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After 3 days of intense competition against the strongest players from 27 countries across the Western Hemisphere, Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Raehanna Brown emerged as the sole player from the 13 member Jamaican contingent to advance to the finals of the FIDE Online World Cadets and Youth Rapid Championships.

Competing in the Girls Under 16 section, Brown finished on 5 points in second place ahead of 4 other players who also ended their campaign on 5 points. Apart from her loss to Peruvian Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Heidy Nicole Garcia in the fifth round, WCM Brown defeated other WFM's plus Woman International Masters (WIM) and performed well above her starring rank of 14. Her final round victory was a bittersweet moment as she applied the initiative gained from her spatial advantage to beat Costa Rican Kristel Meliss Diaz in a beautiful endgame. This victory guaranteed the National Under 16 Girls Champion a spot in the finals of the championship to be held in 2 weeks.

Ten time National Women's Champion and coach of WCM Brown, WIM Deborah Richards Porter expressed gratitude and jubilation at her students result in the event.

“Despite facing off against far more experienced players with much greater resources and opportunities, Raehanna's performance has shown that she has what it takes to become the region's first ever Black Woman Grandmaster and one of the few in the World. I am super happy to pass the baton to her and delighted to see that her consistent hard work and dedication over the years continues to pay off.”

National Women's and Under 18 Girls Champion WCM Adani Clarke was one of the other players who nearly qualified to the finals of the championship as she finished in ninth place with 4 points from seven games. WCM Clarke managed to outplay several highly ranked players from Canada and the Caribbean including WIM's and Woman Grandmasters which demonstrated her ability to face the best from the continent albeit constraints under the time control and format.

National Under 10 Absolute and Girls Champions Ronak Shergil and Victoria Salazar both finished on 4 points in what was probably their strongest tournament to date. Despite not finishing in the top 10 of the tournament based on the size, both are future contenders for stronger events especially Salazar who has a WCM title waiting on her once she gains the sufficient rating to be awarded it.

Amy Stephenson, Kaia Gayle, Victoria Powell, Tajae Morgan, John Stephenson and Darren McKennis finished on 3 points while Antonic Chung and Khaleel Johnson-Bartlett finished on 2 points each. Nearly all of the players who represented the country are National Champions in their respective age groups.

"Watching our kids played over the last few days made me realise that we have our very own Queen's Gambit story here at home to tell. And in chess we have to remember that initiative is temporary so when we have it, we should use it or we will lose. Amidst the horrors of this pandemic opportunities have presented themselves to the Jamaica Chess Federation and as the governing body for the sport we are trying our best to make sure all our players, especially our juniors benefit from these international opportunities as best as possible. The team made us all proud.” Replied team coach National Master Ryan Blackwood who spoke about the team's ability.

International Master and FIDE Trainer Jomo Pitterson also sees a bright future for the junior players who he described the event as a good development event for the local players to gain more international exposure against stronger opposition.

“We are proud of their achievement as it showed that they have developed over the last couple years to be competitive and dominant within their category. This is a good measure for us as we try to strive to create the first local grandmaster and woman grandmasters.”

Due to the unique circumstances facing the world, the tournament was split up into a selection and finals stage on popular chess website Chess24. The final stage will start on December 21 in a 2 game knockout format featuring the best players from Europe, Asia and Africa. This is one of the many global tournaments which have transitioned online as the sport rapidly gains momentum from more persons staying at home and learning about the sport.

By David Rose

Caption: National Under 16 Girls Champion Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Raehanna Brown

National Under 18 Girls Champion WCM Adani Clarke

National Under 10 Absolute Champion Ronak Shergil

National Under 10 Girls Champion Victoria Salazar

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