Sasha Shariff dominant in Diamond Insurance Women’s Chess Qualifiers
With only three rounds left to play in the Qualifiers, former Women’s Champion Sasha Shariff has begun her journey with thrilling performances, aiming to advance to the National Women’s Championship and reclaim the coveted title.
Shariff was in possession of the title up to 2022 when it was won by current reigning champion Pooja Lam. After four rounds, Shariff has claimed the top spot as the only player with 3.5 points.
The matches began on July 29, when she secured victories against Chelsea Harrison and Chandra Lall, both newcomers to competitive chess. Despite their valiant efforts, the seasoned national player proved too strong, resulting in their defeat.
In round three, Shariff continued her winning streak by defeating Vienna Bharosay.
However, her match against fellow senior national player Jessica Callender in round four was a gruelling battle that lasted about 2.5 hours and ended in a draw.
Both Shariff and Callender are accomplished senior players who have represented Guyana multiple times on the international stage.
They previously faced each other in the Women’s National Chess Championship last year and were teammates at the 2022 FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India. A head-to-head clash between the two demonstrated their prowess in the game.
Shariff, playing the white pieces, opened with the popular King’s Pawn Opening and Callender countered with the Caro-Kann Defense.
The Caro–Kann is a common response to the King’s Pawn Opening and is classified as a semi-open game which was an interesting twist since Shariff and Callender are both typically known for playing closed games. The Caro-Kann when played efficiently, often leads to good endgames for black who has the better pawn structure.
This endgame, however, culminated with Shariff’s lone rook against Callender’s connected passed pawns fast approaching the first rank. At move 48, the players saw no way forward that offered either of them the upper hand and agreed to a draw.
Currently, Shariff leads with 3.5 points, closely followed by Callender, Waveney Johnson, and Aniyah Couchman, all with three points.
Italy Ton Chung, Anaya Lall, Vienna Bharosay, Adia Alphonso, and Aditi Joshi are at 2.5 points, while Priya Doodnaught, Chandra Lall, Ciel Clement, and Kataleya Sam stand at two points.
Chelsea Harrison, Parnita Kishun, and Tharisha Montes De Oca have each earned one point, and Kaija Clement and Joanna Shepherd are both on half a point.
The players have proved their titles as ‘Queens of the Board’, demonstrating their valour and determination in all their games with players even journeying from regions three and six, for a chance at the title.
While Shariff currently holds the lead, she must keep winning to remain in the top position until the close of play or other players may surpass her within the final three rounds.
The Qualifiers will conclude on August 6, after which the top 10 players will compete in a National Championship at a date to be determined.
2022 Women’s Champion Pooja Lam will not be returning to defend her title since she is currently fulfilling study commitments. This makes way for a new champion this year.
“The Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) extends its heartfelt gratitude to Diamond Fire and General Insurance for their generous sponsorship of this prestigious event. Additionally, the GCF would like to acknowledge the School of the Nations for graciously providing the venue for the tournament. As an avid supporter of chess in Guyana, the School of the Nations also facilitates the Federation’s Chess Club every Saturday from 10:00h to noon,” the GCF said in a release.