The atmosphere was great, and the players were provided with a daily supply of fresh fruit and coffee for the energy they were certain to need for the ensuing battles. The conditions were remarkable and many notable spectators visited to witness the action, and to be part of a historic moment. International Arbiter Jerry Bibuld ran a smooth tournament and furnished the visitors with daily bulletin of games found on The Chess Drum. Display boards were run by a number of staff, but anchored by Beejay Hicks, who did a wonderful job in handling this department.  The analysis room was a popular venue for chess players as GM Maurice Ashley spurred all kinds of laughter and enthusiasm from the spectators. . . everyone freely participated in the discussions. It was certainly a learning experience for the spectators as well as the players who participated in the post-mortems. NM Jerald Times and NM Elvin Wilson also performed well in their respective roles as commentators. As Charu Robinson diligently relayed the moves from the playing room, it was very exciting to see the games unfold and to compare the spectator analysis with actual play. Fritz 6 was also utilized.

Arbiter Jerry Bibuld makes announcements before the battles begin. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. Beejay Hicks did a fantastic job with the demo boards. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. NMs Elvin Wilson and Jerold Times analyzing Schleifer-Kobese match. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. Fritz 6 was at work too! Charu Robinson at the controls. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz.

The tournament was more than a historic event. Who ever said that chess masters were self-centered egomaniacs? Well. . .  on Friday, the 20th of July, seven of the ten participants (two others were playing) visited the students from the HEAF organization (a tournament sponsor) to share their insights for chess excellence. After GM Ashley gave introductions of the players, there was a question and answer session where students asked questions ranging from "What's your favorite opening?" to "Is chess popular in Africa?" Each player had a unique way of addressing the questions and it was interesting to see their various styles of communication. The players were asked by Daaim Shabazz how each of them learned to play and the amazing thing was that each player learned from a family member! After the Q&A, it was time to play chess. Teams were formed to play "consultation chess" where a student-master team was paired against another master-student team. How many tournaments feature the participants doing community service other than a simul? The event was such a beautiful sight to see as the students' eyes lit up with enthusiasm. . . their excitement spilled out onto the boards. IM Amon Simutowe was very impressed with the fact that student actually saw chess ideas as opposed to just learning tactical themes. Of course, trash-talking found it's way even to these friendly games. There was lots of laughter and smiling and everyone had a great time.

GM Ashley introduces seven of the Wilbert Paige participants. FM Stephen Muhammad watches his student-partner make move. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. GM Ashley with the ever-eager student. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. IM Simutowe showing enthused student finer points. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz.

As the tournament wore on, the possibility of norm results caused a constant buzz amongst the spectators. Many predictions swirled about the tournament site. After FM Muhammad earned his IM norm with two rounds to spare, most of the attention focused on FM William Morrison, FM Kenny Solomon and NM Norman Rogers. By the end of the seventh round, FM Solomon was eliminated from norm contention. Before the 8th round, everyone was getting their programs autographed and savoring the historic moment. A beautiful group photo was shot as this tournament was officially immortalized. After all of the pleasantries were exchanged, it was time to get back to business! FM Morrison and NM Rogers continued their respective marches toward an IM norm by winning clutch games in the 8th round. Excitement increased and the buzz only got louder. Players scrambled with their preparations for the big "throw down" in the 9th round. Up until the last pawn was pushed, norm possibilities were still in the air. The tough South African contingent of IM Watu Kobese and FM Solomon would serve as "spoilers" to any other norms earned at the Wilbert Paige tournament. During the Solomon-Morrison match, the analysis room was going back and forth in their assessment of the position, but when the smoke cleared, it was obvious that a draw was imminent. So only one norm was earned. In the end, neither of the two remaining candidates could muster the number of points needed.

Players and staff personnel getting autographed programs. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. Wilbert Paige Memorial players and commentators. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. Finally... the Wilbert Paige Memorial is history... Solomon and Morrison engage in post-mortem as crowd watches. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz. Tournament laborers: Jerry Bibuld (Arbiter), Daaim Shabazz (The Chess Drum), Beejay Hicks (tournament hall manager), Jeffery Mitchell (Deputy Arbiter). Copyright , Daaim Shabazz.

Immediately after the tournament, there was already talk of Wilbert Paige 2002.  In addition, talks of a GM tournament were raised.  Of course, a tournament of this manner would no doubt attract more attention as well as players such as GM Ashley, FM Emory Tate, IM Oladapo Adu, any of the FIDE titled players in Wilbert Paige 2001, and Black chess masters throughout the world. This seminal event has served as the culmination of a vibrant spirit that has swept the Black chess world as there is more talk than ever of players seeking to earn titles and seeking higher heights in the international chess world. One thing for sure, the first Wilbert Paige Memorial will leave an indelible impression etched in the minds of those who witnessed an occasion "for the ages." It was truly special. . . a Black chess renaissance. Hope you enjoyed it!!

Dr. Daaim Shabazz of the The Chess Drum, the official website. Copyright , Daaim Shabazz.

Dr. Daaim Shabazz of the The Chess Drum, the official website of the Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament.

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