Longstanding prison officer Sherwin Bruce believes the Intercontinental Chess Championships for prisoners plays an integral role in helping the prisons’ service aid inmate rehabilitation.
The virtual tournament features 22 prisoners (16 male and six female) from five prisons in Trinidad – Remand Yard, Maximum Security, Port of Spain, Golden Grove and the Women’s – up against 26 other competing nations.
Chess has been a regular pastime in the prisons but TT Chess Association president Sonja Johnson opted to take the initiative one step further by entering a team into the global competition.
The online tourney, which began on Wednesday, allows prisoners to compete against one another via an online platform.
Bruce, a prisons’ officer for the past 33 years, is grateful for the input of the TTCA under the directorship of Johnson.
In a video posted by the Ministry of National Security, Bruce said, “The work of the chess association has led us to today. We all know chess helps concentrate and helps you think. It’s a positive move. This venture has allowed us to expand our scope in our rehabilitation projects.
“Experiences such as these bring forth a better human being; a human being who could be part of society and even be your neighbour. Being your neighbour is important and we at the TT prisons’ service want you to have a good neighbour.”
In September, qualifying competitions were held at the five prisons to seed out potential players for the national team. These five rounds of competition were contested by 90 participants.
The championship is being hosted by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago, in collaboration with the International Chess Federation, as part of its “Chess for Freedom” project.
Johnson, who also serves as chair of the planning and development commission of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), said the tournament provides a tremendous opportunity for inmates to play with their peers across the globe.
“This is truly exciting for them and we look forward to see if they will make the cut as part of team TT. We may be the smallest country but we are ready and we shall show up in true Trini style,” Johnson said.
Additionally, iGovTT, a division of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, stepped in and offered ten laptops on loan, for use by the prison service team players.
In the past, countries such as the US, Russia and Brazil participated in the Intercontinental Championships. This is TT’s first time competing.