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Top scorers aiming high after victory at Chess Olympiad

L-R: FM Anthony Drayton, Sasha Shariff and Jessica Callender

Anthony Drayton, Sasha Shariff, and Jessica Callender are already setting high goals for the future after top scoring for Guyana at the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.

In what was Guyana’s most creditable performance in recent years at the FIDE Chess Olympiad, an event acclaimed as “the Olympics of Chess,” Fide Master Anthony Drayton, former Women’s Champion Sasha Shariff and former University of Guyana women’s champion Jessica Callender earned the most points for team Guyana.

FM Anthony Drayton earned 5.5 points from nine matches. This helped Guyana’s Open team move up from 152 to no. 148 in the International rankings, with four team wins against Seychelles, Gabon, Brunei Darussalam, and Burundi.

Anthony noted that he is very pleased with his performance, “Especially my first game. Going into the Olympiad, I was able to defeat a player that is much higher rated than me. He was an International Master, but in my eyes, he was much closer to the Grandmaster realm, and I was able to defeat him in that game, so I was extremely proud of that performance.”

He created one of the biggest upsets of the first-round open division when he recorded Guyana’s first win in the competition against Andorra’s Jordi Fluvia - an International Master rated at 2451.

FM Anthony Drayton (Photo: Kushal Lam)

Anthony has a long history of impressive performances for Guyana on the International stage. Not only is this his fourth consecutive appearance at the Olympiad, but he was also the first Guyanese to earn the title of FIDE Master.

In the Women’s team, Sasha Shariff and Jessica Callender both finished on 5.5 points out of 10 matches and earned their conditional Women’s Candidate Master titles at the Olympiad.

This helped the Women’s team move up by an impressive 16 places to raise their World ranking from 136 to 120.

Shariff and Callender were elated to have represented Guyana well and earned their WCM titles.

Sasha said: “I was on a losing streak for the first four games in the tournament, so I was kind of scared that I wouldn’t get my title. Honestly, it has been something that I have been looking forward to for a while, so it was a really good accomplishment for me to earn my title.”

Jessica said: “Honestly, my biggest goal this year was just to qualify for the Olympiad and then to win as many matches as I could when I got there. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of titles until I got over to Chennai, but I am happy to have performed so well.”

Jessica’s most impressive victory came from a draw against WFM Khadija Elfelo (1875) in her final match against Libya.

Sasha’s most memorable match was a five-hour showdown where she forced a draw from Guam’s Ruth Nacario, despite her opponent holding a winning position throughout the endgame.

Sasha Shariff (Photo: Kushal Lam)

The trio have already set major goals for the future, having been motivated by their excellent performance against the best chess players in the world at Chennai.

Anthony said: “My goals going forward would be at least to try to achieve the International Master title, to raise my ratings to a level no Guyanese has ever seen, and to be able to perform better and better at these tournaments as we travel over the years.”

Sasha said: “Moving forward for me, I would definitely like to get my rating, to actually have the WCM behind my name. I really hope to get my WFM as soon as possible and one day, hopefully, sooner rather than later, get my WIM.”

Jessica Callender (Photo: FIDE)

Jessica said: “I definitely want to increase my ratings to get my WCM behind my name, and of course, I want to earn more titles. I also want to play more International tournaments; having had such a good experience at the Olympiad as my first International tournament, it has given me a bit more drive to compete at higher level competitions.”


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