[Written by Stephen Wright]
Local chess enthusiasts tested their skills against a Grandmaster – a title awarded to world-class players – who visited the island last week to help raise the sport’s profile.
Johan-Sebastian Christiansen has been promoting the abstract strategy board game during his recent chess-related travels, including stopovers in the Cayman Islands, Nauru, and Fiji.
During his weeklong trip to Bermuda, the Norwegian played in two simultaneous exhibitions, also known as a simul, against 15 members of the Bermuda Chess Association [BCA] at the Bermuda National Library and 25 youngsters from the Youth Chess Club at the Youth Services Building.
He also won a local mini-tournament, sanctioned by the International Chess Federation and sponsored by Cactus and Uber Super Duper, at a private residence against top local players Moses Mufandaedza, Sergey Goncharov and Don Dacres.
Sami Lill, a BCA board member, said the opportunity to pit their wits against one of the great talents of chess was a wonderful experience for local players, young and old.
“There was a standing audience at the National Library, which we rarely have, and people were very interested in seeing a Grandmaster in action,” said Lill, who has represented Bermuda at the Chess Olympiad – the largest team chess tournament in the world.
“He beat all 15 players, including myself, and there was some great feedback. It was a fun evening, and all the players enjoyed the experience.
“A few of our kids also got a draw against one of the top players in the world! When the kids lost to Johan-Sebastian, new ones took their place, and when the session was ending, a few kids were still playing him individually. He magnanimously and symbolically agreed to draw those kids, which made their day.”
Christiansen, ranked No 4 in Norway, also presented teenager Cole Prior with a signed book as a reward for winning a local tournament the previous week.
Lill added: “It was a memorable moment for our young players to meet a chess superstar. There are only about 100 players in the world ranked above him. He’s a top player.”
Members of the BCA meet every Wednesday from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at the Bermuda National Library on Queen Street.
The Youth Chess Club, run by Larry Ebbin, meet every Saturday from 3 pm to 5 pm at the Bermuda National Library Youth Services Building on Church Street.