Bishops’ High, Queen’s College, St. Stanislaus College, Anna Regina Multilateral, Better Hope Primary in Essequibo, and School of the Nations were engaged in a virtual 6-week training programme in the early part of the year. In addition, several students from Linden were taught by Stephen Francis.
The GCF was also given the opportunity to showcase chess at the Giftland Mall, where the public was able to engage in games with chess players, join the GCF, and witness simultaneous chess games among some of Guyana’s finest.
The GCF made great strides in broadcasting live games due to the newly-acquired electronic chess boards, compliments of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. Games were streamed live on the GCF’s website and YouTube, giving the public the opportunity to view the games from anywhere in the world.
President of the GCF, FIDE Arbiter Anand Raghunauth, who is also the head of the Chess in Schools Programme, has stated that the GCF would continue its training programmes, and plans to encourage schools to continue and form chess clubs, as this would serve as extra-curricular activities for school children across the country. The Federation continues to extend free premium ChessKid accounts to all participants of the Chess in Schools programme, where they can play online in a safe and controlled environment, as well as learn and get new ideas from ChessKid’s extensive video library.
The Board of Directors of the GCF wishes to extend best wishes for a successful New Year to its membership and numerous sponsors, who have continuously supported chess throughout the year.