Berbice is traditionally known for its rich political and academic history, and its fabulously outstanding cricketing showmanship. The county’s talent is abundant.

When Forbes Burnham established the Guyana Chess Federation in 1972, the pastime found its way into Berbice. Somewhere between the county’s number one sport of cricket, and to a lesser extent draughts (some persons refer to draughts as checkers), there appeared a perplexing board game named  chess, which learners sometimes refer to as a labour of Sisyphus. There were kings and queens, rooks, bishops and knights, and pawns, the lowly foot soldiers. Those who saw the pieces and watched in fascination as the game was being played, were entranced. They believed the game represented some kind of abracadabra.

Chess failed to become a best-selling preserve in Berbice; it never became popular nor officially certified. But a select minority persevered with the game, enjoying its complete attractiveness.

Vice-President of the Guyana Chess Federation Frankie Farley (with tie) is photographed with the members of the newly established Berbice Chess Association at the Tain Campus of the University of Guyana. The occasion was the inauguration of the association. From right is President of the association Krishnanand Raghunandan, Vice-President Steve Leung, Secretary Jayshree Carpen, Treasurer Dane Grimmond and Committee Members Kriskal Persaud and Winston Profitt. Absent are Committee Member Dr Walter Singh and Assistant Secretary Angela Thornhill. (Photo by Jack Farley)

Neither did chess become the national all-encompassing phenomenon many dreamt it could become. But an unassuming multilateral school teacher, Maurice Broomes, Guyana’s most prolific chess player, excelled at it brightly and convincingly, and basked in the limelight locally and internationally. While his chess colleagues remained  stubbornly earth-bound, Broomes soared into orbit at selected times when it mattered, with the Golden Arrow-head fluttering decidedly in tournament halls around the world. True, he did not carry Guyana to supreme heights in chess internationally as Bobby Fischer did for his country at the time, but as then president of the Guyana Chess Fed-eration (GCF) Burnham once remarked, ‘Broomes is the best we’ve got , and we should savour him.’

Fittingly, President of the GCF James Bond, in a singular recognizable move, named the room at the Racquet Club which the National Sports Commission donated for playing chess, ‘the Maurice Broomes Chess Room’.

Last Sunday, the game of chess was officially certified by the GCF, and faithfully launched at one of the GCF’s satellites in Berbice. Vice-President of the GCF Frankie Farley officiated in place of Bond who had proceeded on travel duty for chess. The GCF’s most senior functionary in Berbice, Krishnanand Raghunandan, was conferred with the presidency of the Berbice Chess Association. Raghunandan has been the principal organizer for chess in Berbice having held a number of successful chess championships over the

A previous national chess champion from Rose Hall, Berbice, Kriskal Persaud (left) looks intently at the chess board during a fun game with Errol Tiwari at the Tain Campus of the University of Guyana. Tiwari attended the inauguration ceremony of the Berbice Chess Association last Sunday. Persaud was both the national junior and senior chess champ of Guyana. (Photo by Jack Farley)

years. The other members of the new association are: Vice-President – Steve Leung, Secretary – Jayshree Carpen, Assistant Secretary – Angela Thornhill, Treasurer – Dane Grimmond, Committee Members: Kriskal Persaud, Winston Profitt and Dr Walter Singh.

Director of the University of Guyana Berbice campus Professor Gomathinayagam Subramanian (shortened to Dr Goms), who welcomed guests at the ceremony, a national of India and himself an avid chess player, allowed for chess to be played, and executive meetings to be held on campus. He said he was proud to offer such a privilege to the GCF.

Dr Goms has his origins in the region of India which produced world chess champion Viswanathan Anand. By structuring Berbice into the Federation’s outlook of activities, and legitimizing it, Bond avoided what amounted to chess hopscotch; hopping and jumping aimlessly and merely skipping imminent decisions and problems as opposed to solving them. The legal attachment of Berbice to the GCF represents a stroke of genius. More regions will follow. According to Farley, Linden is earmarked to establish its very own chess association also, followed by chess clubs which would decorate the Essequibo coastline. Bond’s lofty concept is to popularize chess giving it a distinctive feature within a considered three-year period.

Chess is getting younger by the day. School-aged children are becoming chess masters. When Bobby Fischer turned 15, he captured the glorious grandmaster title, the highest peak of a chess competitor. We thought we had seen it all until Hungary’s Judit Polgar accomplished the feat in a lesser time period. The child chess prodigy, Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, not to be outdone, gained grandmastership at 12 in 2002. Now there is India’s Nihal Sarin who is being toasted in chess cities around the world because he is promising so much.

You see, a person with a grandmaster’s mind views problems and makes decisions differently to others. That is what makes them exceptional. And the reason for the achievement of becoming a grandmaster younger is the introduction of sophisticated computer engines, databases, and the ability to engage strong players at any level from around the world at any time of the day or night. It has been referred to as the power of the internet.

Bond is hoping to attract police involvement in chess. On Tuesday, Farley met with the police hierarchy led by Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken. Soon, there should be deep involvement in chess by the police. Years ago, police constable Ivan Nedd was selected to represent Guyana internationally.

In international chess news, Garry Kasparov has come out of retirement and has re-entered chess competitions. And world champion Magnus Carlsen was victorious at the Grand Chess Tour Leuven, Belgium.

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