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October 29, 2020
Jake Darmanin, aged 26, who hails from Birzebbuga is Malta’s 24th Chess Champion. Darmanin became champion in a playoff with Robert Zerafa, the out-going champion for the past four years.
Darmanin learned how to play chess when he was around seven years old, although he did not know all the rules of the game, such as the possibilities of ‘castling’ and ‘en passant’. He only played sporadically up until secondary school, where he played more regularly.
Darmanin attended St. Michael School at secondary level. One time the school needed three players to represent it in an Interschools team tournament, so the school organised an internal tournament to select its team. He made it to the team.
Eventually, Darmanin started taking lessons from more experienced players and top local players, including the then champion, and competing in Junior Championships. His first significant tournament result came about many years later in March 2011 at the age of 17, when he placed 3rd in the Malta Open, beating a number of higher-rated opponents in the process. That year, he went on to win the Under 20 Junior Championship for the first time. Subsequently, he won the junior championship another three times running until 2014.
As the junior champion of the time, Darmanin was invited to play his first tournament abroad in Chania, Crete in 2012 in the Mediterranean Junior Championship, wherein he finished in 7th place out of 82 players and won the Best Under 18 trophy.
He also played in the Commonwealth Championship in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014 and managed to beat an International Master – Darmanin’s best result at the time.
In 2015, Darmanin debuted for the national team in a biannual event – the 4th European Small Nations Team Tournament in Guernsey. He also played in the two following European Small Nations Tournaments: in Andorra (2017) and San Marino (2019) respectively. In Andorra he achieved his best ever result in classical chess to date by beating International Master Igor Berezovsky from Monaco (rated 2378).
Darmanin also represented Malta in the grandest global chess tournament – the 43rd Chess Olympiad, which took place in Batumi, Georgia. The tournament hosted over 180 federations from around the world. With his performance in the Olympiad, he achieved the Candidate Master title.
Darmanin was meant to play in the Moscow Olympiad in August but the tournament was cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it took place online.
Darmanin also won the national Rapid and Blitz championships and is the only player to have won the national titles of all three time limits.
This was Darmanin’s fifth participation in the National Championship. He placed third twice in 2017 and 2018. After opting out of the 2019 championship due to final exams to complete his Master of Advocacy degree, he returned this year and won the Championship finals for the first time. In the 6-player double round robin, both Darmanin and Zerafa scored 7 points after 10 rounds. In the play-off, Darmanin won the first game with white and drew the second to take the title.