Della-Marie Walcott’s pleasant, simple demeanour was an inspiration to the chess community.
So says TT Chess Association (TTCA) president Sonja Johnson, who reflected on the talented but short competitive career of the former multiple national champion.
Walcott died on Sunday at 19, after failing to recover from an operation to remove a brain tumour in January 2016. She had remained in a comatose state ever since.
Her funeral will be held on Saturday and will be streamed online via the TTCA.
“Della-Marie’s passing was a bitter pill to swallow. Though we knew that her medical circumstance was a challenge every day for her family, we still hoped that maybe, just maybe, there may be chance for some sort of recovery.
"However, that was not to be. God, through his perfect will, called her home,” said Johnson.
Walcott was a former student of St Joseph's Convent, Port of Spain,
During 2009-2011, Walcott was consecutively crowned national junior Under-8 and Under-10 champion. In 2009, she secured silver at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Regional Youth Championship. She was scheduled to represent TT at the Pan American Youth Festival in Argentina, but was admitted to hospital during the tournament owing to an asthma attack and was unable to compete.
The following year, she was ninth at the CAC Youth Championship but maintained her dominance among the Maria Regina Grade School team. In 2011, she bettered her previous CAC performances by striking gold in the Under-10 female. Walcott also topped the mixed field at the Caribbean Chess Carnival, was nominated for the First Citizens Sports Foundation Youth Awards and was adjudged Best Female Junior of the Year by the TTCA.
Johnson added, “As one of the few top females, she was part of a small group of players who were not just competitors but friends. She was very compassionate and always was willing to help persons in need. She approached the sport with a very good work ethic which was consistent with other aspects of her life.
“Just like she did for the past four and a half years, she fought every day to overcome the challenges she faced. That spirit and joie de vivre is one that we will always remember in our community and for those who knew her will remain with players as they continue to embark upon their chess careers and life in general.”
In 2012, she won gold in the Under-10 and placed fourth in the Under-12 division of the inaugural Carifta Chess Games in TT. She was then fifth at the Pan American Scholastic Championships before becoming a member of the TT team at the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.
Additionally in 2013, Walcott topped the National Youth Under-12 and Carifta Chess Championship, placed third at the National Youth Under-20, was second at the Indian Arrival Day Tournament, qualified to compete at the World Chess Olympiad in Norway and was again nominated for a First Citizens Sports Foundation Award.
In her even younger years, Walcott also shone brightly in golf. She produced golden performances at the Junior Golf Tournament from 2006-2008 and then once more in 2011.
One of Walcott’s family members on Tuesday acknowledged the outpouring of support during this trying time.
He said, “Your kindness has been heartening and amazing. We now go into a different phase: one of reflection, healing and prayer as we celebrate her life and the impact she has had on us and so many. She has taught us so much, particularly about the power of faith and unconditional love, which are especially epitomised by her parents. Thank you once again and we know that Della-Marie is looking down on us while schooling the angels in chess.”
Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe also paid tribute to Walcott.
In a media release on Tuesday, Cudjoe wrote, “Once again, the local sporting fraternity has been plunged into mourning with the loss of Della-Marie. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and former teammates at this time. She was indeed a true patriot and her passion and dedication to the sport of chess would surely be remembered.”