Wednesday 13th February, 2008


Anatomy of a unique chess event...Commonwealth games in T&T...

Hooray for Palladins junior rating tournament

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Carl Jacobs

TODAY I take my hat off to Messrs Bhisham Soondarsingh and Russel Smith for another splendid effort in advancing the sport of chess in the country. These two gentlemen are obvious lovers of the game with an impressive record of organising events that bring nothing but credit, admiration and progress to the world of T&T chess. As an admirable example of their dedication, we may consider Mr Soondarsingh’s latest gambit, the Palladins Junior International Rating Tournament which was held somewhere in Port-of-Spain from January 18 to 23.

This tournament, which came like a thief in the night, has set such a high standard for candour and transparency that it may well earn a special place in T&T chess history. Never mind that no annoucement was made to inform the chess community about it, never mind that few, if any at all, apart from the actual participants, knew where it was taking place, never mind that the only information issued about the tournament were the final results which had to be posted on the FIDE website for the purpose of rating.

Minor omissions

These, of course, are minor omissions; what difference could it possibly make if the Palladins Junior International Rating Tournament was virtually held in secret? Knowing the quality of the organiser, no possible suspicion could arise about the integrity of this event; indeed, it has now set a precedent for the holding of secret internationl tournaments in the country, one which other chess clubs should be anxious to emulate.

It seems logical to think that Mr Soondarsingh, who also happens to be the Public Relations Officer of the T&T Chess Association, should have wanted to give the widest publicity to his first “international,” but let us not be critical over the fact that he didn’t; the reason may well be credited to his deep personal modesty.

How the ten participants were selected to play in this tournament seems known only to Mr Soondarsingh and, possibly, his close friend Mr Russel Smith. But these two partners are honourable men and we may rest assured that the process was quite above board.

Never mind the fact that both Mr Soondarsingh and Mr Smith seemed to have caught a “vaps” and selected themselves to play in their own contest! This oddity may set another precedent, but surely it can easily be disregarded. Two fathers who are not known as players on the tournament circuit and having no rating whatever choose themselves to play in the “junior” rating event they organise. Now what could possibly be wrong with that? What a wonderful example they set for other clubs to follow! The moral contained in this special enterprise is quite seductive.

Again, Mr Soondarsingh could have drawn upon the FIDE-rated members of his own Palladins Chess Club, headed by national champion Ryan Harper, 2266, for participatants in this Palladins junior rating tournament since he clearly had no qualms about entering seniors in a tournament that he, ex-T&TCA president now organiser extraordinaire, had arranged for “juniors.” In his abundant wisdom, he decided to do otherwise.

And who are the juniors? Of the ten players participating in this round-robin tournament, four are T&T juniors: Aditi Soondarsingh, daughter of the organiser, together with the three children of Russel Smith - Alpacino, Vandorf and ten-year-old Javanna. Before anyone accuses this ground-breaking duo of arranging a secret rating tournament simply to benefit their own children, Double Rooks would like to pre-empt that erroneous impression by an endorsement of the character of these two reputable chess organisers.

Mr Soondarsingh has become known in chess circles for his fair and admirable conduct, so it does not really matter if he chose to ignore a number of other prominent un-rated juniors in his selection for this tournament. Keeping them out by picking himself and his close allay to play instead is an act of selflessness that should redound to their eternal credit.

Also, there may be purists who would condemn this event by deeming it improper, even immoral, for fathers to be playing in the same rating tournament they have organised exclusively for their children. But what do the purists really know? Are fathers not entitled to seek their children’s benefit?

Last July Mr Soondarsingh, writing in another newspaper, showered praise on his partner for achieving a FIDE arbiter norm while accompanying his children to the 18th Pan American Youth Chess Championships in Medellin, Colombia. Smith’s endeavour, Mr Soondarsingh observed, was “highly commendable giving us, in the not too distant future, the opportunity of staging real FIDE-rated tournaments without the added cost of accomodating a foreign arbiter.”

It seems strange, then, that Mr Smith, who has not played in a tournament for many many years, decided to compete in this event instead of serving as one of the arbiters. But who could ever doubt that Mr Smith acted with anything but the best of motives? Perhaps he felt the time had come for him to obtain a FIDE rating himself although he had long given up tournament play, or that he should demonstrate to his children what good chess is all about—although he finished with a measly 2.5 points. So let no one dare to say that keeping the tournament a secret enterprise confined to their children was really prompted by dubious intensions.

During his visit to Colombia, Mr Smith who is also fluent in Spanish, clearly made good friends among the country’s chess officials. As a result, it was apparently no problem for him to secure the services of three Colombians who, together with the Cuban who coaches his children, make up the four other participants in this “junior” rating tournament. The foreign players, who happened to be staying in T&T, were 54-year-old FM Orlando Ruiz, 2305; 10-year-old candidate master Joshua C. Ruiz, 2248; 25-year-old CM John Jairo Cifuentes, 2175 and the Çuban Raul Perez, 2140, who was invited to Trinidad by Smith last July to assist in a chess camp and has somehow managed to remain in T&T as a kind of free-lance coach.

In trumpeting the Cuban’s arrival in our country and several times afterwards, Mr Soondarsingh has referred to him as an International Master. True to the style of the Association’s PRO, that was not really the truth, at least as far as the world chess body is concerned. By whatever name he has been called, this gentleman has no FIDE title whatever. But this little discrepancy should not really concern us; in Mr Soondarsingh’s books Raul enjoys IM status, and that, as they say, is that.

Most significant

The tournament was won by Joshua and Orlando Ruiz who finished on 7.5 points each. But the most significant—and not surprising—outcome of the event is the score made by Aditi Soondarsingh and Javanna Smith who both ended on 5 points, more than 50 percent of the total, and, as a result, will most likely be awarded a FIDE rating estimated at more than 2000.

For these two proud daddies, the Palladins Junior International Rating Tournament must then be seen as a tremendous success. Their daughters who have failed to earn a rating after competing in a number of foreign events may soon be enjoying a rating estimated to be above or equal to several of the country’s leading players including our top juniors and such seniors as Cecil Lee, Andrew Bowles, Frank Sears, David Christopher, Kishore Ramadhar and Dr Eddison Chang.

Double Rooks extends his congratulations to these two gentlemen who bring great credit and distinction to the Royal Game. Their unique event should also warm the heart of the current president of the T&TCA who last year promised to produce the country’s first grandmaster in seven years. The journey has truly begun.

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