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Bertram Scott, "Jamaica Chess Queen to Play for Nigeria," Jamaica Ambassadors Chess Academy, 10 September 2003 (Kingston, Jamaica).

1991 Jamaica Women's Chess Champion, Maria Bello (formerly Maria Palmer), regarded as the strongest female chess player in Jamaica's history, was invited by the President of the Nigerian Chess Federation, Theophilus Caiafas to represent Nigeria at the 8th All African Games in Abuja, Nigeria from October 4-18.

Mrs. Bello (pictured right), who recently moved to Nigeria and married a Nigerian national, played a game with Mr. Caiafas last Saturday. Although Maria lost, her level of play so impressed the Nigerian Chess President that he issued an invitation for her to represent her adopted country.

Maria Bello has represented Jamaica at five FIDE Chess Olympiad and as recently as 2002 in Bled, Slovenia. Mrs. Bello also finished second to Deborah Richards in the 2002 Jamaica Championship after a 10-year absence from chess. Maria attended Wolmer's High School (86-93) in Kingston, and later the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Mona where she graduated in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science.

Reacting to the news, Ian Wilkinson, President of the Jamaica Chess Federation said, "We are happy that Maria is making progress in her new life in Nigeria. If it is that she will no longer represent Jamaica at Chess, it saddens me because we would have lost a great talent and a fantastic personality. Nonetheless, we wish her all the best for the future."

National Champion
Shane Matthews stated that "One would have preferred for Maria to continue to represent the land of her birth, "Jamrock." But due to her new ties with Nigeria it may be more convenient for her to play for her new country. We would have loved to have her at the 2004 Olympiad in Spain especially after her commendable performance in Bled, Slovenia from which she earned a FIDE rating of 2050.

Ian Wilkinson (top) with 2002 Women's Olympiad team. Maria Bello (far left) with her Jamaican teammates, Deborah Richards, Zhu Hui and Vanessa Thomas.

"Maria's former coach, FIDE Master Warren Elliott said, "I am happy for Maria because she will certainly receive more incentives and chess opportunity from the Nigerian Chess Federation than the JCF can offer her at this time. However, I would have preferred that she continue to play for Jamaica as our Women's team will be much weaker without her."

Maria Bello is expected to join the Nigerian team in Abuja in late September on their return from training in Germany pending the permission of her present employer in Nigeria.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 10 September 2003