'Friendship Match' ends in exciting 1-1 deadlock!
Jayel Taylor (Justice, Illinois, USA) Ronnie RJ Nelson, Jr. (Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies)

Jayel Taylor
(Justice, Illinois, USA)

Ronnie "RJ" Nelson, Jr.
(Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies)

On Wednesday, July 20th, chess fans gathered in Yahoo! Games to witness a historic "Friendship Match" between 5-year old Jayel Taylor and 6-year old Ronnie "RJ" Nelson, Jr. Despite logging on some 40 minutes early, technical difficulties in Trinidad forced the match to be postponed. There were several people who waited patiently including Bernard Parham II. Time wasn't lost and Jayel played a few games with Daaim Shabazz.

The match was rescheduled for
Thursday, July 21st, but shortly before the match, Jayel's connection went down. FM Ryan Harper stopped by to watch, but was informed about the problem and the rescheduling for Saturday. Shabazz ended up playing Ronnie a couple of games with intermittent advice. It would be  Ronnie's first games online! Both players play similar chess, but Jayel tends to be more aggressive. Both were given Bruce Pandolfini's 64 Commandments of Chess, a primer for basic principles of play.

Game #1 On Saturday, July 23rd, everything both players entered Yahoo's "Pristine Palace" minutes early in anticipation for battle.  After a few technical issues with the timer, Shabazz explained the rules and the games started shortly after 6:00pm. In the first game, Ronnie trotted out 1.e4 after which Jayel played 1c5 and a Rossolimo Sicilian followed. The game started very calmly until the board exploded with pawn Jayel's pawn sacrifice in the center with 14d5!?

In the position (on the right), white has to proceed with caution, but he can actually take one of the pawns without much danger; however, Ronnie grabbed two pawns and ended up facing an attack after 17Bd6. Jayel got a winning attack, but overlooked a two-move mating sequence. The game turned into blitz despite the 30-minute time limit. Mistakes mounted.

After several pieces were traded, and Ronnie had survived the attack with a material advantage, Jayel had one last chance to draw the game by a perpetual check after
36.Rg2 with 36Qh1+ 37.Rg1 Qh3+. On 38.Ke2, black has  38Qxg2+ 39.Ke3 Qf2+ 40.Kf4 g2 when white has to take perpetual check.

Jayel missed this chance and Ronnie remained a rook ahead. Minor drama occurred when Ronnie, trying to deliver mate in one, lost his queen to a mouse slip, but promoted an extra pawn for another queen and wrapped up the game with a clean mate.

Playing black, Jayel broke in the center sacrificing a pawn. Ronnie took two pawns and came under attack. Jayel actually missed a chance to win the game with a two-move combination.

Playing black, Jayel broke in the center sacrificing a pawn. Ronnie took two pawns and came under attack. Jayel actually missed a chance to win the game with a two-move mating sequence.

Game #2 With Ronnie playing black, the second game was  Four Knights game. Both made some serious tactical mistakes in the opening, but the game settled down very nicely. Jayel sacrificed a pawn in the opening to activate his bishops.  This seems to be the hallmark of Jayel's play. He likes open lines and attacking play while Ronnie will fianchetto his bishop, develop pieces and go for positional play. 

As the game wore on, Ronnie was trying to hold on to his pawn advantage while Jayel was trying to exploit the dark squares around the black king. Jayel played
22.Qb2 instead of snapping the exchange with Bxf8 (roughly an equal game) and continued to attack with 29.Qg5. Ronnie intention was to get material off with 29Rxe1 (diagram) 30.Rxe1 (30.Qf6!+-) Re8 31.Rxe8 Qxe8 32.h3 and then 32Nxd4. Looks like a clear win, but after 33.Qf6 (threatening mate) Qe1+ 34.Kh2, Ronnie played 34Qe6?? overlooking to 35.Qg7 mate.

Ronnie starts a sequence of moves by trading down material in a winning position with 29Rxe1, but later overlooked a mate. Of course, 34Qe5+ would have forced an exchange of queens.

Ronnie starts a sequence of moves to trade down material in a winning position with 29Rxe1 30.Rxe1 Re8 31.Rxe8+ Qxe8. This is a good idea in practice, but Jayel missed the in-between move 30.Qf6! immediately black is mated.

Not sure if Ronnie intended to play 34Qe5+ getting the queens off, but this battle was fought fiercely and these two young players will have a bright future if their interest remains. With some coaching and an understanding of tactics and board discipline, they will do well. There were a few spectators such as "martyb," Freddie Taylor (Jayel's father), Lesley-ann Nelson (Ronnie's aunt). James Taylor from Chess University International in Washington, DC mentioned that he was going to bring a laptop to Dupont Circle to follow the games, but was not able to make it. William Blackman of Chicago had arrived later, but the games had already finished.

Ronnie and Jayel are only a few months apart in age and it will be interesting to see how they develop as chess players. This is the beginning of an exciting trend and hopefully, there will be other battles, such as a competition for young women from the African Diaspora. How about a tournament featuring
Sabrina Chevannes (England), Medina Parrilla (USA), Deborah Richards (Jamaica), and Boikhtuso Mudongo (Botswana) sound interesting? There is also a possibility of including Jacob Wamala (age 15 - 1988 USCF rating), Kayin Barclay (age 14 - 1954) and Tapiwa Gwaze (age 13 - 1898). Taylor mentioned a match between parks. How about a consultation match featuring Ronnie and Jayel each paired up with a master? Interesting ideas. Stay tuned!

Note: Thanks to supporters from Trinidad and Tobago, the USA, Barbados, Liberia, St. Vincent, Jamaica and Kenya who sent their well-wishes.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 24 July 2005