John Powell: Jamaican Chess Legend 1950-2007


Jamaica’s team at the opening ceremony of the 23rd World Students’ Chess Olympiad in Caracas, Venezuela, 7-22 August, 1976. From left: Bob Wheeler, John Powell (deceased), Peter Mundell, David Hunt (deceased), Enos Grant (Captain/delegate, deceased), Orrin Tonsingh (deceased), and Sheldon Wong. Photo from Jamaica Ambassadors Chess Academy.

I don’t believe I ever met John Powell on my trips to Jamaica, but I have heard stories about his tireless work to promote Jamaican Chess. What had impressed me most was his return to play in local tournaments after many years. He had no problem playing with up-and-coming players in a day when many esteemed players fear risking their reputation.

On October 31st, Powell left this earthly plane. He left behind a legacy that will hopefully inspire generations of players. Having participated in nine Olympiads and having represented the island on youth teams, these accomplishments set the bar for chess excellence and have been hidden too long.

There are many stories like Powell’s and we are remiss in not making their accomplishments public earlier. Let’s honor our heroes while they live and make their accomplishments known to the world. Bertram Scott has also written about David “Wagga” Hunt who died a few days before Powell. What a tragedy.

Read Bertram Scott’s photo essay here


  1. I recall my first serious chess material was from Mr. Powell (photocopied pages of an informant). He sent it to Montego Bay to my friend Micheal Siva to distribute.

    A very HUMBLE gentleman, who reluctantly allowed me to honour him at my chess festival (Warren Elliott Chess Festival 2006). He will be missed…

    Warren Elliott

  2. I met Mr John Powell in October of 1988 when I played in the Jamaica Open. That was just after hurricane Gilbert had devastated the island and Mr Powell, the late Orrin Tonsingh and the others I met like Michael Siva, Geoffery Byfield and a few others showed me the resiliency and innate cheerfulness of Jamaica’s people. I had stayed at the home of Orrin Tonsingh while Mr Powell who I think was the President of the Jamaican Chess Federation used to pick me up in the evenings to take me to dinner and show me around town. He even invited me into his home and introduced me to his whole family and I had a few dinners with them. He was a really nice person and on leaving the island he gave me three chess books that I found really useful and still have to this day.

    My heartfelt condolences go out to his daughters Melanie and Michelle and the rest of his family. He was a great man and Caribbean chess ambassador.

    May he rest in Peace

    Andy Walker

  3. I am deeply saddened to hear of John’s untimely passing. My condolences to his daughters, Melanie and Michelle. I am so sorry I could not be in Jamaica to attend the funeral.


    Michael Siva

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button