President of the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF), Irshad Mohamed, has expressed delight in the general performance of his team of players that recently competed in the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku Azerbaijan. He feels that while those players have failed to clinch the overall championship, several of them have exited the tournament, from September 1-14, with dignity.
He had special praise for Maria Verona Thomas, who scored an impressive 8 points from 11 matches and was eventually conferred with Guyana’s first ever Women FIDE Master (WFM) Title. Young and upcoming player, Sheriffa Ali, was also promoted to Woman Candidate Master (WCM) after amassing 5 ½ points from 10 games, while CM Taffin Khan has also been impressive in the Absolute Category but barely missed out on the improved placing of Fide Master by a mere ½ point.
Mr. Mohamed said that it was quite an uphill battle to Baku Azerbaijan, dubbed ‘City of Fire,’ with the team somehow managing to surmount the initial challenge of funding. “Luckily, at the eleventh hour, the National Sports Commission joined with a few conscientious corporate citizens and alleviated those woes,” said Mr. Mohamed.
He further said that added to these challenges the team experienced uncertainty in acquiring the requisite visas for an affordable route to Baku. The team also endured many anxious moments of raising the money to purchase tickets and later complained of jet lag and exhaustion following two days of intense traveling with transit times of up to 20 hours. “Chess is a mental game and the depth and concentration demanded is colossal,” explained the GCF boss.
Meanwhile, most of the players felt that the tournament had been of immense value to them and they are much the better after participation. Participating in her second Olympiad, Varona-Thomas said it was phenomenal. She said that although it was her first time playing in the women’s division she ‘felt at home’ and is still thrilled by her achievements. Sheriffa Ali shared similar sentiments and further said that the occasion was an indeed unforgettable. She was especially delighted with the kindness and warmth of interacting with chess players from all around the world. “I was honoured to play in the tournament representing my country but the climax was returning home with my new commendation,” she said.
The Clementson sisters, Jessica and Julia, felt that the disappointments of the trip dimmed in comparison to the efforts put in place by the Baku officials and the warmth offered by other participating teams. Said Yolander Persaud, “For me, the tournament was most challenging I’ve ever participated in. Upon self-evaluation, it made me realize that I needed more training and tournament experience. The female team was given the privilege and opportunity to be guided by a Grand Master during the Olympiad, and for that I would like to thank FIDE and GM Georg Mohr for the patience, understanding and support extended to us during his tutelage.”
Roberto Neto has shown much improvement of recent and he was also grateful for the experience attained at the forum, “My journey to the Chess Olympiad was definitely a life learning experience. I was able to tour and transit a lot of countries I never thought of going to plus the people in Baku were very friendly. I was a bit disappointed with my performance since I was hoping to at least earn a Candidate Master’s title. Despite this letdown, I was happy that I met the U.S.A champion and the World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Thank you to the Guyana Chess Federation for the experience of a lifetime!”
CM Ronuel Greenidge was happy to be on the national team again. “Things didn’t work out for me in the tournament as planned and I will be making the necessary adjustments to come back stronger. I thank God and the sponsors that made it possible for our team to play in this prestigious tournament.”
National Junior Champion, Haifeng Su, said, “My experience at the Chess Olympiad was rather comforting; everyone put aside their differences and engaged in just Chess. I’m privileged to be a part of this event, an event I can call a milestone. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate to represent Guyana.” Former National champion, Taffin Khan said he enjoyed the experience immensely. He admitted that the tournament was tough but said that he had met a lot of interesting people from different parts of the world. “Baku is one of the most beautiful cities I ever saw and I would love to go back there someday to play chess,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mohamed remains adamant that the team could not have participated in the tournament devoid of the input of many conscientious members of the corporate community among others. “The GCF and the players of the national teams wish to extend their heartfelt gratitude to every sponsor, well-wisher and media house that supported our cause. He mentioned several of these including the National Sports Commission, Courts Guyana, E-Networks Inc., Kings’ Jewelry World, ECI Construction, Dr Sen Gupta & Associates, Fix- It Hardware Depot, Eastern Airlines, Jumbo Jet Auto Sales and Attorney-at-Law James Bond.
“Had it not been for their input coupled with valuable media coverage we would not have had the opportunity to attend and leave a mark on the international forum, and for this we are grateful,” exhorted Mr. Mohamed. He also expressed gratitude to GM Georg Mohr from Slovenia who assisted the female team during the Olympiad.
The team consisted of 6 males, CM Wendell Muesa, CM Anthony Drayton, Haifeng Su, CM Taffin Khan, CM Ronuel Greenidge and Roberto Neto and 5 females, WCM Maria Varona Thomas, Sherrifa Ali, Julia Clementson, Yolanda Persaud and Jessica Clementson. The 43rd Chess Olympiad will be held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018.
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