John Paul II Junior College in Benque holds Chess Tournament

By BBN Staff: On Saturday, November 24th, John Paul II Junior College (JPIIJC) in Benque Viejo del Carmen hosted its first annual chess invitational.

Thirty-four competitors from Benque and its surrounding villages, Belmopan, and Santa Elena, as well as Melchor in Guatemala contested more than one hundred and seventy games of timed tournament chess before Daniel Rivera (Benque) defeated Akeem Jenkins (Belmopan) in the championship match.

According to a press release from JPIIJC, Rivera, a 2017 JPIIJC graduate, won the chess tournament after playing five rounds undefeated.

Rivera was awarded a $100 cash prize and a scholarship to the liberal arts college; however, he promptly donated that scholarship to Winston Castellanos, a fourth form student at Mount Carmel High School, and the leading player on that school’s growing and successful chess team.

Rivera remarked, “Being a graduate from JPIIJC, I have chosen to give the scholarship to a deserving student from MCHS…I hope the chess community grows even more after this event.  Chess allows individuals to learn methods of good decision-making coupled with short and long term planning.  To see that a chess culture is emerging in my own town is quite impressive. I can see this event becoming stronger every year because of the way in which it brings the community together, especially the youth.

            The event was coordinated by Richard Wismer and Paul Resek, two Mount Carmel High School teachers and they were assisted by Aaron Gongora, a first-year JPIIJC student.

            Wismer commented,  “This was a special event to witness…The tournament was open to all…There were students and non-students, children and adults. There were students in primary school, high school, junior college and university. It was a privilege to watch a group so diverse in age and life experience come together to compete…As tournament director, I hope that this is the first of many chess tournaments hosted at JPIIJC. Benque Viejo is buzzing with chess excitement…My dream is for Belize to have regular chess tournaments where top players from around the country can come together and compete…People who study chess improve their memories and critical thinking skills–which makes chess an ideal activity for students! Chess offers students a fun and competitive way to sharpen their minds.”

            JPIIJC grants Associates of Arts degrees in Liberal Arts, English, and business administration, and in 2019, the school will add a major in catechetics.

            The college enjoys record high enrollment and is currently conducting a capital campaign, and it welcomes donations, as well as inquiries from prospective students.  For more information on the college, visit

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