Competitors at the Port of Spain Prison. (Image courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service)

Several inmates at the nation’s prisons are expected to represent this country at the upcoming, first Inter-Continental Chess Championship for prisoners, scheduled for October 13, 2021.

According to an official release from the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, the competition is being hosted by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago, in collaboration with the International Chess Federation, FIDE, as part of its ‘Chess for Freedom’ project.

The event, which is coordinated under the Programmes Department of the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, is expected to attract national, regional and international attention, and would be recorded and broadcasted LIVE online.

The Prison Service release explains that in the run-up to Championship event in October, the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association (TTCA), under the expert guidance of its President, Sonja Johnson, hosted a series of qualifying events at several of the nation’s prisons, to determine the finalists, who will be part of the teams representing Trinidad and Tobago at the online competition. 

In 2017, the TTCA, in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, initiated a chess programme at the Maximum Security Prison and it is anticipated that the October event will bring excitement and support to the development of a sustainable chess programme across the prison system.

Between September 9th and 17th, 2021, the qualifying competitions were held at the Port of Spain Prison, Women’s Prison, Golden Grove Prison, Remand Prison and the Maximum Security Prison. The five rounds of competition were keenly contested by 90 participants from across the competing stations. The participants were thrilled and displayed open enthusiasm during the competitions.

The final team would be selected by Ms Johnson and other representatives of the TTCA and would undergo the relevant training programme in preparation for the highly anticipated online event in October.

Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan, who endorsed the initiative, says he is quite pleased with the proposal and the Prison Service’s involvement in the milestone event.

“This event would expose the brilliance and capabilities of those under our charge,” Commissioner Pulchan said, “and it is hoped that based on the tremendous response, an ongoing prison chess programme can be implemented.”