2010 John Powell Open (Jamaica)

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Jamaica will hold its 2010 John Powell Open on January 30th-31st. The tournament is in the honor of one of the federation’s founding members. Powell passed away in 2007. Below is the press release from Peter Myers.



National Master John Powell (Jamaica) playing three days before his passing.

National Master John Powell (left) contemplates his next move during his last game played three days before his passing in October 2007.

The Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) will be staging the third John Powell Memorial Chess Open at the Campion College Auditorium this weekend. The tournament will be divided into three sections, an Open section in which anyone can play, an Intermediate section for entrants with a JCF rating under 1600 and an Amateur section for entrants with a JCF rating under 1300.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three players in each section, the best Under 10, 12 and 14 year-old players, best rural player, best female player, best junior and best new player.

The tournament, which was previously called the New Year’s Open, was renamed in honour of National Master John Powell, a founding member of the JCF and former President, who passed away in October of 2007.

Powell was considered to be an extraordinary chess administrator who was one of the catalysts for the growth and development of the sport in Jamaica, particularly at the secondary school level during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Powell was also one of the strongest players in Jamaica at the height of his chess-playing career during the 1970s and 1980s, achieving the title of National Master in 1975. He was widely considered to be the strongest Jamaican player never to have won the National Championships outright. He tied for first three times, 1973, 1980 and 1988, however he lost on tiebreak to NM Harold Chan in 1973, NM Robert Wheeler in 1980 and NM Robert Wheeler again in 1988.

Powell represented Jamaica at many Chess Olympiads, winning a silver medal for Jamaica on board 4 in the Olympiad of 1984, which was held in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Powell was still actively playing up to his untimely passing in 2007.

Full details here!


  1. A truly great player and a fabulous ambassador for chess. I was extremely saddened by his passing which created an immense void. Although I knew him for approximately 3 years before he died, I felt as if I had known him my entire life. I had first-hand experience of his strength during several meetings over-the-board (our personal score was tied with a win each and an epic 70-move draw when I had the Black pieces in a Nimzo-Indian a couple months before he died). I was fortunate not to face him at the height of his powers!

    Even though the advancing years and some personal problems had obviously taken their toll, he was still a formidable player. This was displayed in January, 2006, the year before he died, when he proved his pedigree by drawing with none other than the great English GM and world championship contender/finalist Nigel Short on the black side of a Sicilian during a simultaneous exhibition at the Norman Manley Law School in Kingston, Jamaica.

    Our bond grew as we played for the same team (“King Rippers”) in the inaugural Jamaican chess league in its first two years (2006-2008). I enjoyed his company especially when he visited my home to play training games with a couple of budding players, analyse etc.

    Few persons loved chess as much as John Powell did (John Tobisch immediately comes to mind!). Chess was his life and took pride of place ahead of boxing, a sport in which he also excelled being the heavyweight champion of Jamaica and clashing on one occasion internationally with the legendary Cuban amateur champion Teofilo Stevenson.

    More will be written about his life and legacy to our beloved chess – what was the game of kings but is now the king of games!!

    May his soul (chesswise and otherwise!!) rest in peace.

    Ian Wilkinson
    Jamaica Chess Federation

  2. I would not be where I am today chesswise if it were not for John Powell’s commitment to the sport. He single-handedly ran the national schools tournament when I was playing schools chess and then he brought me onto the Executive Council of the Jamaica Chess Federation. I was very honoured that he thought I was worthy at such a young age to be part of the Council.

    I am sorry that I didn’t get a chance to tell him before him before his death, but I have patterned my own chess life very close to his, remarkably close.

  3. Below is an essay Bertram Scott did on Powell. I found it on the Internet archives. I believe Jamaica should write profiles on their national heroes. I hope to meet a few more. I’ve met Harold Chan. I remember seeing Orrin Tonsingh at the World Youth in 1983 because he played the Sveshnikov (which I was playing too). I played a Jamaican in a set of blitz games. Not sure who it was, but after a loss and a draw, I won several in a row. 😉

    Bertram Scott

    One of Jamaica’s most highly acclaimed National Chess Master (NM), and chess administrator, John Constantine Powell, was laid to rest on Thursday, November 8 at the Dovecot Memorial Park in St. Catherine. NM Powell died of a heart attack on Wednesday, October 31 at his office at INC Limited in New Kingston. He was 57 years old.

    At his thanksgiving service held at Our Lady of the Angels Church on Molynes Road in Kingston, NM Powell’s early love for chess was exclaimed by his close cousin, Mrs. Jewel Spencer. In her remembrance, Mrs. Spencer recounted how John’s ambition to become a Charted Accountant played second fiddle to his deep love for chess as he was always traveling to represent Jamaica at some chess tournament at exam time.

    Jamaica Chess Federation President, Ian Wilkinson, expressed the sadness of the chess fraternity at John’s loss, and said that NM Powell once told him, “Chess is the greatest thing to have happened to me”. And, John’s youngest daughter, Michelle Powell, smoothly sang Luther Vandross’ “Dance with my Father” to send John on his eternal journey. It was a superb professional rendition of Luther’s big hit.

    Chess is the greatest thing to have happened to me“.
    ~John Powell

    John’s eldest daughter, Melanie Powell-Reece, read the “Prayer of the Faithful” in her farewell to her beloved father. Melanie is an attorney-at-Law at the Kingston law firm of Reece & Reece with her husband, Dwight Reece. Under her father’s training, Melanie mastered chess at an early age, and went on to represent Jamaica at the FIDE Olympiads in Dubai 1986, Greece 1988, and Yugoslavia in 1990. She was also Jamaica women’s champion in 1988 and 1989, and the national Junior champion in 1988.

    NM John Powell represented Jamaica at nine World Chess Federation (FIDE) Olympiads (Argentina 1978, Malta 1980, Switzerland 1982, Greece 1984, Dubai 1986, Greece 1988, Yugoslavia 1990, Philippines 1992, and in Russia 1994). He was also a member of the Jamaica team to the 1974 Central American and Caribbean Chess Championship in El Salvador, and a member of the Jamaica team at the 23rd World Students’ Chess Olympiad in Caracas, Venezuela in 1976.

    Jamaica national chess team to the Central American & Caribbean Chess Championship in El Salvador 1974. From Left are – NM Robert Wheeler (the current Treasurer of the JCF), 1975 joint-Jamaica champion, NM Thomas Figueroa (deceased), the President of El Salvador, NM Neil Fairclough (Caribbean chess champion in 1993-94), John Powell (Bd. 4 Silver Medalist at the 1984 Olympiad in Greece), and Attorney-at-Law, Dr. Enos Grant, the 1st President of the JCF (deceased). Picture submitted by Rennie Phillips.

    At the Greece 1986 Olympiad, Powell scored 7/9 points for Jamaica, and was awarded the Board 4 Silver Medal. It was a remarkable achievement for Jamaican chess as at that time, it was only the second international acclaim in chess for the tiny Caribbean Island of 2½ Million people. Previously, in 1976 at the 15th World Junior Chess Championships in Groningen, Holland, Sheldon Wong capped a brilliancy prize for his second round Grunfeld win against the Israeli Nir Grinberg. And, at the 1990 Olympiad in Yugoslavia, Jamaica’s Christine Bennett was awarded the Board 4 Silver Medal after registering a remarkable 6/7 points.

    NM Powell is regarded as the strongest Jamaican player never to have won the national title. Powell finished 2nd in the national championship on three occasions. John was also a FIDE Arbiter, and served Jamaica’s chess as Secretary and later as the President of the JCF from 1989-90, and 1993-1994. After migrating to the USA in 1995, John started the USA-Jamaica Chess Association, which reported in its July 1996 Newsletter the unanimous nomination of GM Maurice Ashley as its first president.

    John Powell returned home to Jamaica in 2005 where he resumed playing in local chess competitions. He placed third in the recently concluded President’s Invitational championship. John played his last game of chess against David Morgan on Sunday, October 28 as the board 3 representative of the Magnificent Matador in the 2007-2008 Lasco Chess League.

    NM John Constantine Powell, played brilliantly in his last game of chess on Earth to defeat David Morgan in 31 moves with the black pieces while employing the Dragon variation of his beloved Sicilian Defense.

    God’s speed in your final journey John Powell, and may you rest in peace. You are gone, but you will never be forgotten.

    NM John Powell’s Last Chess Game
    2007 Lasco Chess League, Round 3

    White, David Morgan (Bd. 3 Glenmuir Knights) – Black: NM John Powell (Bd.3 Magnificent Matadors). 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 Nc6 8.Qd2 Bd7 9.0-0-0 Rc8 10.f4 Ng4 11.Bg1 a6 12.h3 Nf6 13.Kb1 0-0 14.Be3 b5 15.Bf3 Na5 16.Qd3 Nc4 17.Bc1 Qa5 18.Nb3 Qc7 19.g4 a5 20.g5 Ne8 21.e5 Bf5 22.Be4 Bxe4 23.Qe4 dxe5 24.Nxb5 Qb6 25.Nc3 Ned6 26.Qe2 exf4 27.Nd5 Qb5 28.Qf3 Rfe8 29.Rhe1 Kf8 30.Nf4 Qf5 31.Rd5 Na3+ White resigns. 0-1

  5. In the wake of t he John Powell Memorial I would like to say that John Powell had a huge impact on me as a young junior and helped to influence me as a coach as well. As a teenager John Powell would invite me to his house stocked with chess sets and books and practised chess with his daughter Melanie.
    He had sufficient trust in me and my ability to send me to represent Jamaica in Barbados and Trinidad in 1988 and in Barbados and Puerto Rico in 1989 where Jomo, Grantel and I met the young Topalov and others. His methodical approach to chess training and his mentoring powers were immense.A part of my growing up came under this gentle giant of Jamaican chess.
    He encouraged me as a coach and again entrusted me with the task of coaching the Jamaican Junior team to Germany in 1992 and to Trinidad in 1993.When he heard that I started teaching chess in schools he was really enthused.I will never forget how he would counsel me on the importance of the endgame and his anecdotes from the Olympiad.I was able to pass this on to my former pupils,Duane Rowe,Jomo Pitterson, Ryan Palmer,Malaku Lorne and so many others who have gone on to excel.
    Every time I play a serious game I remember some piece of wisdom he brought to my attention.He loved serious chess players and he loved those who had an immense work ethic in training and at the board.He was a perfectionist in many ways and always wanted his daughters to succeed.Like all of us he was not perfect however he will be remembered for his gargantuan contribution to the development of Jamaica’s leading players.
    The Memorial is an appropriate way in which to honour one of the founding fathers of Jamaican Chess.May the selfless spirit of his work be manifested in those who who he influenced and may his soul find solace and rest.

  6. After thirty years without communication with John C. Powell, then I meet him again, for only one year. He was a very good friend! I will remember him all the time.

    Luz Maria

    of Switzerland

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