Junior Players Jaminate at Carifta Chess in Suriname!

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Jamaica produced a brilliant showing at the recently concluded seventh staging of the Carifta Chess Championships held in Suriname. The small 10 member team captured 3 gold and 2 silver medals in the official categories, and two gold and one bronze medal in the unofficial sub-categories. Jamaica also came away with silver for the country trophy.

The championship was contested over seven rounds, featuring 171 players from eight countries this year – hosts Suriname, Barbados, last year’s champions Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Aruba, Curacao and Bermuda.

There were six official sections – Absolute and Female sections for Under 12, Under 16, and Under 20, and then several unofficial sub-categories for Absolute and Female for Under 8, Under 10, Under 14, and Under 18.

In the Under 12 Absolute Section, Jamaica produced a spectacular first and second finish through the efforts of Darren McKennis and Jaden Shaw. After starting out as the second seed, McKennis never let up in any of his games and executed every move with fine precision to finish first on 7 points. Despite starting out as the top seed and having a perfect start to the tournament, Shaw lost his fourth round game but didn’t let that deter him, going on to win his remaining 3 games to finish second on 6 points. John Stephenson in the same Under 12 category had a strong performance placing fourth on 5 points, and eighth position when all tiebreaks were employed.

Jamaica also produced two medals in the unofficial Under 8 sub-category with Joshua Smikle earning Gold and Joseph Prendergast earning the Bronze medal.
In the Under 12 Female Section, Jamaica’s National Under 12 Age Group Champion Amy Stephenson grabbed the silver medal after finishing second on 5.5 points with her only loss coming at the hands of the Trinidadian winner and top seed Zara La Fleur. One of the youngest in the field, Jamaica’s Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Zaina O’Connor placed eleventh with 3.5 points in this same section.


In the Official Under 16 Female Section, Jamaica’s National Girls Junior Champion WCM Adani Clarke defended her Carifta U16 Female Title by finishing on a brilliant 7 points.

This was WCM Clarke’s third Carifta medal in the same category after winning a silver in the 2016 staging, and Gold in the 2017 staging. Her Jamaican teammate, and 2017 Under 12 Female Champion, Johmoi Blake, finished on 4 points to tie for fourth, and fifth after tie-breaks were employed.

As the field size for the Under 20 Female section was small this year, the section was combined with the Under 20 Absolute section for the championship.

Despite playing all male competitors, Sheanel Gardner rose to the occasion and finished on 4 points placing her in tenth position in the overall absolute section, first in the Under 20 Female Section and first in the unofficial Under 18 Female sub-category. This was her third Carifta Gold overall after winning the Under 12 Female Section at the inaugural Carifta in 2013 and the Under 20 Female section at last year’s championship held in Jamaica.

Team coach National Master (NM) Mikhail Solomon was proud of the team’s performance but believed that Jamaica could have had greater success if they had contested all of the official categories. He pointed out “With such a small team, 10 players, and coming away with 8 medals and the team placing second overall, the strength of Jamaica’s chess talent is evident and augurs well for the future of Jamaican Chess.“ Points for the top 10 placings in each official category contributed to the overall country standings, and Jamaica captured the silver trophy after placing second behind host country Suriname, and ahead of Barbados who earned the bronze.

Photos Courtesy of Richard Shaw.