Sam, Couchman impress as CAC Youth Chess Festival concludes


The XIV CAC Youth Chess Festival ended at the weekend in Trinidad with the culmination of a challenging and exhilarating journey spanning nine rounds of chess.

The festival, which commenced on August 21, brought together 231 young players aged 6-18 from a diverse range of countries, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, St. Lucia, Suriname, and the host nation, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The standout player for Guyana was the youngest team member, 10-year-old Kataleya Sam. She impressively maintained her third-place standing in the Under-10 Female category, securing a conditional Women’s Candidate Master title.

This remarkable achievement awaits official confirmation when she achieves an international rating of 1800 or higher.

In a captivating display of strategic finesse and tactical acumen, Kyle Couchman emerged victorious against the ultimate Under-14 Open Champion, Kael Samuel Bisnauth, in an intense match for the final game of the tournament.

As the game progressed, Couchman capitalised on Bisnauth’s weaknesses and consolidated his advantage. With precise moves and astute piece coordination, Couchman deftly navigated the complexities of the position.

His mastery of the endgame phase proved decisive, ultimately leading to a well-earned victory. The final position witnessed a resilient effort from both players, but Couchman’s adept handling of the strategic nuances secured him a well-deserved victory.

Alexander Zhang showcased his prowess, securing 4.5 points in the Under-16 Open.

He notably outplayed his Round Seven opponent, Luke Balliram from Trinidad and Tobago, boasting an international rating of 1280. Zhang’s strategic finesse was particularly evident in his adept handling of the French defence, culminating in an advantageous endgame.

Team Guyana at the championship in Trinidad

Italy Ton-Chung, playing in the Under-16 Female category, demonstrated her resolve, concluding with four points. Notable victories against rated player Kavita Singh and a draw against Adelia Duffrin, both from Trinidad, showcased Ton-Chung’s competitive spirit.

12-year-old Nicholas Zhang played well in the Under-12 category, accumulating five points and securing a noteworthy draw against Aaron Jaikaran (1268) from Barbados.

Dominic Sam’s participation in the Under-14 Open category yielded three points, including an impressive draw against Trinidad’s Kyle Maharaj (1169). Ciel Clement scored four points in the Under 14 Female competition with one win against Haiti, two against Trinidad and a bye.

Newcomer Kaija Clement, also in the Under-14 Female tournament, benefitted from a bye in Round Three and a Round Four win against Trinidadian Angela Honore.

Aniyah Couchman, playing in the Under-18 Female tournament, struggled against three Woman Candidate Masters and a Woman FIDE Master, but still was able to score by defeating Kinberlie Dunat of Haiti (1357) with a beautiful Ruy Lopez opening and a winning endgame.

Ronan Lee and Matthew Singh ended the tournament on 3.5 points each in the Under-18 category. Lee clinched victories against Trinidadian Keagan Ragoobar (1495) and drew with Saqiv Williams (1334).

Singh’s game with Ragoobar ended in a draw, but he was able to score against Kaiel Scoon (1071) of Trinidad in Round Three.

The tournament was expertly organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association (TTCA) and the Chess Confederation of the Americas (CCA), held at the Cascadia Hotel in Port-of-Spain, and received significant support from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago through the Ministry of Sport and Community Development.

Chief Arbiter Ishmael Soto Gonsalves (IA) from Puerto Rico oversaw the games, assisted by Deputy Chief Arbiters Roderick Noel (FA) and Sadiqah Razark.

The Guyana Chess Federation, in a press release, highlighted: “The GCF is proud to have fielded the team for participation in the CAC Youth Chess Festival. The GCF recognises the need for international competition as it allows players to earn international ratings and win titles.”

President of the Federation, Anand Raghunauth emphasised the profound value of the experience garnered from this event, and they can only grow as chess players from these events.

He extended thanks to Marcia Lee, who headed the delegation and Roberto Neto whose coaching and unwavering support proved instrumental throughout the tournament. Special commendation is reserved for FM Anthony Drayton, whose contributions to the players’ training, both in the lead-up and during the event, have been paramount to their preparation and performance.

“The Guyana Chess Federation and the Guyana Team express their gratitude to the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association (TTCA) and the Chess Confederation of the Americas (CCA) for their exceptional execution of the tournament. The team was enriched by the camaraderie and warm hospitality of the Trinidadian hosts, and eagerly anticipates future events of this caliber,” the Federation concluded.

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