For the past two weekends, a total of 13 Bahamian junior chess players were glued to their respective computer screens as they took part in the International School Sports Federation (ISF) World Schools Championship Online Chess 2020 Tournament. President of the Bahamas ISF chapter Rupert Gardiner and Bahamas Chess Federation (BCF) President Elton Joseph were happy with the team’s overall performance.
The 13 players competed against higher ranked players from countries such as Morocco, France, Iran, China, Argentina, Georgia and Brazil. There was one qualifier who made it to the final round – Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Daijah Johnson in the under-17 division as she made history as the first Bahamian to qualify to the finals of the tournament. She finished in the top 40 at number 38 and is set to return to action on Saturday, October 24.
“When you look at our kids playing at that level and we have one qualifier for the finals and one was just short from going to the finals, that tells you the quality of our young kids who competed at that level,” Gardiner said.
According to Joseph, some of the players have not played chess in quite some time. However, he is proud of the team’s performance.
“All of the players did really well. We are proud of them and the amount of effort they put into the competition. Despite the technical difficulties, we are still happy with their performance. We were happy with Johnson who made it to the final,” Joseph said.
In the under-17 girls division, there were Trinity Pinder and Olga Roussos, who finished at number 41. The under-17 boys division was represented by Candidate Master (CM) Nathan Smith, Aidan Mart, Noah Albury, Trevor Bridgewater, Curtis Pride Jr. and Hodari Prince.
Makayla Horton competed in the under-15 girls division. Representing Team Bahamas in the under-15 boys division were Avian Pride, Seth Roberts and Daniel Ramtulla.
Faith Higgs, in the under-15 girls division, and Nathaniel Higgs Jr., in the under-17 boys division, were on the team but did not get to compete due to technical difficulties.
Gardiner stated that it speaks volume of the kids and he is expecting support from the Bahamian government. He added that Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell “Fish” Knowles fully backs the tournament.
Joseph said that The Bahamas is a young country in the world of chess, going against countries from Asia and Europe which have been playing chess for over a century. He is very impressed with all of the players. Joseph serves as Johnson’s coach and said he is looking to work on all aspects of chess with her before she competes again.
“Tactics are an important part of blitz,” Joseph said. “When you practice tactics, you need to be able to see them and see your opponent’s tactics also. She is good in openings but we’ll still have to look into that. In normal chess you play for position and with anticipation, but blitz is different because there is not a lot of time. You are not looking to take too much chances and looking for ways to waste your opponent’s time, threats and to cause them spend a lot of time thinking.”
Joseph added that a strategy in blitz is to win on time and if the opponent is threatened, they will spend time to not get “checkmated” or to escape.
For Gardiner, he sees Johnson finishing in the top 20 in the rankings on October 24.
“I am looking forward to her performing well,” Gardiner said. “The more she competes, the better she will get. She finished 38th and I think she will finish in the top 20 next weekend. I have confidence in her that she will make that position as top 20 in the world which will be good for The Bahamas, the Bahamas Chess Federation and the whole country.”
As for next year’s competition, Joseph said they are going to be more prepared. He said they are looking at starting more clubs in schools. They are looking for coaches and teachers, parents and community helpers who want to teach students to play the game. In addition, they are hoping that there can be a large inter-school competition so they can select players to send to not only this competition, but to other chess competitions, such as the Central American and Caribbean Youth Chess Championships, the CARIFTA Chess Tournament, the North American Youth Chess Championships, the Commonwealth Chess Championships and the Pan American Youth Chess Tournament.
Gardiner said there are more sports on the ISF calendar that The Bahamas is looking to participate in, such as volleyball, swimming, beach volleyball, track and field and basketball. He said they are looking to take part in the 2021 Gymnasiade Summer Games to be held in Jinjiang, China, from October 16-23, 2021.