nine years ago, World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine
gave Trinidad and Tobago chess players some advice that
must still be relevant. After playing the cream of the countrys
chessists in two simultaneous displays in Port-of-Spain,
he told them: As a general criticism, I would say
that your weakest play is in the opening. After ten moves
or so a majority of your players failed to combine properly
and their game suffered as a consequence. It is highly essential
that you understand properly the opening moves of a game.
The World Champion added: Occasional lectures by your
leading players will help the weaker ones, as well as benefit
themselves from the lectures through the investigations
they will be forced to make. Your mid-game and endgame play
is on a good level and all you require is your own enthusiasm
to continue developing for there is always something to
Alekhines stay in Trinidad and Tobago from January
30 to February 7, 1939, created great excitement in the
then British colony which became the first West Indian territory
to entertain a visit by a chess player of such renown. News
of Alekhines visit sparked widespread speculation
among the T&T chess-playing community and the population
as a whole about which of the local stalwarts would manage
to hold their own against the Russian colossus.
According to Trinidad Guadian reports, hundreds of spectators
turned up at the two simultaneous exhibitions Alekhine gave
at the Marie Louise Hall, Royal Victoria Institute, on January
31 and February 4, each paying an entrance fee of two shillings.
Several onlookers, in fact, had only a cursory knowledge
of the game but came to see the charismatic World Champion
at work and to support the T&T players many of whom
were socially prominent personalities.
DOUBLE ROOKS owes this account of Alekhines visit
to the research efforts of Cesar Ramos, the Venezuelan player-coach
who lived in Trinidad for several years and became prominently
active in the local chess arena. Ramos came to love our
country and did considerable research into the history of
chess in T&T with the hope of writing a book on the
subject. Sadly, however, he returned to Caracas without
finishing the project, leaving his research work into the
keeping of Edison Raphael, president of the T&T Chess
Ramos extracted much of his information from the files of
the Trinidad Guardian kept at the National Archives in Port-of-Spain
which he visited frequently. His story of Alekhines
visit is based largely on reports he found in the Guardian.
In the two simultaneous displays, the World Champion faced
a total of 71 opponents, defeating 66, drawing with four
and losing one game to Jacob Zaltzman, a Rumanian visiting
the island. George Stanford, then T&T champion, was
one of the quartet who held their own against the Russian
genius. The other three were Dr A.H. McShine, H.A. Dunn,
champion of the Girdwood Chess Club and A. Young of Trinidad
Leaseholds, a southern based oil company. They all received
an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd of onlookers.
Players in the first display:
Royal Victoria Institute: G. Stanford, A.H. McShine, Hugh
McShine, A.G Francis, Austen McShine, D.D. Campbell-Williams,
A.L. Nestor, E.O. Martin, Mrs E. Barnes.
Eastern Club: Faustin W. DeVerteuil, Mrs F. W. DeVerteuil,
L. Gomez, J.S. Quashie, R. Romain, Henry Peter, L. Arneaud,
A. Anderson, A. Atwell, C. Bastien, Aaron Andrews, D. Calix,
Miss Wilcoy Daniel.
Girdwood Club: B. J. Bedell, H.A. Dunn, C.B. Franklin, T.E.
Martin, G. Ferreira.
Police Club: Sgt G.M. Bynoe.
Rooks Club: K. Pinheiro, K. Ifill.
Railway: E.N. Pinheiro.
From the country: Albert T. Soi-a-Fat (Carapichaima), L.A.
Simmons (Cedros), A.G. Allum (Oropouche), R.O. Waldron (Couva).
United Kingdom: F. Morton (Lancashire), A. Young (London),
R.D. Graham (Somrset).
Rumania: J. Zaltzman, S. J. Ackerman.
C.F. Delmas, E.R. Pashley and E. Ferreira were booked to
play but did not make it.
Alekhine took his opponents by surprise setting a fast pace
in the opening stages. In the first ten moves he established
either positional or material advantages on most of the
boards, the Guardian reported. He paid closest attention
to his games against A.H. McShine, Stanford and Dunn who
held him to a draw, Zaltzman, DeVerteuil, Peter, Gomez,
Young, Quashie, H.A. McShine, Campbell-Williams and Graham.
In the second event, against 31 players, the World Champion
took his time in the opening and, after an hours play,
agreed to a draw with A. Young.
Players in the second display:
RVI: F.A DeVerteuil, M. McDonald Bailey, A.H. McShine, George
Stanford, Hugh McShine, Austen McShine, A.G. Francis, D.D.
Campbell-Williams, A.L. Nestor, J. Barsotti, H.J. Waterman,
E.O. Martin and G.J. McCarthy.
Eastern Club: L. Gomez, J.S. Quashie, V. Lewis, L. Arneaud,
F.N. Davenport, E. Furlong, C. Bastien, Isaac Bograd.
Girdwood Club: G. Ferreira, H.V. Lake, John Alcazar, F.
From the country: A.G. Allum (Oropouche).
Teachers: E. Quinlan.
United Kingdom: F. Morton (Lancashire), A. Young (London).
Rumania: J. Zaltzman, S.J. Ackerman.
R.E.J Paul, A.E. James, Gillis Cobham, A.H. Joseph, B.J.
Bedell, C.F. Delmas, Henry Ferreira, H.O. Ferreira, C. Rother,
W. Minshall, Albert Soi-A-Fat, L.A. Simmons, R.O. Waldron,
R.D. Graham (Somerset) were booked to play but did not make
In this round, Stanford and Gomez presented the toughest
opposition to the World Champion who also had to pay close
attention to his games against Waterman, Bograd, DeVerteuil,
Bastien and Quashie.
Alekhines visit was arranged by the T&T Chess
Association whose patron was Governor Sir Hubert Young and
president A.H. McShine, OBE. Knowing the World Champion
would be visiting some Latin American countries on his way
to the Buenos Aires Olympiad in June 1939, the T&T Chess
Association took the opportunity to invite him to visit
the country. A three-man committee of president Dr McShine
and secretaries Campbell-Williams and Quashie took care
of the arrangements.
Prominent members of the community and sporting organisations
assisted the Association with donations to meet expenses
of the historic visit.
At age 45, Alekhine cut an impressive figure. The Guardian
reporter, covering his arrival, wrote: Tall and strongly
built, he looked the pictre of health and both he and his
wife were very charming and approachable in their manner.
He talks fast, has a clear and long memory for he recalled
names of masters like Albert Pinkus and Dr Esser, two strong
chess players, who visited Trinidad many years ago.
Of contemporary masters he mentioned four whom he considered
his equals, Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky of the US,
Paul Keres of Estonia and Mikhail Botvinnik of Russia. The
next world championship match will most probably be with
Mr Keres, he observed.
Immediately on arrival, Alekhine, who had become a French
citizen in order to travel freely, paid a courtesy call
on the French Consul. Later, he posed for photographs, visited
the Eastern Chess Club and gave an interview to reporters.
A large gathering attended the start of the exhibitions,
including Acting Governor, Capt John Huggins and Trinidad
Guardian Editor Courtney E. Hitchins. Opportunity was taken
to have the World Champion formally present the handsome
silver Trinidad Guardian trophy which would go to the winner
of the West Indies Chess Championship. Designed by Alexander
Clark and Co Ltd of London, the trophy was 16 inches tall,
topped by a figure of Victory blowing a trumpet with a shield
at her side on which was implanted a rook, symbolising the
Hitchins handed the trophy to Alekhine who presented it
to A.H. McShine who gave it to Acting Governor Huggins for
safe keeping at Government House. The Guardian Editor expressed
the hope that having Alekhine present the trophy would be
an ininspiration and encouragement to chess players
of the British West Indies to reach as high a standard of
excellence as that of the world chess champion.
Alekhine rose amid much applause and, in presenting the
trophy, said: I have been asked to be the medium for
formally presenting this beautiful trophy to the Trinidad
Chess Association and I am very happy to do so.
am glad that my visit coincides with the arrival of this
trophy in the colony to start the chess rivalry between
British Guiana and the British West Indies. I hope that
the great game, chess, which has made such rapid international
strides in recent years, will continue to serve as a powerful
medium of intercourse between the nations.
In his turn, Acting Governor Capt Huggins congratulated
the Guardian for the magnificent trophy and hoped that it
would have a similar effect on bringing the colonies
together as the cricket trophy does.
Before he left, the World Chess Champion, in an interview
with the Guardian, spoke of the immense enjoyment
of his short stay on the island. I regret I cannot
stay longer, for I love this little place, he said,
thanking the T&TCA, particularly Dr McShine, for their
effort in making him confortable.
myself and my wife enjoyed your bathing and your scenery.
About the displays, well I enjoyed them too. Alekhine
promised to return to Trinidad, most probably in September
when I have finished arrangements for defence of my title.
He never, however, fulfilled that promise. When the Second
World War began shortly after, he left Argentina and returned
to France. When France fell to Hitlers Germany, Alekhine
went to Lisbon where he died of a heart attack on March