Barbados’ four-time national women’s champion Katrina Blackman has every reason to feel like a queen after winning the gold medal at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Women’s Chess Championship.
In a tense finish to the Championship, the 25-year-old Blackman clinched the US$1,000 top prize on a tie-break after finishing level on points with Ailen Oriana Mena of Curacao when the six-day tournament concluded at the All Seasons Resort in Sunset Crest on Thursday night.
Both Blackman, the no. 6 seed, and Mena, the no. 2 seed, went into the final round level on six points in a three-way tie at the top of the table. With the pair clinching victories to finish on seven points, Blackman took gold on account of winning their head to head clash in the sixth round.
“It feels really nice. Being ranked at no. 6 and actually winning against persons higher rated than me by a lot of points, it feels really good,” Blackman said.
“It was down to a lot of hard work, coaching and doing additional work after coaching.”
“That experience was much different. I really did not even expect to place in the top five. That was one even better than this. It was different. I was actually scared to go. After playing the Heroes Day Cup (in April) and performing horribly, I wasn’t sure how I would perform at Sub-Zonals. I felt really good about that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Guyanese duos 12 year old Chelsea Juma and 14 year old Sasha Shariff on their 2nd international tournament appearance will be expecting to reach their FIDE (World Chess Federation) ratings after competing their required seven (7) games against rated players from Carifta Championships in Paramaribo, Suriname to this challenging and unpredictable tournament. At the CAC, Chelsea’s performance rating was 1113 and Sasha’s was 1022 and will be expected to take Guyana’s total amount of FIDE Rated Women to six (6) behind WFM Maria Thomas (1739), WCM Sheriffa Ali (1363), Jessica Clementson (1203) and Nellisha Johnson (1123). Chelsea Juma is now Guyana’s youngest player to be receiving a FIDE rating.
From the nine (9) rounds Chelsea Juma finished on 1.5 points, while Sasha Shariff finished on 1 point. Being the only unrated players at the event our girls battled their way through the rigorous tournament against top females from Barbados, Trinidad, Suriname, Netherlands Antilles and Costa Rica. Our players should have accumulated more points for example when young Juma missed a “threefold repetition’’ draw and turned down many draw offers by her opponent, while over confidently pushing for a win. However, a notable game was Chelsea Juma win against three (3) time Guatemalan olympiad and WCM Julissa Figueroa, who will be playing for Barbados at this year’s 43rd World Chess Olympiad.
Playing the Black pieces, WCM Figueroa turned to the “tricky” Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defence but due to a possible “blind spot” left a Bishop undefended which young Juma was keen to capture thus making her opponent resign and sending a shockwave throughout the tournament hall.
While Sasha Shariff got some better positions and winning advantages in a lot of her games, she failed to convert these advantages into a full point. Her notable game was Round (1) and eight (8) which she should have definitely won but failed to find the winning combinations to receive full points. During the tournament, both Sasha and Chelsea received some training via post analysis and pre analysis of their games from Barbadian IM (FIDE International Master) Orlando Husband and Lawrence Depradine. The tournament and training is all part of Ms. Shariff planned training before she represents Guyana at the 43rd World Chess Olympiad scheduled to be held in Batumi, Georgia from Sept 23 – 6th October, 2018.
FIDE National Instructor and National Chess Champion CM Wendell Meusa would like to thank the fellow chess parents and friends who contributed to assist these young girls to successfully participate in the tournament. “Without these few persons who dug into their pockets, these girls would not be able to attend and make history for Guyana and I would like to thank each of them,” Meusa stated. He also called upon private business to support the growth and development of Chess in Guyana aiming to put Guyana back as a dominant chess nation like in the late 1970’s under Former President Linden Forbes Burnham.
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