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Beacon of the day | Linstead Chess Whizz, Nickaylah Curwin, Making Jamaica Proud

Nickaylah Curwin

Making her mother and nation proud, Nickaylah Curwin from Linstead in St Catherine has won the open category of an international chess competition held this month in the Cayman Islands.

The seven-round Jubilee Chess Classic Tournament lasted for a period of four days and included players from several countries such as Kenya, the United States, Jamaica, and Barbados.

After completing her seven rounds, Curwin, who played against both males and females, ended the tournament with six points, having lost the third round to Cayman Island’s Daniel Cardenas.

In addition to copping the title of overall winner, the 22-year-old was declared ‘best female player’ as well as the ‘best game’ winner, which means that she won the most outstanding game played in the entire tournament.

“Normally I would win the female section or I would be among the top females, but it is my first time winning an entire tournament,” she explained. “It feels great especially because it is an international tournament; it’s definitely a motivation to keep on working hard.”

The chess fanatic told The Beacon that she was always curious about the game since she was attending Ewarton Primary School where it was being offered as a co-curricular activity.

But it was not until she was 14 years old and attending Charlemont High School that Curwin got immersed in chess after joining a game she saw a group of boys playing in the Biology lab.

Since then, Curwin’s interest in chess went under rapid growth. She also started doing professional training sessions with her then trainer, National Master of Chess Mikhail Solomon, who worked with her for five years.

 

Tracia Johnson-Coleman, mother of chess whizz Nickaylah Curwin

“I was really fascinated by the game; I even tried to print an entire chess book with my mom’s ink from work,” added Curwin.

She eventually became the captain of the chess team at Charlemont High and president of the school’s chess club. She represented the institution at several local and regional tournaments, including the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) 2015 Games in Trinidad.

She returned to CAC in 2019 to represent Jamaica, winning two titles in the female category. Curwin also participated in the CARIFTA tournament and the 2020 Chess Olympiad, which was hosted online due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

She is now looking forward to represent Jamaica and the region in this year’s staging of the Chess Olympiad, her biggest tournament yet. It is set for July in India and will feature nearly 200 countries.

While dedicating hours to learning chess over the years, Curwin has managed to maintain an impressive academic record.

She is enrolled at the University of Technology where she is pursuing a degree in Computer Science.

The aspiring Robotics programmer said she was an honor roll student throughout her entire tenure at Charlemont High – from grade seven to lower sixth form. She was able to maintain an average of 80 percent or above.

In her sitting of regional exams, she was awarded 11 subjects by the Caribbean Examination Council. Seven of those subjects were at the CSEC level and four at CAPE level.

Nickaylah Curwin and her coach Jomo Pitterson

Curwin’s mother, Tracia Johnson-Coleman, told The Beacon that she is elated about her daughter’s success, having seen the sacrifices that she has made.

“She would lock herself in her room for days learning chess,” the mother added. “I am elated to see how well she has done; she has always been working very hard.”

She noted that, as a single parent, sometimes she did not have the funds to send her daughter to the various training sessions that she needed to attend. However, Curwin did not allow that to discourage her interest in the game.

“She would give up everything for chess, ” Johnson-Coleman said. “That girl would save her lunch money to pay her fare to go wherever she needed to go to play. She would have her breakfast and go spend the entire day training and, when she comes back, that’s when she would get something to eat.”

The mother further explained that, when she did not have the funds to cover her daughter’s expenses to compete in overseas tournaments, she ended up seeking loans.

“For me, it was not about chess; it was about mommy supporting her. I didn’t understand what it was; I just wanted to support her. It’s not that I knew she was good at it and would be successful,” added Johnson-Coleman.

Curwin’s current coach, International Mater of Chess Jomo Pitterson, described her as a fighter at the board who never gives up.

“She is on a path which will see many more successes,” Pitterson added.

By Jamar Grant, Jamaica Beacon Journalist


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