On any given Tuesday evening, chess boards adorn the tables outside of West Indies Wine Company, with players of all ages and walks of life poring over them. There’s even a giant chess board with pieces as large as the small children who are drawn to them.
Sponsored by the Cayman Chess Club, these weekly chess sessions, which take place from 5pm to 8pm, are free and open to the public—from novices to aspiring masters.
Cayman Chess Club founders, Shaun Tracey and Carlo Lee, say that they average about 10 players on Tuesday evenings. Having played chess in their home countries, they wanted to organise chess in the Cayman Islands, especially so that children could learn and enjoy the game.
“[We aim] to teach chess in a way that helps children develop as people, to set and achieve their own goals in chess and life,” says Shaun, a lawyer in the Cayman Islands, who played chess in amateur tournaments and later captained a team from Hackney in the London Chess League. He also established the Cayman Islands Chess Association, whose mission is to promote chess within the Cayman Islands, especially among children.
As for the Cayman Chess Club, teaching and playing chess is its own reward, says Carlo, a brand developer and photographer who started playing chess in high school and represented his school in local competitions in Jamaica. “One of the best things about teaching chess is seeing kids’ joy when they learn to play and then learn their first game.”
One enthusiastic regular on Tuesday evenings, Lou Dimitrov, Senior Financial Analyst, Dart Enterprises, also underscores the value of chess for youngsters, pointing to research about the strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. Having played in Bulgaria as a child, and here in Cayman for two years, Lou says it’s a way to give back to the community. “It allows me to contribute to the community in a way that I truly enjoy and it is helpful for the development of young individuals.”
Lou says he plays every week, spending most of his time mentoring young chess players, whether it’s Tuesdays at West Indies Wine Company, or at George Town Public Library on Saturdays, where the Cayman Chess Club also hosts free chess classes from 11am to noon.
Other chess players, while they enjoy the game, also come on Tuesday evenings for the camaraderie—and the wine. Kathryn Wild, Manager – Enterprise Risk and Control at Dart Enterprises Ltd., says she plays at the Chess Club for fun.
“And, honestly, only because it is at West Indies Wine Company,” she says. “It is a fantastic after-work break to walk over there, enjoy a nice glass of wine or two and visit with friends, all while playing a friendly game of chess.”
Alanna Warwick-Smith, Immigration Services Administrator at Dart Enterprises Ltd., who has played chess off and on since she was eight, also enjoys both the wine and the chess. “If a co-worker invites me to happy hour I recommend the Wine Company as the chess boards are always there.”
Shaun and Carlo say that Camana Bay is a great place for chess—for anyone. “Camana Bay is a great community venue, a truly cosmopolitan space. It’s the perfect place to garner new members by chance encounters and a central location for our regulars.”