Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Friday | March 9, 2012
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St Jago High School back on top
The 2012 St Jago High Chess quartet outside the Magnificent Chess Foundation offices in St Andrew, minutes after being crowned all-island high school chess champions after defeating Campion College 3-1. From left: Matthew Blake (board 3), Jamie Cunningham (board 4), Roderick Clifford (captain, board 2) and Alistair Walker (board 1). - Contributed
Claire Clarke, Contributor

Volume 1. No. 15

St Jago High are the 2012 All-Island High School Chess champions after defeating urban title holders Campion College by 3-1 last week at the Magnificent Chess Foun-dation office in Kingston.

Chess, viewed as a symbol of intellectual prowess, was an apt arena for Campion College and St Jago High, Jamaica's two most preferred schools for GSAT placements, to square off their skills. As the high school of choice from the GSAT, Campion College was on top. At the chess tables last week, however, the positions were reversed as St Jago came out number one.

St Jago High were regaining the prestigious title 25 years after being off the podium for high-school team chess in Jamaica. This will mark St Jago's fourth hold on this title which they previously held in 1984, 1986 and 1987. This annual competition is 38 years old.

Players on the 2012 victorious St Jago team are: board one - Alistair Walker, board two - Roderick Clifford, board three - Matthew Blake and board four - Jamie Cunningham.

Coach for the St Jago High team, National Master (NM) Mikhail Solomon, rated the victory as top class. "You can't ask for more when you have defeated the seven-time champions 3-1," he said.

Preparation is what he thinks was the key difference between the two teams. " St Jago seemed more comfortable while playing. They were highly prepared for the systems they faced," NM Solomon said.

But there were nervous moments for the coach, as St Jago's only loss was the first result to be registered from the four boards of play. "I thought I would have lost my mind," coach NM Solomon confessed. "The positions on the other three boards were a little better for St Jago, but it wasn't a clear win. Just had to hope and pray that they could convert into winning positions which they actually did."

With the high-school season for 2012 team chess over, the coach said all plans are now about next year.

"My vision is to create a dynasty here at St Jago and St Catherine [parish] at large. As soon as our break is over, we will resume training. Our sights are now set on retaining the title for a long time," said NM Solomon who is the founder of the Royal Chess Academy which operates in preparatory and primary schools in the parish.

Campion College went into the final showing mutual respect.

"I must first say that we were very confident going into the all island final and we know St Jago would have been feeling the same way. After all we were both champions of the urban and rural area, respectively," said Campion College coach NM Ryan Blackwood.

NM Blackwood believed that Campion were not as prepared as St Jago and was hoping for a 2-2 score by winning on boards four and three forcing the tournament to be decided in a blitz play off.

"Jason Lawson, our best blitz player so far, has not yet been called up on to demonstrate his skills at the faster version of the game," NM Blackwood added.

But the plan was foiled as St Jago's board-three player, Matthew Blake, would not be outdone by Campion's Sekani Boxill and the victories on boards one and two, as NM Blackwood had feared, were realised. This year behind them, Campion are already thinking about 2013 and regaining their lost title.

"Campion will be coming back stronger next year," NM Blackwood has vowed. He is the founder of Chess Whiz Kids that operates in the Corporate Area.

While placing second this year, Campion College have held this title the most times - seven. St Jago High, with their fourth lien, join Jamaica College and Mannings High as four-time title holders. North Street rivals Kingston College and St Georges College have each held the title five times, while Camperdown High School have been the all-island stalwarts on six different occasions.

Players on the 2012 Campion College team are: board one - Andrew Ffolkes, board two - Douglas Johnson, board three - Sekani Boxill and board four - Jason Lawson.

Women's Fide Master (WFM) Deborah Richards left for Ecuador on the weekend to compete in the regional sub-zonals. Success in this tournament will put WFM Richards, 10-time women's national champion, in line for qualification in the zonals and contention for the women's world title in 2013.

WFM Richards, up to yesterday, was 2.5 points from six games and was playing on board five in a field of 20 players.

The National Junior Cham-pionships started last weekend and continue tomorrow. This tournament will select the top under-20 players, male and female, in preparation for the Carifta Games in Trinidad in April. Results after round two are Stuart James and Tewanna Mellace 4/4 and Laurence Davey has 3/4 for the boys and Krishna Gray and Ariel Barrett are leading the Girls Section with 4/4.

ChessMate Glossary

We start this week looking at the official rules of chess, information that every player ought to know. Each move must be made with one hand only.

Upcoming tournaments

March 10: The National Junior tournament continues at Kingston College.

March 10 and 11: Sub-zonals in Ecuador final rounds where WFM Deborah Richards is playing.

March 24: The Queen's Prep one-day chess tournament at The Queen's Prep School.

Email feedback, send in your games or upcoming tournaments to yourchessmate@yahoo.com and join thefacebook page chessmate. Claire Clarke is a former Women's National Champion, three-time Jamaica Women's team Chess Olympiad representative, trained journalist and editor.

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