Malta Chess Federation

Utter Dominance

Article by Noel Grima, from the Chess Corner in the Times of Malta published on August 1st, 2020

Recently, GM Ramon Mateo of the Dominican Republic celebrated his 62nd birthday. Ramon posted on social media that he won the national championship first in 1979, and for the eighth time in 2010 – a 31-year gap between his first and last victory. “Is this a world record of some kind?” he wondered… to his virtual chagrin, FIDE brought out its history books to check, as did we.


World champion Max Euwe won every Dutch championship that he contested from 1921 until 1952, and one more in 1955. That’s 12 victories over a span of 34 years. Bernardo Roselli won the Uruguayan championship 19 times in 35 years (1984-2019), and as the fourth highest rated player in the country, has good chances of accumulating more titles.


In 2013, Roddy McKay won the 120th edition of the Scottish Championship at 62, 39 years after winning his first (shared) in 1974 and 25 years after his previous victory in 1988. Oscar Panno achieved his first victory at the Argentinian Championship in 1953, then 1985 and again in 1992, for a 39-year span.

Harry Camilleri, 72nd Malta Chess Championship – Finals 2007
(Credit: Noel Grima)

In all this exuberance of numbers, stroll in two Maltese players. The legendary Harry Camilleri won his first Malta championship in 1965, and eventually amassed 18 national titles with his final win in 2005, for an eye watering 40-year span. Joseph Gauci first shared the 1981 national title and, after decades away from the board, came back from nowhere for a second title in 2013 – that’s an unheard of 32-year gap between two national titles.


Harry is however outdone by IM Paul Anthony Garbett, whose shared first place in the New Zealand Open Championship last January comes a whopping 46 years after his first victory in 1973/74.


Among the ladies, Rani Hamid of Bangladesh won her 19th national women’s title in 2018 at 74. She had won it first 39 years before, in 1979, barely one year after learning how to play at age 34.


The late Viktor Kornchoi changed countries at the peak of his career and so cannot compete on a single nation’s championship, but Viktor Lvovich boasts a special record of his own: his first victory at the USSR Championship in 1960, and his last victory at the Swiss Championship in 2011, are more than half a century apart.

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