Guyanese duo gain experience at CAC Women’s Chess C/Ships

Sasha Shariff

Chelsea Juma and Sasha Shariff, the first two females to represent Guyana at the Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Women’s Chess Championships finished at the bottom of the table but gained valuable experience in the tournament that was won by host country, Barbados’ four-time national Women’s Champion Katrina Blackman.

In a tense finish to the championships, 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 number six seed, and Mena, the number two 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.

Chelsea Juma

Juma, 12-year-old and Shariff, 14-years-old who both participated in their second international tournament are expected to gain their FIDE rating after completing their required seven games against rated players.

At the CAC, Juma’s performance rating was 1113 and Sasha’s was 1022.

They will be expected to take Guyana’s total amount of FIDE Rated Women to six, joining Women Fide Master Maria Varona-Thomas (1739), Women Candidate Master Sheriffa Ali (1363), Jessica Clementson (1203) and Nellisha Johnson (1123).

From the nine rounds Juma finished on 1.5 points while Shariff finished on one point. Being the only unrated players at the event, the girls battled their way through the rigorous tournament against top females from Barbados, Trinidad, Suriname, Netherland Antilles and Costa Rica.

According to a release from National Chess Coach, Wendell Meusa, “Our players should have accumulated more points for example when young Juma missed a “three-fold repetition’’ draw and turned down many draw offers by her opponent while over confidently pushing for a win.”

However, a notable game was Juma’s win against three-time Guatemala Olympiad and WCM Julissa Figueroa, who will be playing for Barbados at this year 43rd World Chess Olympiad.

Playing the Black pieces, WCM Figueroa turned to the “tricky” Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian Defense 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 Shariff got some better positions and winning advantages in a lot of her games she failed to convert these advantages into a full point, the release stated. During the tournament, both Shariff and Juma received training via post analysis and pre-analysis of their games from Barbadian IM (FIDE International Master) Orlando Husband and Lawrence Depradine.

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