The passing of Hurricane Isaias could not stop local chess players from The Bahamas from competing in the 2020 FIDE (International Chess Federation) Online Olympiad the weekend of July 31 to August 2.
The 44th edition of the FIDE Chess Olympiad was set for this month in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. However, that event has been postponed to 2021.
Initially, a dozen players registered under the Bahamas Chess Federation (BCF) were set to take part in the online olympiad, but that was narrowed down to just nine players due to the arrival of the hurricane that weekend, resulting in a withdrawal of several players.
The nine players who participated were Nathaniel A. Higgs, Philip Hanna, Aaron Ramtulla, Nelissa Thomas, Olga Roussos, Aidan Mart, Chika Pride, Makayla Horton and Avian Pride. BCF President Elton Joseph was the captain of the team.
“They did pretty well at the tournament,” Joseph said. “For most of them it was their first time and most of them did well. We had six juniors participate and we had some good results. We didn’t expect to win because in our region, The Bahamas is not at the top, but we are happy with our results.”
Juniors are players under 20 years of age.
Team Bahamas played in Division 3 Pool E and played nine rounds over the course of the weekend – three rounds per day. Also in that pool were Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, São Tomé and Príncipe, Bermuda, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and Guyana.
Chika Pride scored the highest points for The Bahamas with three points. Thomas and Avian Pride scored two points each. Rounding out the scoring were Mart and Horton with one point each.
In the sixth round of play, The Bahamas was victorious over Sierra Leone, winning that round 4-2. Team Bahamas was unable to record a team win in the other eight rounds but was able to get a few wins in singles in those losses.
It was a challenge that weekend as a good portion of New Providence was without power for several hours as Hurricane Isaias made impact. Joseph said the team was persistent in taking part in the tournament.
“Those who participated did whatever possible. They charged up tablets and phones, getting extra data. One of the players went and rented a generator. We are proud of the effort that they put in. They wanted to participate in the tournament and did whatever it took,” Joseph said.
The BCF president said the players are eager to get a chance to play in the competition again.
“There are many benefits of playing chess,” Joseph said. “It helps you get smarter, think critically and consequentially. Those benefits come from actual competition and a lot of people fear competition because they don’t want to lose. This is a very good experience. There is a saying in chess: ‘If you win all of your games, you do not actually earn anything.’ Many of them lost and they actually gained a lot of experience from it.”
Joseph added that the players have already asked for more training after seeing the competition online.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic became a part of everyday life in The Bahamas, the BCF has had to resort to the game of chess being played online locally, looking to assist players in staying ready and keeping sharp.
The FIDE Online Olympiad, a major online chess event for national teams, began on July 25 and wraps up on August 30 on the Chess.com server. About 163 teams and over 1,500 participants from all over the world are taking part in the tournament. This was the inaugural online tournament.