New Fide master Varona-Thomas thrilled with Azerbaijan experience

- Sheriffa Ali earns Woman Candidate Master Title

New Woman Fide Master (WFM) Maria Varona-Thomas is “thrilled” with her achievement of becoming the first WFM in Guyana following her stellar play at the 42nd Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan September 1-14.

The Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) was represented by a 12-member delegation and according to Varona-Thomas, although it was her second Olympiad, it was her first time playing in the women’s division.

Varona-Thomas playing on board one for Guyana, scored eight points from 11 games, earning seven wins and two draws to earn the FIDE nomination.

She said that she “felt at home” playing in the women’s section, and was thrilled about her achievements.

Also distinguishing herself with stellar play was Sheriffa Ali who was able to earn the title of Woman Candidate Master.

The Guyana male and female chess players just outside the venue in Baku.
The Guyana male and female chess players just outside the venue in Baku.

Ali scored five and one half points from 10 games.

According to Ali the 42nd chess Olympiad was definitely an unforgettable experience.

“I was honoured to play in the tournament representing my country. The best part of it was returning home with my new title Woman Candidate Master (WCM),” she declared.

Among the male players Taffin Khan was the best player and missed out on a Fide Master title by half of a point.

“My experience at the 2016 Chess Olympiad was very enjoyable. It was one of the hardest tournaments I ever participated in. I 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 said of his experience at the Olympiad.

The Clementson sisters, Jessica and Julia, spoke with awe of Baku’s breathtaking aesthetic and the camaraderie shared among teammates.

For the Clementson sisters who are based in Barbados, the Olympiad was their first major international tournament while for Yolander Persaud the tournament was challenging.

“The 42nd Chess Olympiad was the most challenging tournament 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,” she said.

Roberto Neto who played on board four said the tournament was an experience of a lifetime.

“My journey to the Chess Olympiad was filled with thrills and was definitely considered a life learning experience. The people in Baku were very friendly. Concerning my performance, I was a bit disappointed 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.”

Ronuel Greenidge, who earned his Candidate Master at the previous Olympiad said that he 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,” he said.

Haifeng Su who had a relatively good tournament said: “My experience at the Chess Olympiad was rather comforting, I was privileged to be a part of this event, and if I were to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate to represent my home Guyana.”

A release from the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) said the team faced a difficult time to make it to the Olympiad.

“For the Guyanese teams, it was quite an uphill battle to make it to the City of Fire. As is always the case with sports in Guyana, funding was the greatest challenge. Luckily, at the 11th hour, the National Sports Commission and Corporate Guyana showed tremendous support and gave the team the final push to facilitate the trip.

“Chess is a mental game; the depth and concentration demanded is colossal. Even before entering the arena our players faced tremendous challenges ranging from the uncertainty of gaining the requisite visas for an affordable route to Baku, to the insecurity of affording tickets, to the jet lag and exhaustion of two days traveling with transit times of up to 20 hours.

“The GCF and the players would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to every sponsor, well-wisher and media house who supported our cause. Our sponsors included the National Sports Commission, Courts Guyana, E-Networks Inc., Kings’ Jewelry World, ECI Construction, Dr SenGupta & Associates, Fix- It Hardware Depot, Eastern Airlines, Jumbo Jet Auto Sales and Attorney-at-Law James Bond. Without the financial help and media coverage we would not have been given the opportunity to make a mark on the international forum, and for this we are grateful. The GCF would like to thank GM Georg Mohr from Slovenia for his short coaching stint of the female team during the Olympiad. The 43rd Chess Olympiad will be held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018. Let the preparations begin.”


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