Jagnandan wins local title as junior chess continues to rise

Eight-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi, an immigrant from Nigeria who currently resides in New York, poses with his trophy. He captured the New York State Primary Chess Championship in the kindergarten-to-third-grade bracket. ‘Tani’, as he is familiarly called, played undefeated in the Championship, where he outmaneuvered his opponents from elegant private schools with pricey chess tutors. Tani learnt chess a little over a year ago. (Photo: GoFundMe)

Andre Jagnandan, 19, a University of Guyana law student, was crowned the 2019 Junior Chess Champion of Guyana last Sunday. Jagnandan played unbeaten and accumulated a total of 5½ points in the 7-round tournament. (A win = 1 point, a draw = ½ a point and a loss = 0 point.)

It was Jagnandan’s third victory for 2019 in as many tournaments hosted by the Guyana Chess Federation. Placing second and third in the Junior Championship were St Stanislaus College’s Ghansham Allijohn and Queen’s College’s Rajiv Lee respectively, each with 4½ points. Allijohn gained the nod over Lee when the tie-break was administered.

Last year’s junior champion Joshua Gopaul was disappointingly invisible during the Championship following a turn of illness which caused him to miss the third round. He had lost both of his games on the opening day.

Andre Jagnandan, the 2019 Junior Chess Champion of Guyana. He played in three tournaments for the year hosted by the Guyana Chess Federation and won them all.

Chelsea Juma, the lone female to qualify for the tournament, fought gamely to acquire her two points; such were the intensity and seriousness of the competition. Juma is preparing, as part of a Guyana team, for the 8th Junior Carifta Chess Championships in Curacao from April 18 – 23, 2019.

Junior chess is superbly on the rise, locally and internationally. Talent is emerging constantly. Take for example the curious case of 8-year-old Tanitoluwa ‘Tani’ Adewumi, Nigerian by birth, who won the New York State Primary Chess Championship in his category. Tani started playing chess a little over a year ago. His phenomenal rise is simply extraordinary. His FIDE rating is numbered at 1587, higher than any of our junior local players. But in fairness to our juniors, our chess is now beginning to look, and feel attractive.

Tani’s story was carried by most of the reputable news media. I saw him being interviewed on CNN with his mother. Tani arrived with his parents and his older brother from Nigeria as a refugee as substantiated by the major news media. He learnt chess in New York at school. Learning to play chess at school is compulsory in the US as it is with some other nations. The New York Times reported in part: “So Tani, his parents and older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor help steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, PS 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani’s class how to play.”

When he played his first tournament, his local rating was 105. By playing regularly, his number has skyrocketed to 1587. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told the New York Times. Tani has four years to accomplish that feat. Russia’s Sergey Karjakin holds the title. He did it when he was 12. Can Tani do it? Yes, he can!

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