Fresh from winning the Guyana Chess Federation’s (GCF) national junior chess championships, 19-year-old Saeed Ali has his eyes set on participating in next year’s World Junior Chess Championships where he hopes to acquire a Masters title, Candidate or FIDE at the very least.
The World Chess Junior Championships are held every year and players must be under 20 years of age on January 1 of the year of the competition.
The winner of the gruelling tournament which sometimes last for more than 11 rounds, is usually awarded a Grandmaster or woman Grandmaster title.
This year’s tournament was held in India, in August, and was won by Jeffrey Xiong of the United States, and Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan.
Speaking of his preparation for the national championships, Ali said it involved a lot of reading and actual play.
“Well I read a lot of books and played a lot of games on the internet,” he told Stabroek Sports yesterday.
Pressed on the books he read, Ali said one was titled “Chess Master” and was written by the master of chess himself Garry Kasparov.
Ali said he also played a lot of games with random players like FIDE Masters and Grandmasters which he said helped him a lot.
Ali ended the eight-player round-robin Swiss system tournament which concluded recently at the Ocean Spray Hotel, Stanley Place, Kitty, with six-and-one-half points out of a possible seven.
Apart from playing with Grandmasters and such like Ali also brushed up on his opening repertoire.
“I studied a lot of openings such as the Sicilian, the Queen’s Gambit and the Caro Kann,” he explained.
Speaking of the actual competition, Ali confirmed that basically the event was a three-person race and said his toughest competitors were his sister Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Sheriffa and Roberto Neto and not necessarily in that order.
Neto finished in second place with six points while Sheriffa Ali was third on five.
Asked his assessment of the other competitors he said they were all decent players if a bit less experienced that the other two.
Ali, who recently returned to competitive chess after a hiatus of two-and-a-half years, said his time away from chess was because of studies but said he is committed to playing in a number of international tournaments going forward although he would miss the senior national chess qualifiers which starts today because of work commitments.
He revealed that the rivalry with his sister Sheriffa is strong and disclosed that prior to the tournament they rarely played against each other.
“That was hard because she would know certain things that I would study she would know my weakness and she also did not want me to know what openings she would play,” he said.
Apart from the top three, the other placings were occupied by Aravinda Singh who was fourth with four points, fifth was Jaden Taylor with two points, sixth was Nellisha Johnson also with two points, seventh was Joshua Gopaul with one-and-one half points and eighth was Ghasham Allijohn who failed to record a point.
According to president of the GCF, Irshad Mohammed, one of Saeed Ali’s sternest test came against Neto in their third round encounter which ended in a draw.
Ali yesterday told Stabroek Sports that apart from the Neto encounter, his biggest test came against Joshua Gopaul when he was a piece down.
“Had I lost that match Neto would have been the new champion,” Ali said.
That match was in the fifth round and Ali, playing with the black pieces, opted for the French Defence against Gopaul’s opening move e4.
Ali then steered the game into the Tarrasch Variation but lost his Queen.
He, however, was given a lifeline when Gopaul touched a Knight and was forced to move the piece.
Ali said yesterday that despite being a Queen down he never stopped attacking and pressured Gopaul until the latter resigned.
In round six Ali scored a routine victory over Allijohn in what Mohammed described as a highly strategic duel that involved the Queen’s Gambit declined, orthodox variation. Both players played theoretically until Allijohn lost a pawn and eventually the game on time.
Ali then wrapped up the championships by winning his final round game against Jaden Taylor while playing with the black pieces, Taylor resigning after 24 moves.
Mohammed yesterday told Stabroek Sport that while a decision has not yet been made on Ali’s participation at the World Juniors, the young national champion will be in action in Suriname in two to three weeks’ time at a South American championships.
According to Mohammed, the GCF has received an invitation from the Confederation of Chess in the Americas (CCA) and the National Chess Federation of Suriname to participate in the South American championships from November 20-28.