Sasha Shariff wins Diamond Insurance Women’s Chess Championship Qualifiers

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Sasha Shariff has emerged victorious in the Diamond Insurance Women’s Chess Championship Qualifiers, finishing with 6.5 points after seven rounds of play.

She is one of 10 players who will now advance to the National Championship to pursue the coveted title, National Women’s Champion. Shariff is the lone player heading into Nationals who has held the title before.

She reigned as National Women’s Champion from 2020 to 2022, until current champion Pooja Lam claimed the title last year.

With Lam unable to defend her title this year due to commitments in her academic studies, Shariff is now the player to beat when the round-robin Women’s Nationals commences on Thursday, August 10 at School of the Nations.

The top 10 players advancing to the women’s championship

Nineteen-year-old Shariff is by far one of the most seasoned competitors in the event. She holds the title of UG Chess Queen – the top female player at the University of Guyana.

She represented Guyana at the Batumi Olympiad in 2018, the Chennai Olympiad in 2022, and many other international chess competitions.

Runner-up Anaya Lall (left) with Head of the Women in Chess Committee, Marcia Lee

Coming in second in the qualifying event is National Under-16 Champion Anaya Lall.

As is usually the case for Lall, she is the only deaf chess player competing. And once again, it has not swayed her on her steadfast path to victory.

She finished the tournament with five points, her only loss being her match against Waveney Johnson. She drew her games with Aditi Joshi and Italy Ton Chung.

Lall has also graced the international stage for Guyana in the International Chess Championship for Persons with Disabilities and in the 2022 Olympiad in Chennai. She is definitely a player to watch in the Nationals, having come in fifth in the last year’s Nationals.

Third place went to former Under-14 Champion, Ciel Clement, also on five points, but ranking lower than Lall through the Sonneborn–Berger tie-break employed in GCF Swiss-system tournaments.

Waveney Johnson is fourth with 4.5 points after losing against eventual champion Shariff, stalemating a winning endgame position against Vienna Bharosay and drawing her games with Jessica Callender and Aniyah Couchman.

Third place finisher Ciel Clement (left) with Head of the Women in Chess Committee, Marcia Lee

Adia Alphonso and Couchman ranked fifth and sixth with 4.5 points each. Callender, Aditi Joshi and Chelsea Harrison all finished on four points to take seventh, eighth and ninth positions and will advance to the Nationals.

The final qualifying spot went to Italy Ton Chung with three points. Head of the Women in Chess Committee Marcia Lee was present to award medals to all 10 players advancing to the nationals.

Since the Women in Chess Committee was established under Lee’s leadership, the participation of women and girls in competitive events has increased significantly.

More so, creating avenues for community and bonding among female chess players has added value to the local chess community by creating spaces for girls to learn from more senior players and improve their game, narrowing the gender gap in the historically male-dominated game.

The Guyana Chess Federation highlighted in a press statement: “This Championship could not have been possible without the generous support of Diamond Fire and General Insurance. As such, the Federation extends its gratitude for acknowledging the value of this tournament and contributing to the advancement of chess for women and girls in Guyana. Special thanks to the School of the Nations for granting the use of their facilities for both the Qualifying event and the National Championship.”

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