By RENALDO DORSETT
MIND sports, like chess, continue to increase their profile in the Bahamas and just on the heels of an historic performance in international competition, a trio of local chess veterans have received a prestigious award by the international governing body of the sport.
Elton Joseph, Kendrick Knowles and Cecil Moncur were named candidate masters by the World Chess Federation based on their performance at the recent 2014 Chess Olympiad hosted in Tromso, Norway.
It brings the total number of candidate masters in the Bahamas to four as they joined junior phenom Nathan Smith who received the honour based on his performance at the 2013 CAC Youth Festival.
Joseph, Knowles and Moncur scored at least 50 per cent in a minimum of seven games at the event, the first time the Bahamas competed in the Chess Olympiad in over two decades.
They led the Bahamas to its best performance ever, a finish at no.118 overall in a group 174 countries. They began the tournament ranked no.158.
The BCF credits much of its success to contracted Serbian grandmaster Predrag Trajkovic who devoted two months of his time to training the players online prior to the tournament and to serve as team captain during the two-week event, developing strategies against opponents and providing post-analysis of the players’ games.
Andre White, president of the Bahamas Chess Federation, applauded the performance.
“The players really bought into the training,” he said. “It took a few rounds for them to settle in and believe in themselves, but once they realised that the stage was not too big for them, the results began to come,”White said.
“We played against proven chess masters and were able to hold our own. The guys are incredibly motivated now to continue their training and to represent the country at upcoming international tournaments. They saw the results of preparation, and the efforts that we put into participating in this Olympiad were well worth it.”
The 42nd Chess Olympiad is scheduled to be held in 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan, and the Bahamas Chess Federation is reportedly making preparations for a team to attend.
Scheduled training will continue, local playing opportunities will be expanded, and an international tournament hosted by the Bahamas is being discussed for 2015.
Back in January, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr Daniel Johnson announced in the House of Assembly that the often overlooked genre of mind sports would be implemented in school sporting curriculums in 2014.
“We can excel in these mind sports. It brings me to an idea of what we are trying to do this year of expanding sports,” he said.
“I am very proud to say today that along with the Ministry of Education, that chess and other mind sports will be introduced to schools all across the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, the full 164 schools, this year,” he said.
“These are the young people that we are breeding in this country. There are thousands and thousands of them and I am going to overwhelm the public with these people so that ‘those’ people can get off the front page.”