In a race to the finish, International Master (IM) Shane ‘The Magician’ Matthews defended his Jamaica Veteran Chess Champion title in a final round escapade against National Master (NM) Geoffrey Byfield in the 2018 William Roper Memorial National Veterans Championship held last weekend at the Jamaica Olympic Association.
In a twist of fate, where in the 2017 Championship NM Byfield lost to IM Matthews by a half point in the final standings, NM Byfield had the upper hand going into the final round. A round 5 encounter between the players saw NM Byfield successfully apply the Caro-Kann for the first time to give him a well needed win to setup a final round thriller against IM Matthews where a draw would be enough to secure the title. IM Matthews, still basking in his historic win in the World Championship Qualifier (Sub-Zonals) held in Jamaica in June, needed a victory in order to defend his Veterans’ Champion title.
NM Byfield who runs the Liguanea Chess Club made his intentions clear when he chose to play the London System and go for a dynamic game to end his tournament on 9.5 points. However, IM Matthews kept his cool demeanour for simple positional tactics, an intermezzo and finally a bridge in his rook endgame to carry home the win with 9 points. Like his moniker, IM Matthews pulled off the impossible where everything was on the line. This left NM Byfield in second place once again on 8.5 points.
Incumbent Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) President and attorney Ian Wilkinson QC finished in third place on a superb 5.5 points with his only losses coming at the hands IM Matthews and NM Byfield in the earlier rounds of the event. His final round win against Markland Douglas was nothing short of a spectacle as he stamped his authority on the Sicillian Najdorf position. Mutual exchange sacrifices between the players along with opposite side onslaughts left this game to be described as the game of the round. Douglas finished in fourth with 3 points after this gem of a game.
Senior player Michael Diedrick had a difficult tournament with his only consolation coming in the win against Douglas in round 9. His final round encounter with JCF Tournament Director Terence Lindo was nothing short of a missed opportunity. With an extra pawn in a better endgame involving queens, Diedrick blundered his extra pawn and fell into a perpetual check which all but secured the draw for Lindo. This result left Diedrick on 2.5 points in fifth place and Lindo on 1.5 points in last. It should be noted that his fourth round draw against NM Byfield was the most unexpected result of the tournament.
With his victory in the championship, IM Matthews qualifies to represent Jamaica at the 2018 World Senior Championships to be held in Bled, Slovenia this November. This is in addition to his qualification to represent Jamaica at the 2019 Zonal 2.3 to be held in Venezuela which also forms part of the World Chess Championship cycle.
President of the Confederation of Chess for Americas Jorge Vega who is on a working visit within the region was impressed with the work of the JCF and applauded the vigour shown to host international events while simultaneously developing the sport in the country.
The tournament is kept in the memory of former JCF founding father William Alphonso Roper who was principal of the Norman Manley Law School from 1986 to 1996 and the first secretary of the JCF when it was formed. He had numerous accolades which include coming second at the inaugural Jamaican Chess Championship in 1969, third after tying for first in the 1972 Caribbean Individual Chess Championship, first with Dr. Harold Chan in the 1972 Team Chess Championship and member of the winning Kingston team in the inaugural Jamaican team tournament in 1970. He also mentored future president of the JCF Ian Wilkinson while he was a student at the Norman Manley Law School. Roper passed away on July 19, 2014.
The 2018 William Roper Memorial National Veterans Championship was an open double round-robin tournament where players over the age of 50 years play 10 rounds at a time control of 90 minutes with 30 second increments after each move. The Jamaica Chess Federation organized the tournament which was made possible with the kind support of the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa, Christar Villas Hotel, Jamaica Olympic Association, Sports Development Foundation, Proven Investments Limited and the Kasparov Chess Foundation.
Written by David Rose.