During the recent National Senior Qualifier Chess Tournament at the Aquatic Centre, Liliendaal, a number of casual games were played as lunches were served. Stephanie Chung (right), a student of chess and onlooker at the qualifier, faces Rose Hall’s Kriskal Persaud during a fun game. Next to Chung is former national chess player David Khan. Rashad Hussain is in concentration against Maria Varona-Thomas in the background. 

There is some sort of expectation that the top finishers of the National Chess Championship would be guaranteed a place on the Guyana team for the spectacular biennial 2018 Chess Olympiad in September. Among a handful of participants at the recent National Senior Qualifier Chess Tournament, there was some harmony of opinion that the Guyana Olympiad team stands at the intersection of the national championship and the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF). If such a position finds favour with the GCF, it suggests a mature shift in the manner with which decisions were taken previously.

Not so long ago, it was not unusual to be saddled with an Olympiad participant who had magically materialized. A new method, that of selecting the finest talent, would be principled and would illustrate a degree of transparency. When such action is taken, Guyana will mount its most comprehensive chess team as it did during the 1970s and 80s. We anticipate that moment.

The year for chess started with a bang. Chess players were exuding satisfaction as they greeted each other following a lengthy layoff. The euphoric Loris Nathoo was so pleased with the charm of the situation that he organized lunches and sandwiches from the popular Red Cherry Restaurant for participants and onlookers on the weekend playing days. He attracted a round of applause from players at the tournament hall, although he attempted to make himself invisible during the ovation. Nathoo was playing competitive chess since he began his schooling at Queen’s College.

The cerebral game seems to be a conflation of entertainment, politics and diplomacy, three areas in which the late Forbes Burnham excelled. I attended a number of chess receptions where the guests-of-honour were grandmasters or eminent chess dignitaries. Just as important, however, millions are content to play the game just for fun. During the presentation of trophies for the Qualifier, GCF President James Bond openly approved of Anthony Drayton’s victory at last year’s Caribbean Championship in Barbados. He noted that we should celebrate at the Marriott. The point of celebrating our heroes is understood. That he admired the win is beyond question. Bond is a capable chess player and practices often. He certainly relishes the advancement of chess.

Although choosing an Olympiad chess team from the cycle of the national championship would be worthy, I am aware of other nations settling on different methods. I prefer the one which specifies an Olympiad team would be determined through participation in an particular Olympiad tournament. The players should be notified and should be aware of what is at stake. It would give them time to prepare for winning positions. The idea is to obtain the best, and the mightiest we can muster. If we believe we should pursue titles, we have to organize excellence. I do not believe the texture of an Olympiad team would differ alarmingly from those selectees of the national championship, but it would be a fairer version of the elimination process. You either win or go home.

The Qualifier Chess Tournament was a shining success. It was competitive, and at lunch-time, delicious. Barring some absent average chess players, the line-up glittered. Those who had not focused on chess for some time, slipped into perfect alignment with the GCF by supporting the activity. Kriskal Persaud travelled from Rose Hall. Chino Chung came from Timehri and David Khan journeyed from the West Coast. The column has a message for the GCF: in respect of tournaments, we want more.