By Tamica Garnett
In the late 1970s Chess in Guyana flourished. With the Broomes brothers Maurice and Gordon to the fore, Guyana participated at the 1978 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the 1980 Olympiad in Valetta, Malta with some degree of success.
Back then Maurice, who played regularly on board one, had achieved an ELO rating of 2288 and Gordon, who most times played on board two an ELO rating of 2294.
Maurice’s record at the two Olympiads as well as the Chicago Open which he contested in 1988 was nine wins, four draws and nine losses for an average score of 50 per cent which is excellent considering that among the players then on board one were grandmasters Lajos Portisch, Jan Timman, Ulf Anderson, Zoltan Ribli and a host of other national as well as international masters.
Gordon’s international career spanned the years 1978 to 1983 and he participated in the two Olympiads and the 1983 Commonwealth Games.
The younger Broomes secured nine wins, suffered eight losses and drew three times for a 52.5 per cent average score.
The Broomes brothers were not the only shining lights in chess.
Back then there were players like Edan Warsali, Patrick Wharton, Ed Greeman and others who were considered very strong players internationally.
Later on there were a new breed of players like Andrew Waklker, Ray Grant, Jude Phillip Neri, Daniel Fung and last but by no means least, Tony Hanoman, who according to reports, is now a professional chess player in Sweden.
Small wonder then that on his recent visit to Guyana Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Allan Herbert declared that he was confident that given the current rate of development, within the next four to five years the level of chess in Guyana could reach the pedestal upon which it once stood.
Speaking to Stabroek Sport in an exclusive interview following the successful staging of the Guyana/FIDE International rating tournament held recently at the Guyana National Stadium, Herbert said that local chess players had made impressive steps since the game was resurrected some three years ago.
Herbert said inspite of “starting over from scratch,” the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) had made tremendous strides towards the development of chess in Guyana, not the least of which was the renewal of the country’s affiliation with the International Chess Federation (FIDE) last November.
He noted that although Guyana was listed as a “developing chess country,” the stupendous performances of Guyanese chess players in the past, before the disintegration of the federation had not been forgotten.
“Back in the late ‘70’s and early `80’s Guyana was the best in chess in the Caribbean. They had the strongest players, and now they have to virtually start over from scratch.
“But I think that within the next four years Guyana should be able to re-establish itself to where it was before its inactivity,” Herbert stated.
But Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony feels that with the rapid rate of development the time could be shorter.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Guyana/FIDE International Rating Tournament, Dr Anthony said that Herbert may very well have to cut his assessed time line in half because here in Guyana “we work a little more aggressively than that, it would be more like two years.”
The tournament, which ran from the 1 – 5 July, was the latest of the GCF’s efforts to enhance the quality of chess in Guyana.
With the convening of the tournament the GCF has not only completed another hurdle on their road to the development of chess in Guyana but has amplified the the speed of development.
Six local players took part in the tournament which was executed so that the players can earn international rankings. The GCF was restored three years ago following a 20-year period of dormancy and the federation has since experienced brisk growth.
Commenting on the federation’s progress, Herbert stated that FIDE was very pleased with the rate at which things were progressing.
“We are very pleased what they (GFC) have done and because they have held this tournament any tournament they hold after this their players would be able to get international ratings as well. And, additionally, they have a very good working relationship with their Minister, which is a very good thing,” Herbert declared.
“Guyana was clearly the top Federation in the English speaking countries in the Caribbean but it fell apart very quickly, and I am sure if it hadn’t gone dormant they would still be at the top. But I am positive that Guyana will soon have some top ranking players,” Herbert added
And, backed by the committed thrust from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the game can expect to see some drastic steps some of which may very well extend beyond the boundaries of Guyana.
Dr Anthony said that the lack of an official regional tournament for chess has not escaped his attention and confirmed that steps to correct this deficiency were already underway.
Herbert was in agreement.
“I think the time is now to create some talk with the different federations and perhaps put something together,” Dr Anthony stated.
“Within the Caribbean, if you look at any other sports, you can see that they are structured in such a way that they have competitions at every level, there are the local competitions within every country, and regionally there are competitions like CARIFTA then there are competitions within the Central America and Caribbean and from there you have the international competitions.
“Well for chess it’s just like that the only competition we don’t have is something equivalent to CARIFTA. We have competitions at all levels, but I heard the Minister urging for a regional tournament and so I will be looking to discuss this with him,” Herbert related.
Nevertheless to compensate in this regard, Herbert explained that a number of countries have employed what have been termed Open tournaments. These Open tournaments are simply local tournaments in which players from the other Caribbean countries are welcome to participate.
In Trinidad and Tobago there is the Caribbean Chess Carnival, in Barbados there is the Hero’s Day Cup and the Sagicor Open, and in Jamaica there is the UWI Master’s Open, though this tournament is also open to international players beyond the Caribbean region.
Additionally, under the previous federation, Guyana held the Guyana Open and Dr Anthony made it known that the revival of this was also on the agenda.
“We would now like to move forward, setting our sights on having the Guyana Open once again. It used to be something of profound significance, so we are looking to reinstitute the Guyana Open,” Dr Anthony stated.