Sunday, 20 December 2009

Chess in Guyana

While I was working as press chief at the London Chess Classic in London, many thousands of miles away one of my oldest chess friends was doing his bit at the grass roots level to popularise the game, and with considerable success.

David Stevenson and I learnt our chess together at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, back in the 1960s and we were both members of the Cambridge University Chess Club in the 1970s. We've stayed in touch for 40 years and still meet up whenever we can though David has long since settled in the USA.

A few months ago David made a bold career move and decided to become a voluntary teacher in a developing country. If it had been a chess move, we'd have to annotate it 'exclamation mark, question mark' - "interesting"! Anyway, in a spirit of adventure, David took the plunge and now finds himself teaching maths in Georgetown, Guyana - for virtually no money and in what most of us European softies would consider to be incredibly difficult living conditions.

As well as teaching, David has taken the opportunity to start a chess club at his school, St Stanislaus College in Georgetown. And in a matter of months he has coached them to winning the Guyana National School's Championship. David can be seen in the above photo, flanked by his victorious team.

Some links...

Kaietur News

WorldTeam Blogspot (worth reading for David's description of some of the privations he has to put up with)

The photo above shows David holding the trophy, with the successful team around him.

Whilst saluting David's achievement as coach, I hope he also gets the chance to show what he can do on a chessboard himself while he's in Guyana. He has not played much competition chess for many years but, as a player who used to rank regularly in the 180s in the (then) BCF Grading List, my guess is that David could be the best chessplayer currently domiciled in Guyana. Though it once used to send teams to the Olympiad, a sharp downturn in the economy affected chess in the country and Guyana is (I think) no longer a member of FIDE.

We've just had a fantastic couple of weeks of big-time chess in London but, at this time of year, we should also stop to think of all those volunteers like David, all over the world, who give their time to organise and popularise our game. They are the lifeblood of chess.

Dave, if you get to read this: well done, have a great Christmas and a happy new year.

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