By Michael Benjamin
The National Stadium, Providence was almost filled to capacity, yet a long line of impatient patrons queued up at the strategically placed booths on the outskirts of the facility to purchase tickets to see the first of the two practice games, between Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, in preparation for the latter country’s participation in the IPL 20/20 cricket championships in South Africa earlier this year.
Similarly, a few months later, on Saturday June 8 last, despite a reduced number than the afore mentioned cricket match, a host of patrons swamped the Princess Hotel International, situated adjacent to the National Stadium, to witness the inaugural boxing promotion at that venue, hosted by Ceon Bristol of the Briso Promotions and featured the likes of American Hector ‘Machito’ Camacho against ‘Deadly’ Denny Dalton among other fights.
Yet still, at the various football matches, organizers enjoyed favourable support as Guyanese trooped to the many venues that hosted the Inter Street football matches at the Cultural Centre Tarmac, the Georgetown Football Club ground, the Tucville Ground and the other football venues for an enjoyable afternoon or oft times, night of exciting matches.
While it is common to see these huge crowds at football, cricket and boxing matches, such responses at certain sports venues such as scrabble, draughts and chess tournaments, border on the ludicrous. Supporters are hardly likely to join large queues much less stampede their way into venues hosting chess matches. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone would attend, even if they were given free passes. The bare truth is that Chess, like so many other board games, will fail to attract stampeding crowds, yet its importance in the local sports mix must be underlined. The sport, for obvious reasons, had been relegated to the back burner for quite sometime due to the inability of local administrators to liquidate the requisite affiliation fees owed to the parent body.
This, coupled with a paucity of corporate support had rendered the local Chess Federation dormant and unable to effectively organize local, much less international tournaments. Perseverance prevailed when the Federation was finally able to put their house in order with elections in late 2008 where veteran chess player, Errol Tiwari, assumed the helm as president, a portfolio he still commands. Ever since then, there has been notable development and like the mighty phoenix, the Chess Federation, with support from Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Frank Anthony and a few corporate entities, rose from the ashes to stake a claim for national prominence, on one end of the continuum, and the attainment of lucrative FIDE ratings by several of the local players on the other. Unobtrusively, local chess administrators began to address their itinerary and the concomitant achievements last year ought to receive the commendations it so richly deserves. There has been resurged activity, a continuation from 2009 when the executives were floundering due to a paucity of support in every area.
Ever since then there has been sustained corporate support with Keishars leading the way, contributing corporate dollars towards the many planned programmes and tournaments. Several other corporate entities supported the cause including Neil and Massy, DDL, Sasha Cells and RRT among others.
One cannot overlook the individual achievements, led by Taffin Khan whose phenomenal rise from the status of an ordinary player to that of the National Junior Champion and subsequently, to his present status as the National Senior Champion. Indeed, Khan must have felt satisfied after defeating the best in the fraternity during the staging of the just concluded national championships, culminating his efforts with a win in the three best of five, duel with Kriskal Persaud, an experienced player who had surrendered the title the previous year to Wendell Muesa.
The latter player has also demonstrated superb knowledge of the sport and after dethroning Persaud in 2009 had chalked up quite a few wins in major tournaments last year even defeating Taffin on numerous occasions. Indeed Meusa had developed into a force on the board and a highly competitive tournament between him and Khan was envisaged. Things fell apart when Meusa was sanctioned by the executive body of the Federation that resulted in the former individual being unable to defend his title which Khan eventually won.
All in all, Chess has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the many other disciplines locally and 2010 has indeed been a phenomenal year for the hard working executives. Of course, topping the list of achievements are the introduction of the sport into the schools and the visit by several top rated FIDE players in late June/early July to challenge several local players in a FIDE rated chess tournament. Those local players are now rated in the world body and have opened the door for their colleagues to attain similar feats in the future.
After years of hard work, punctuated by disappointments, the executives of the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) have finally hit the right chord and their efforts are producing dividends.
Since its resuscitation in 2008, the Errol Tiwari led organization has organized several lucrative tournaments including junior and senior championships, the Group ‘B’ National School Championships, several DDL sponsored tournaments in, the Easter Open championships including the DDL Independence tournament to name a few. Executives of the GCF have also scored a first when they hosted chess grandmaster, Reinard Bauhman whose input has stood and continues to stand the local affiliates in good stead. Indeed, their hard work over the years and more specifically during last year is slowly germinating and the executives of the local Chess Federation can simply take a bow since their strenuous efforts, even in the face of cruel adversities, are now maturing into fruition. They have quietly made their moves despite a year of checkered success and obviously, this year will strive to checkmate their adversaries.
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