National Junior Chess Championship Qualifiers commence

– 29 participants highlight the day

Twenty-nine young vibrant prospects took to the boards last Sunday at the National Resource Centre, all with valid hopes of being in the qualifying seven of the National Junior Chess Championship Finals.
The event, hosted by the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF), took off with verve as upsets and thrills littered the playing halls for the entirety of the two rounds played

Two of Guyana’s top female junior players go head to head, Chelsea Juma (FIDE rated 1112) takes on 2018 Olympiad Player Nellisha Johnson (FIDE rated 1085)

on the first day.
On board 1 of the first round, Christ Church School Champion Akili Theophil, armed with the black pieces, tried his best to hold off a ruthless attack by his opponent Joshua Khan. The critical moment in the game came when Khan missed a decisive mating pattern allowing his opponent the mercy that he would eventually come to regret. Theophil was not nearly as generous to his opponent and launched a counter attack the very moment Khan lost the advantage, comfortably winning the game. His momentum, however, was halted in the second round after he blundered against one of the tournaments joint leaders, Jarrell Troyer, who came well prepared with his scouted preference in Caro-Kann Defence. Troyer had also beaten Samirah Gobin in a rollercoaster first-round match-up.
Playing on board 2 in both of Sunday’s rounds, one of the event’s unrated favourites, Andre Jagnandan quickly defeated his much younger opponent, Kaiden Alli before going on to outplay the FIDE-rated top seed Jaden Taylor (1125) in an

Two young prospects: Odit Rodriguez (right) scans the board against his opponent Italey Ton-Chung. They are both students of the Wendell Meusa Chess Foundation

end-game thriller. A meteoric debut was made by the promising eight-year-old prospect Odit Rodriguez, who won his game against Italey Ton-Chung on board 5 with the black pieces and was primed for another win against opponent Arysh Raghunauth, who is twice his age. However, the tale of his triumph was not to be, as Rodriguez, being much more experienced, managed to slither away for a full victory when the young prospect succumbed to time pressure. Rodriguez’s spectacular effort, however, did not go unnoticed by spectators as the tournament halls resounded loudly with applause after the electrifying game came to an end. Member of the 2018 Batumi Olympiad Team, Nellisha Johnson, rated 1085, conceded a first-round defeat to Chelsea Juma, rated 1112, who played the white pieces. Both players have been consistent headliners in the female category for quite some time and are among the favourites to make the qualifying 7. Johnson’s Olympiad teammate Sasha Shariff defeated Jibrill Alli in the first round, but fell victim to Ethan Lee, FIDE rated 1095, who had also beaten Nickel Charles in the round 1, making him one of the event’s co-leaders at the end of the first day. Ghansham Alli John defeated Noah Rahaman and Waveney Johnson in the first and second rounds respectively.
Aravinda Singh, who has made quite an early impression in the two previous

Tournament co-leader Aravinda Singh with the white pieces takes on the young Maliha Rajkumar in their first-round encounter

tournaments this year, won both his games on day 1, first against Maliha Rajkumar and then against Queen’s College’s Rajiv Lee. Singh’s game against Lee was quite another spectacle; both players had equal chances going into the end game. At the critical position, Lee had a wayward knight ready to leap back into the game with tempo on black weakened by pawn and active rook against Singh’s dark squared bishop and rook who were both experiencing some amount of passivity in the position. It was only until Lee decided to play defensively against Singh’s advanced passed pawn that Singh was able to take advantage and improve his position. He (Singh) improved his chances by forcing the trade of rooks due to checkmating threats, then went on to comfortably convert the victory with his extra pawn. Though defeated in this round, Lee no doubt will try to bounce back into the race for the podium positions as he is known to be a very strong positional player among the juniors. Mahin Rajkumar and Angel Rahim held each other to a stalemate to produce the only drawn game of the first day.
Play is scheduled to resume from 09:00h on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at the National Aquatic Centre.