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Schoolboys Make Move For Titles
Claire Clarke, Contributor
Volume 1, No. 13
The sun is soon to set on the high-school chess competition as tomorrow, the rural and urban champions will be crowned. These two champions will then do battle next Thursday to see who, indeed, is the best in chess across the length and breadth of Jamaica at the high-school level.
Fighting for the rural spoils are defending champions Glenmuir High - who have won this title in 2005, 2007 and 2011 - and St Jago High, who have been the best from rural Jamaica in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. It is expected to be a keenly contested matchup. The high-school chess tournament officially crowned rural and urban winners starting in 2005.
Glenmuir, if they play their top four, will outfit board one - Andrew Ellis (captain), board two - Tahj Davis, board three - André Nelson, and board four - Tevye La Mont.
A strong unit and reasonably active set with the exception of Ellis, who has not been seen much on the circuit this season, but as the runner-up in the 2011 National Junior Championships, he is respected as a very solid player, heavy practice or not.
Ellis is also on the team playing in TVJ Schools' Challenge Quiz this year, which ChessMate understands has been sharing significant portions of his chess-playing time.
St Jago, if they play their top four, will outfit board one - Alistair Walker; board two - Roderick Clifford (captain); board three - Matthew Blake; and board four - Jamie Cunningham.
A silently creeping return-to-form team has been reasonably active this season.
Walker, a third-former, was promoted to board one in the new year at the start of the quarter-finals and had an interesting position against the super high-school player, Shreyas Smith, three weekends ago in the National Age Group Championships. But onlookers see this, too, as a battle of the coaches: Glenmuir's WE Chess founder, Fide Master Warren Elliot, against St Jago's Royale Chess Academy founder, National Master Mikhail Solomon.
Who has prepared their charges best? Tomorrow, starting 1 p.m., this question will be answered.
Campion vs calabar
In search of urban honours are defending champions Campion College, who also hold the all-island title for 2011, and have won this title in 1989, 1991, 1990, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011.
Campion College are the most all-island and urban titled school in the 37-year history of the competition. They go up against Calabar High, who have won the urban element once, back in 2005, but have never held the all-island crown.
Campion, if they play their top four, will outfit board one - Andrew Ffolkes (captain); board two - Douglas Johnson; board three Sekani Boxhill; and board four - Jason Lawson. A very active set of players who carry the legacy of chess excellence on their shoulders.
They have surprised many detractors to be this far this year with what many considered at the start of the season a weak side.
Calabar, if they play their top four, will outfit board one - Shreyas Smith; board two - Orane Hyman; board three - Ajani Domville; and board four - Jovardo Bryan (captain). An active team that sports the high-flying Smith, who is without a doubt one of the nation's strongest high-school players right now.
Yet, Calabar are the underdogs of the tournament. Many are shocked that they have got this far, but they are where many others thought they should be.
No battle of the coaches here in the urban title battle as while Campion are guided by Chess Whizz Kids founder, NM Ryan Blackwood, Calabar are without a coach. A team without a coach that is an underdog in a competition final, some argue, might, indeed, be quite dangerous, as they play with heart and no fear.
Experienced Smith from Calabar is the de facto coach of this passionate team, which means that teacher meets student as most of Smith's chess career was honed under the sharp strategic mind of NM Blackwood with Chess Whizz Kids, where Smith was a founding student.
So how does our chess crystal ball holder, NM Peter Myers, call it? Glenmuir High vs St Jago High.
Board 4: "I don't know anything about Cunningham so I'm going with the experience of LaMont."
Board 3: "Nelson versus Blake is a tough one, I would say a draw."
Board 2: "Clifford versus Davis is also even for me."
Board 1: "Walker versus Ellis is even."
So does he give it to Glenmuir? Well, he is a bit cautious as he gives NM Solomon the preparation edge over FM Elliot. Whatever happens, NM Myers believes this one is going to be tight.
Now, NM Myers on the Campion College vs Calabar matchup.
Board 4: "Bryan should win. Based on playing in open section (in other tournaments) and getting better opponents as a result."
Board 3: "The biggest gap. Boxhill should win his game first."
Board 2: "Hyman is unknown. Johnson should canter through and put pressure on the rest of Calabar to win their games, Johnson being from Campion."
Board 1: "Big Edge to Smith, based on form. But Folkes has more experience which is not to be ignored. And you cannot blunder against Folkes. He will finish at this level. I think the pressure may take its toll on the two Calabar guys when it is 2-0 to Campion."
However, if it goes down to a sudden-death blitz finish NM Myers picks Calabar.
This week, we continue going through the symbols used in game notation. It is a unique move that is often not taught to some players as it does not as a standard present itself on the board. It is called the en passant (direct translation - in passing).
A move possible only by a pawn is written on score sheets as e.p.
February 25 - Finals of the urban and rural high schools tournament.
March 1 - All-island final of the high school tournament.
March 3 - Start of the National Junior tournament. Details to be announced soon.
Email feedback, send in your games or upcoming tournaments to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.