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Mikael Cervantes crowned Junior Champion, Alfred Awe Crowned Belize National Chess Champion

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

On August 26, 2023, the George Price Center in Belmopan City bore witness to an exhilarating battle of wits as the Belize National Chess Championship unfolded. Some of the strongest chess players from across the country gathered to witness history in the making. The championship, alongside the Belize National Junior Championship and the Belize Grand Swiss, created an atmosphere of excitement and competition that resonated throughout the venue.


A special thanks must be extended to Awe and Sons Grocery Store and Awe Jungle Excursions for their generous sponsorship of the awards. Moreover, Michael Campos and Steve Flowers, members of the BCF board, showcased their commitment by making a significant donation towards the event's success.



Venue set for the players
Venue set for the players

The National Championship was a tournament of great significance, as it aimed to identify Belize's official National Chess Champion, a title that had remained vacant for far too long in Belizean chess history. With no records to indicate the previous champion, this event was poised to write a new chapter in Belizean chess history.


Belize Junior Chess Championship

In a historic moment for Belize's chess community, the inaugural Belize Junior Chess Championship recently concluded, crowning its first-ever Undisputed Belize National Junior Chess Champion. The tournament, featuring eight of the nation's top young talents, showcased intense battles, surprising upsets, and exceptional displays of strategic prowess over seven rounds of competition. The championship, organized as an 8-player single round-robin event with a rapid 15-minute time control, provided an exciting platform for these young minds to prove their mettle on the board.


Every player who participated in this event is a champion on their own right and have each proved themselves as being Belize's top 8 Junior chess players.

Kickoff

The tournament kicked off with a series of unexpected twists, setting the tone for the fierce competition that would follow. Zeyad Godoy, the top-ranked junior player, suffered an early defeat against the 8th seed, Miguel Pech. The surprises continued as the 3rd seed, Omar De Shield, and the 4th seed, Francis Martin, also lost to Mikael Cervantes and Nayven Quan respectively.


Players at the start of their game
Players at the start of their game

As the rounds progressed, Miguel Pech continued to impress, securing victories in the early rounds and maintaining his momentum before being stopped by Gregory McGibney in the 3rd round. Mikael Cervantes, the 6th seed, emerged as a force to be reckoned with, consistently demonstrating his skill and determination by notching up win after win. These performances placed Cervantes in the lead, capturing the attention of chess enthusiasts across Belize.

Midway Standings

At the conclusion of three rounds, Mikael Cervantes led the standings with an impressive 3.5 points, closely pursued by Miguel Pech and Gregory McGibney trailing by half a point.


Midway Standings

Heated competition

Round after round, the tension escalated as the players battled for supremacy. Notable matches included Gregory McGibney's victory against Jash Trejo, a critical win for McGibney's tournament aspirations. Meanwhile, Cervantes continued to dominate, extending his lead with impressive victories against strong opponents. In the 4th round, Gregory McGibney's match against Omar De Shield ended in a draw, marking De Shield's third draw in four rounds while Zeyad Godoy prevailed over Francis Martin, who was encountering difficulties in the event.


The fifth round marked a turning point for Omar De Shield as he secured a win against Miguel Pech, breaking his string of draws. Francis Martin achieved a draw against 2nd seed Gregory McGibney, ending his downward streak. Nayven Quan suffered a loss against Zeyad Godoy, while Mikael Cervantes maintained his winning streak with a victory over Jash Trejo.


Players concentrating
Players concentrating

Round 6 - History is made

In the sixth round, Miguel Pech regrouped and drew against Jash Trejo. Gregory McGibney secured a win against Nayven Quan, while Omar De Shield and Francis Martin reached a draw.


Round 6
Round 6

The pivotal encounter of the round was between Zeyad Godoy and Mikael Cervantes. A victory for Godoy would have positioned him to share the lead going into the final round, while a win for Cervantes would seal his championship. The players engaged in an intense match.


As the dust settled on the game, it was Mikael Cervantes who emerged as the winner and secured the title of Belize Junior Chess Champion, making history and setting a precedent for future generations of chess prodigies in the country. His consistent performance and tenacity were undoubtedly instrumental in his victory.

Belize National Junor Champion 2023

Mikael Cervantes, initially ranked as the 6th seed for today's competition, has defied all expectations and secured victory in the first-ever Belize National Junior Chess Championship, accomplishing this remarkable feat with a round to spare. The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated.


Mikael Cervantes - Belize Junor Chess Champion receiving his award by the BCF president and Vice President.
Mikael Cervantes - Belize Junor Chess Champion receiving his award by the BCF president and Vice President.

Final Round

The final round of the championship saw some players striving to end on a high note, while others aimed to salvage their standings. Miguel Pech displayed resilience with a closing win, and Francis Martin managed to salvage a draw. Despite a strong start, Nayven Quan ended with a loss against Omar De Shield. Jash Trejo and Zeyad Godoy settled for a draw. In the showdown between Mikael Cervantes and Gregory McGibney, McGibney secured a win against the new reigning Junior Champion, concluding his tournament journey.


3rd Place Tie Break

Omar De Shield and Zeyad Godoy both tied with 4 points and played a blitz tie break to decide who would earn 3rd place. In the game, Zeyad Godoy triumphed over Omar De Shield to ear 3rd place.


Zeyad Godoy vs Omar De Shield
Zeyad Godoy vs Omar De Shield Tiebreak

Final Standings

1st Place: Mikael Cervantes (Belize National Junior Chess Champion)

2nd Place: Gregory McGibney

3rd Place: Zeyad Godoy

4th Place: Omar De Shield

5th Place: Jash Trejo

6th Place: Miguel Pech

7th Place: Francis Martin

8th Place: Nayven Quan

Belize's Top junior Players
Belize's Top junior Players

The Belize National Chess Championship


Double Elimination Brackets
Double Elimination Brackets

The tournament faced a few last-minute changes as fifth seed Jerome Sho and eighth seed Cristobal Campos were unable to participate, subsequently replaced by Rank 13 Reyhan Rosado and Rank 14 Kelvin Baizar, both of whom displayed impressive performances in the online wildcard qualifier. The Belize Chess Federation extends its heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Greg Vitko for his active engagement, which notably elevated the level of competition within Belizean chess. Given his short duration living in Belize and absence of official residency, although he is unable to achieve the title of National Champion, he will be acknowledged as the most prominent expat chess player in the country.

Quarterfinal Matches and Upsets

The Winners Quarterfinals started with an intense clash between top ranked Alfred Awe and third ranked Luis Mendez Jr. stealing the spotlight. Their previous encounter at the Caye Caulker Qualifier had seen Mendez emerge victorious, and the rematch didn't disappoint. The players engaged in an exhilarating game with a remarkable 92% accuracy. Despite Awe's robust defense, a time scramble led to a critical blunder, allowing Mendez to secure the win. However, this is not to take away from the remarkable performance of Mendez Jr. in this game.


Winners Quarterfinals
Winners Quarterfinals

Another notable encounter saw Kelvin Baizar, the underdog and last-minute substitution, triumph over Michael Campos, a favorite and the first player who qualified for the grand finale. Baizar's aggressive play and propelled him to an upset victory in a tight game. The match between the 1st seed Greg Vitko and 8th seed Reyhan Rosado took an unfortunate turn. A mistake in the opening led to Rosado losing a pawn, allowing Greg to seize the opportunity and emerge victorious. In the contest of Rank 4 Steve Flowers against Kenneth Perez, the player ranked 4th in Belize was initially expected to secure victory. However, his chances were compromised when he arrived late, starting the game with a 15-minute disadvantage. This time deficit ultimately proved decisive, as Flowers, under the pressure of limited time, made a few mistakes, leading to Perez's triumph in the match.


Greg Vitko vs Reyhan Rosado

Michael Campos vs Kelvin Baizar

Luis Mendez Jr. vs Alfred Awe

Kenneth Perez vs Steve Flowers

Winners Semifinals

In the winners' semifinals, Greg Vitko faced off against Kelvin Baizar. The match between these two players began on a relatively level playing field. Opting for a Sicilian Defense, it became evident that Baizar was not well-versed in this opening, leading to a series of inaccuracies. These errors ultimately reached a critical point with a significant blunder. Vitko astutely seized upon this opening and secured a victory in the game.


Players at the start of their second match
Players at the start of their second match

In the showdown between Luis Mendez Jr. and Kenneth Perez, Luis gained the upper hand by executing a remarkable pawn advance, which led to his victory over Perez.


Greg Vitko vs Kelvin Baizar

Kenneth Perez vs Luis Mendez Jr.

Round 1 of the Losers Bracket

Reyhan Rosado clashed with Michael Campos. Despite a balanced opening, Rosado managed a slight advantage. However, Campos capitalized on inaccuracies in Rosado's midgame, securing victory. This defeat led to Rosado's elimination from the Grand Finale.

Alfred Awe vs Steve Flowers
Alfred Awe vs Steve Flowers

Alfred Awe confronted his longtime rival, Steve Flowers. Having both unexpectedly lost in the first round, the top-ranked and fourth-ranked players battled for survival. Previously, at the Stann Creek Qualifier, their game ended in a draw. However, this time, Awe capitalized on a mistake by Flowers, gaining a marginal edge. A strategic maneuver in the endgame solidified Awe's control and ultimately clinched his victory. With two disappointing matches, Flowers was ousted from the Grand Finale.


Reyhan Rosado vs Michael Campos

Alfred Awe vs Steve Flowers

Winners Finals

Luis Mendez Jr. squared off against Greg Vitko in the Winners Finals. Both players played a complex match and despite the game's equilibrium, a pivotal moment arrived on Move 24 when Greg committed a significant tactical blunder, which regrettably went unnoticed by Mendez. Another opportunity for a winning move emerged for Mendez on Move 34, yet it slipped his grasp once more. As the game ventured into the endgame, both competitors maintained a balanced position. However, amidst a time crunch, it was Greg who emerged triumphant, securing the victory with superior endgame technique and advancing to the grand finale.


Intense endgame and time scramble in the winners' finals
Intense endgame and time scramble in the winners' finals

Greg Vitko vs Luis Mendez Jr.

Round 2 of the Losers Bracket


Michael Campos vs Kenneth Perez
Michael Campos vs Kenneth Perez

Kenneth Perez took on Michael Campos in a clash of Orange Walk's top players, both of whom have engaged in numerous battles. The match unfolded into a intricate midgame, eventually reaching an even position going into the endgame. However, as the endgame unfolded, Perez found himself gradually outmaneuvered, leading to Michael's victory in this encounter.


Kelvin Baizar crossed paths with Alfred Awe in another intense confrontation. The struggle between these two saw Awe securing a marginal edge within a complex game. Unfortunately for Baizar, a miscalculationin the endgame proved costly, resulting in his defeat in the game. Baizar exits the tournament in 5th place.


Kenneth Perez vs Michael Campos

Alfred Awe vs Kelvin Baizar

Round 3 of the Losers Bracket


5th Place Finisher Kelvin Baizar watching the match between Michael Campos and Alfred Awe
5th Place Finisher Kelvin Baizar watching the match between Michael Campos and Alfred Awe

Alfred Awe faced off against Michael Campos, a matchup that had not yet occurred in a tournament game, although Campos had demonstrated his strength as a formidable adversary, boasting a 14-9 record against Awe in online blitz matches. The encounter was marked by a fierce struggle, both contenders maintaining parity as they entered the endgame phase. Momentary lapses from Campos presented Awe with a significant advantage. However, Awe's own errors in the position under time pressure led to a chaotic scenario, with no clear idea of who had the better position. The time scramble and chaos over the board resulted in a threefold repetition and a drawn game with both players having less than 10 seconds on their clocks!

Alfred Awe vs Michael Campos Blitz Tie Break
Alfred Awe vs Michael Campos Blitz Tie Break

With this being the first draw in the event, the players entered a 5+5 minute blitz tiebreak, where Campos held a considerable advantage due to his reputation as one of Belize's top blitz players. Displaying his prowess, Campos amassed a time advantage of over 3 minutes as the endgame neared. Awe, at one juncture, found himself with just 3 seconds remaining, his survival owed to the 5-second increment. Despite the precarious situation, Awe maneuvered his way to a winning position on the board, ultimately triumphing in this intense and riveting match.


Michael Campos vs Alfred Awe

Losers Finals

As Greg Vitko does not possess a Belizean Residency or citizenship, this matchup would be for the title of Belize National Chess Champion!


Luis Mendez Jr. vs Alfred Awe
Luis Mendez Jr. vs Alfred Awe - Who will be the National Champion?

Following a disheartening defeat in the first round, Alfred Awe, the top-ranked player in Belize, displayed remarkable resilience as he navigated his way through the ranks to reach the losers finals. Here, fate granted him a rematch against his earlier adversary, Luis Mendez Jr. With Mendez Jr. having triumphed in their previous encounters, he held the role of the anticipated favorite.


The match began in a subdued manner, with a sense of calm prevailing. However, Awe soon initiated an aggressive maneuver on the Kingside. While Mendez Jr. skillfully defended his position, the aftermath of left Awe in possession of an extra pawn, shifting the balance in his favor. As the dust settled, Mendez Jr. found himself on the defensive.


Regrettably for Mendez Jr., his strategic decisions took a misstep, leading to a critical juncture where he was ensnared in a forced checkmate, ultimately sealing his defeat against Awe. This outcome marked a significant turnaround for Awe, who managed to crawl his way back from adversity to secure a decisive victory in this rematch!


Luis Mendez Jr. vs Alfred Awe

The Belize National Chess Champion is Born!

Thus, Alfred Awe claims the title of the 2023 Belize National Chess Champion.


Alfred Awe - Belize Chess Champion
Alfred Awe - Belize Chess Champion

Throughout numerous years, Alfred Awe has maintained his stature as Belize's leading chess player. Despite being widely acknowledged as Belize's premier chess talent, he had never been bestowed with the official recognition of the Belize National Chess Champion, primarily attributed to the absence of championship events in the past.


And thus, a significant chapter is etched into the annals of Belizean chess history, as the long-standing void for the Belize National Chess Champion title is now rightfully occupied.

Grand Finale!

The final clash between Greg Vitko and Alfred Awe unfolded in a gripping encounter. Awe, despite facing an initial setback with his first loss, defied expectations by had a remarkable comeback, securing victory in four successive games to earn a spot in the grand finale.


Greg Vitko vs Alfred Awe
Greg Vitko vs Alfred Awe

Vitko showcased why he had so far been undefeated in the event and Awe encountered challenges right from the opening phase, resulting in significant pressure on his position. Nevertheless, he showcased resilience, weathering the storm and eventually restoring equilibrium. Amidst the intricacies of a complex midgame, Awe managed to secure an advantage by capturing a pawn, positioning himself favorably for the endgame phase.


Greg Vitko vs Alfred Awe


Greg Vitko
Greg Vitko

However, in an unfortunate turn of events the game would not see a satisfying conclusion as a touch move rule compelled Awe into an unfavorable exchange that ultimately led to his defeat. This turn of events granted Greg Vitko the victory in this intense encounter, crowning him as the winner of the event and the top Expat played in Belize.


Greg Vitko - Top Expat Chess Player
Greg Vitko (Top Belize Expat Player) receiving his trophy from the BCF President

Final Standings

Every one of these finalists has established their position among Belize's elite chess players, deserving to take pride in their accomplishment as they stood among the select eight finalists in the 2023 National Championship.

1st Place: Greg Vitko (Top Expat)

2nd Place: Alfred Awe (Belize National Chess Champion)

3rd Place: Luis Mendez Jr. (1st Runner-Up BZE)

4th Place: Michael Campos (2nd Runner-Up BZE)

5th Place: Kelvin Baizar

6th Place: Kenneth Perez

7th Place: Steve Flowers

8th Place: Reyhan Rosado


BCF President Steve Flowers (Left) and Media Specialist Luis Mendez Jr. (Right)
BCF President Steve Flowers (Left) and Media Specialist Luis Mendez Jr. (Right)


Belize Grand Swiss

Introducing the Belize Grand Swiss, our inaugural annual open Swiss chess tournament, held concurrently with the thrilling conclusion of the National Chess Championship grand finale. This presents a unique occasion for all those who couldn't secure a spot in the Championship to unite and engage in captivating games of chess.


Round 1
Round 1

The Belize Grand Swiss features a 5-round Swiss tournament format with a G30 time control. This year's event showcased the participation of 10 contenders who battled fervently for supremacy.


Joseph Koop vs Kumar Quiroz
Joseph Koop vs Kumar Quiroz

In the opening round, Joseph Koop demonstrated his prowess with a splendid victory over Kumar Quiroz. Meanwhile, Julian Thiessen got a default win against Jerome Sho in round 1 due to Sho's tardy arrival.


Players at the start of round 2
Players at the start of round 2

Round 2 bore witness to an exciting clash between two fresh talents, Josias Manzur and Greg McGibney Sr. Greg, whose son secured second place in the Junior Championship, impressively defeated Josias.


In the third round, a face-off ensued between Stann Creek's Rank 4, Marric Elijio, and Rank 3, Ivor Pixabaj. In this Stann Creek showdown, Ivor Pixabaj emerged triumphant, seizing an early lead in the tournament.



Joseph Koop vs Ivor Pixabaj - Round 2
Joseph Koop vs Ivor Pixabaj - Round 2


Round 4 showcased a duel between Belize's Rank 9 player Jerome Sho and the ascending Joseph Koop. Sho managed to secure victory in their match.


Following this round, Ivor Pixabaj led the pack, closely pursued by Jerome Sho and Marric Elijio, both trailing by a single point.


Players spectating one of the remaining matches
Players spectating one of the remaining matches

The climactic final round witnessed yet another Stann Creek showdown, as Ivor Pixabaj faced off against Jerome Sho. A win for Sho would have prompted a tiebreaker for the top spot. Despite an intense battle, Sho couldn't surpass Pixabaj, resulting in a draw. This outcome crowned Ivor as the event's champion.


The draw between Ivor and Jerome set the stage for Marric Elijio to secure a clear second place with a victory against Joseph Koop. Their intense game, culminating in a dramatic King and Rook endgame, eventually ended in a draw – a testament to Joseph Koop's tenacity.


Final Moments in Marric Elijio vs Joseph Koop
Final Moments in Marric Elijio vs Joseph Koop Match

With this draw, Marric Elijio and Jerome Sho found themselves tied for second place. To determine the runner-up, a blitz tiebreaker was employed. Demonstrating superior blitz skills, Sho emerged victorious, securing the second spot despite missing the first round due to lateness.


Joseph Koop had an exceptional tournament, suffering defeat only against the first and second place finishers and settling for a draw against the third-place contestant.

Final Standings

1st Place: Ivor Pixabaj (SC)

2nd Place: Jerome Sho (SC)

3rd Place: Marric Elijio (SC)

Final Standings


All Stann Creek winners
All Stann Creek winners

This event underlined the formidable chess prowess of the Stann Creek District, sweeping the ranks by claiming the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions in the Grand Swiss. As a result, the Stann Creek Rank 1 player was rightfully crowned the Belize National Chess Champion.

The Belize Chess Federation expresses its sincere appreciation to all players and parents who participated in this momentous occasion. Furthermore, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our sponsors for their invaluable contribution in bringing this event to fruition.


As a relatively youthful organization, the Belize Chess Federation is committed to continuous growth and enhancement, drawing insights from each preceding event. With aspirations for progress, we eagerly anticipate returning with an even grander and more impressive Championship cycle in 2024.





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