Andr Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter

National under-18 open chess champion, Hakim Buchanan, is already carving out a solid reputation for himself as one of the island’s brightest young talents, but as far as the Ardenne High School past student is concerned, there is still a long way to go if he is to take his skills further.

Buchanan walked away with the title at the recent national age-group chess competition, which pulled out hundreds of youthful competitors from across the island to the St Hugh’s Preparatory School.

An achievement, which is cast further into context when the fact that he had not played the game for well over a year prior to winning the championship is taken into consideration. The victory, certainly for Buchanan himself, was a major surprise but one that he relishes given the high level of competition that he had to overcome.

Back in the groove

“It was actually a surprise for me because I had taken a hiatus from chess and had not played in a tournament for a while, so I was just getting back into the groove of things,” said Buchanan. “So when I came back, I saw a lot of people that I used to play with so there were definitely some strong competitors, but I believe that the work that I put in paid off in the end.”

Buchanan, who is also currently teaching chess at his alma mater, has been playing the game since his days at Mona Preparatory, where a friend introduced him to it.

“I’ve been playing since grade six actually. I saw a friend of mine playing it and decided to try it out and found that I really liked it. I practised and eventually got better and better at it and have been improving since,” Buchanan said.

“Chess is different from other sports in the sense that it’s challenging and it actually teaches you several life skills. It certainly teaches patience, I mean you are sitting there in pure silence for hours thinking about the game and it also can help you to plan ahead in life, at least with me,” Buchanan said in reference to his decision to pursue chess competitively as opposed to other sports.

The youngster, who is looking to study medicine in the United States, rates 20-year-old world number-two Magnus Carlsen, who became the third youngest grandmaster in history at the age of 13 as is inspiration.

“I would say that at least for my age group, I am quite good but that is just locally because internationally there are players my age that are grandmasters already so there is a long way to go for me,” said Buchanan.

Other winners at the competition included Under-8 – Ethan Chang with five points; Under-10 – Justin Lowe with six points; Under-12 – Rachel Miller with 5.5 points; Under-14 – Horace Sinclair with 5.5 points; and Under-16 – Shreyas Smith with five points.

The female champions were Under-8 – Rochelle Porter; Under-10 – Sheneal Gardner; Under-12 – Rachel Miller; Under-14 – Samantha Samuels; and Under-18 – Alethia Edwards.

The champions will now go in a training programme with national champion Warren Elliott and international master Jomo Pitterson of Chess Unlimited for upcoming international age-group tournaments.