Chess in the Caribbean: Hope for the Future

As FM Delisle Warner (pictured right) creeps closer to a collision course finalé with FM Philip Corbin, the Barbados National crown is on the line. There's something else at stake… another perfect score. Players from the three strongest English-speaking Caribbean countries appear to be in some type of competition as to who win their national crowns with perfect scores.

In the past three years we have seen Jamaica's
FM Warren Elliott score 9-0 in 2001, Trinidad's FM Ryan Harper score 11-0 in 2002 and Trinidad's NM Christo Cave score an 11-0 blitz this year. So far Barbados' FM Warner has won his first eight games and is on course to score 11-0 in the Barbados National Championship. However, he faces an ominous obstacle… 7-time champion FM Corbin.

FM Delisle Warner

FM Delisle Warner

What does this mean? Some will quickly say that Caribbean nations only have a couple of strong players per country, but of course, this is not the case. Something should be said about the harnessing of talent. It may occur that players from the Caribbean have limited opportunities to play in strong tournaments abroad and have resorted to playing each other countless times over the years. Over a period of time, this causes laxity in preparation and perhaps a lack of enthusiasm. Imagine the increase of excitement if half a dozen foreign GMs and IMs  suddenly showed up on one of these islands for a tournament.

Thus far, this world has missed the talent of Caribbean players like Jamaica's
Shane Matthews and Barbados' IM Kevin Denny and FM Ron Buckmire. If the English-speaking Caribbean is to harvest the fruits of newer talent such as FM Elliott, FM Harper, Juniors such as Barbados' Askari Elson, and the Jamaican trio of  Alain Morais, Ras Malaku Lorne and Daren Wisdom, there must be collaborative efforts made with other countries such as the U.S., Cuba, Venezuela and Dominican Republic to harness this talent. While getting title shots at the zonal tournaments, or going to the biennial Olympiad may be a source of motivation, other measures must be taken to create a competitive environment. 

The Jamaican Chess Federation has aggressively marketed chess to the island and both Barbados and Trinidad both have done commendable jobs… especially at the Junior level. However, the marketability of chess is fraught with problems. Even in the U.S., chess suffers from a deep identity crisis. The United States Chess Federation is taking the "chess/education" angle which has led to a "boom" in scholastic-level chess, but has not done much for keeping talented players in the pipeline. This has to be changed if sponsorships are to be  secured for high-level tournaments.

Through precise marketing and supportive banking and hospitality industries, the
Bermuda Open consistently draws some of the strongest players in the world despite that fact that the island is not as strong as the three previously mentioned here. Without a thriving chess infrastructure and support mechanism, existing talent will go underdeveloped. Perhaps more regional tournaments should be held in the Caribbean which could include Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. This would certainly bring excitement to the region and perhaps the first Black Grandmaster in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Clockwise L-R: IM Kevin Denny (Barbados), NM Shane Matthews (Jamaica), NM Christo Cave (Trinidad), FM Philip Corbin (Barbados)

Clockwise L-R: IM Kevin Denny (Barbados), NM Shane Matthews (Jamaica), NM Christo Cave (Trinidad), FM Philip Corbin (Barbados)

Selected Games

Ron Buckmire (Barbados)-Geoff Lawson, 1-0
Kevin Denny (Barbados)-Wong Meng Wong, 1-0
Christo Cave (Trinidad)-Shane Matthews (Jamaica), 0-1
Warren Elliott (Jamaica)-Shane Matthews (Jamaica), 1-0
Omar AkQadri-FM Delisle Warner (Barbados), 0-1
E. Brestian-Christo Cave (Trinidad), 0-1
Ravishen Singh (Trinidad)-FM Ryan Harper (Trinidad), 0-1
Philip Corbin (Barbados)-Peter Chubinsky, 1-0 (Caribbean Classic!)

Posted by The Chess Drum: 5 August 2003