Drayton and Callender win National Chess Qualifiers
- 18 players qualify for National Championship
FIDE Master Anthony Drayton and Jessica Callender have emerged winners of the National Open and Women’s Qualifiers respectively after four days of intense rivalry at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence.
The tournaments ran concurrently, starting May 7 and concluding May 15.
FM Drayton played undefeated to storm to victory, finishing on eight points after eight rounds.
Drayton, a former National Champion himself, will now go on to challenge Candidate Master Taffin Khan for the 2022 National Championship title.
The other eight players in contention are Candidate Master Wendell Meusa (7 points), Roberto Neto (5 points), Loris Nathoo (4.5 points), Frankie Farley (4.5 points), Ethan Lee (4 points), Rashad Hussain (4 points), Justino De Silva (4 points) and Rai Sharma (4 points), who finished second to ninth respectively.
These players will now move on to the nine-round Round-Robin Open National Championship.
Third place finisher Roberto Neto played against sixth place finisher Ethan Lee in Round Seven of the tournament, and what began as a solid opening led to a four-hour struggle for dominance.
Tiny inaccuracies plagued Lee’s development into the middle game, which Neto capitalised on intensely. Lee held valiantly, in an attempt to convince his opponent that there was nothing more than a draw in the position as things went from bad to worse.
An accurate piece exchange for multiple of Lee’s pawns was made by Neto, promising an enjoyable endgame. Time had dragged on, and both Neto and Lee’s time had elapsed, leaving both of them to play on the 30-second increment.
Inaccuracies from both sides began to flow, but Lee managed to recapture some of his lost pawns, draining Neto’s advantage and allowing Lee’s extra piece to show its strength. The players agreed to a draw in the end, letting Lee escape from a position that was dead loss.
Jessica Callender finished in first place to win the Women’s National Qualifiers with seven points. She finished just ahead of Pooja Lam, who also managed to earn seven points, but ranked below Callender due to a direct encounter tie-break.
In third place was 12-year-old Anaya Lall, who successfully defeated Adia Alphonso, Maliha Rajkumar and Nellisha Johnson to gain six points in the competition.
Nellisha Johnson and Adia Alphonso both finished on five points to place them fourth and fifth respectively.
Maliha Rajkumar, Waveney Johnson and Angel Rahim placed sixth to eighth on four points each. Elizabeth McRae took the final qualifying spot with three points.
These girls will challenge reigning Women’s champion 18-year-old Sasha Shariff as she fights to retain her title.
The Women’s National Championship will also consist of a nine-round Round-Robin. In Round Five, fourth place finisher Nellisha Johnson had the white pieces against Callender. Both players began and almost immediately lead into an interesting position.
Tiny inaccuracies by Callender led to an excellent position for Johnson right out of the opening with a devastating attack. Callender defended well and avoided checkmate, but the damage was already done.
Johnson was left up the exchange and with a powerful passed pawn, one square away from promotion. The game was converted to a win gracefully, as Callender lost her last piece preventing the passed pawn from promoting.
The game ended in checkmate and as an excellent victory over the tournament champion for Nellisha Johnson.
The Open and Women’s National Championship will begin on May 21 at the same venue from 09:00h and will conclude on May 29.
KFC Guyana is the primary sponsor of this year’s Women’s Championships, while GAICO Construction will sponsor the Open National Championship.
“The Guyana Chess Federation is ecstatic to have the support of KFC Guyana and GAICO Construction and looks forward to a continued partnership. The Guyana Chess Federation would like to congratulate the players and wishes them every success in the upcoming National Tournament where they will vie for the coveted top positions paving the way for team selection for the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India, in July/August of this year,” the Federation said in a statement.
“Women and girls who are interested in learning the game are encouraged to register with the federation on its website guyanachess.org under the Women in Chess Community.”