The Bahamas has selected a 15-member team to represent the country at the International School Sport Federation (ISF) Online Chess Championships, slated for October 3-25.
Action will take place on the weekends between those dates. The announcement was made at a press conference held by the Ministry of Education Sports Unit yesterday morning at the Courtyard by Marriott Nassau Hotel.
This is the first event that The Bahamas will be participating in since it joined the ISF in July 2020. The Bahamas became the 130th member of the ISF.
Representing The Bahamas on the team in the under-18 female division are FIDE (International Chess Federation) Woman Candidate Master Daijah Johnson (Aquinas College), Trinity Pinder (Doris Johnson Senior High School) and Olga Roussos (Home School).
In the under-18 open division, the country will be represented by FIDE Candidate Master Nathan Smith (Home School), Aiden Mart (Home School), Noah Albury (St. Augustine’s College), Trevor Bridgewater (Queen’s College), Curtis Pride Jr. (Home School) and Nathaniel Higgs Jr. (R.M. Bailey Senior High School).
The under-15 female division will have Makayla Horton (St. Augustine’s College) and Faith Higgs (S.C. McPherson Junior High School) representing The Bahamas. Tadan Ferguson (Home School), Daniel Ramtulla (Queen’s College), Seth Roberts (Queen’s College) and Avian Pride will compete in the under-15 open division for The Bahamas.
For 17-year-old Johnson, who will be representing The Bahamas in her fifth international tournament, she said it comes with a lot of excitement – the same as with the other four tournaments she represented The Bahamas in.
“I feel as if each international tournament is a good experience, as I get to compete against people from different parts around the world. I also get to interact with people from different cultures and make long friendships with fellow chess players,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Pinder were members of The Bahamas’ female national team that traveled to Batumi, Georgia, for the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in 2018. Pinder, now 16, began playing chess at the T.G. Glover Primary School.
“[I] heard from my mother that my grandfather also used to play, so I thought, why not give it a try? When I tried, I realized that it can take me a lot of places, which it has over the years because I grew up in Bain and Grants Town and I never felt I would have gotten a chance to travel the world. Through chess, I have already been to Jamaica, Curaçao and the Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. I went to a lot of places that I thought I would have not been able to as a child from Bain Town,” Pinder said.
The Technical Director of the Bahamas Chess Federation (BCF) Nathaniel Higgs Sr., who will be coaching the players, said he is ecstatic to be a part of this historic moment and will get the players adjusted to the three-minute system.
“We are going to have an in-house tournament with all the participants to get them familiarized with the system. We are going to get feedback from them on how they feel about it, what their advantages and disadvantages are, and how they can improve their play because it is three minutes – rapid chess. They are used to an hour or half hour chess,” Higgs said.
Roussos celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday and has been playing chess for a little over a year. She is excited to be on the team and hopes to keep making the team every year until she is no longer eligible to do so because of age.
“I think it is going to be a great learning experience. Whenever I play, I always learn about new moves and tactics that I can use in future games. I am very excited to compete against other seasoned players,” Roussos said.
There are no Grand Bahamian or Family Island students on the team. BCF President Elton Joseph said that is something they plan to fix for next year.
“This year, we had a lot of funding to do. We had some chess sets and books. We were supposed to have chess in the school program but COVID-19 hit. There are two clubs in Freeport, a club in Eleuthera and one in Andros that we sent chess sets to and then school closed down,” he said.
Joseph said going forward, the only thing they can do is to instruct teachers or anyone who is interested in learning chess the nature of the game, so that they can teach their students how to play. He said they are always researching ways to get the game of chess introduced around the country.
Director of the Bahamas Chapter of the ISF Rupert Gardiner said this is historic.
“History is being made once again in The Bahamas and I am proud to be a part of it. I would like to thank the press for coming out to support this event to make it a success so that other kids can be involved in the ISF. There are a lot of opportunities for young Bahamians and we want them to take advantage of those opportunities,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner thanked Joseph and Higgs Sr. for working with the team. Also supporting the event is the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC).
The Director of Sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Timothy Munnings congratulated the athletes as they prepare to represent the country.
“I want to encourage all of the schools and athletes to get involved and find an opportunity to become exposed to persons around the world… This is a fantastic opportunity and I hope you seize this chance to get involved in sports. Chess appears to be the first one out the gate. It is a mind sport and some people don’t know chess to be a sport – they consider it a board game but it requires a lot of mental stamina and patience. These are some of the attributes that sports will teach you,” Munnings stated.
There are other sports that The Bahamas will be participating in at the ISF level as time goes on such as volleyball, track and field, basketball and swimming to name a few. The ISF headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium. It has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1995.