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Friday, July 28, 2006
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — A promising young woman British chess player taking part in a chess tournament in the Czech Republic has died after a mystery fall from her hotel room.
Jessie Gilbert, 19, fell Wednesday from the eighth floor of her hotel in the central city of Pardubice. There were conflicting reports that she could had been sleepwalking or had suffered from depression.
Her family Friday paid tribute to the “much loved” and “exceptionally talented” teenager.
In a statement, her family said: “She was a titled chess player and had been competing in the Czech Open Chess Championships.
“Fellow British players in the tournament abandoned matches as a mark of respect. She was much loved and was an exceptionally talented chess player.”
Police were continuing to investigate the teenager’s death amid reports that she had been taking medication for depression, the UK’s Press Association said.
Gilbert had been living with her parents, Ian and Angela, and sister, Samantha, in the village of Woldingham, Surrey. But her parents had recently divorced, sold the house and moved to separate properties, PA said.
While there have been suggestions that the teenager may have been sleep-walking, organizers of the tournament believe she may have committed suicide, PA said.
John Saunders, editor of British Chess Magazine, said he had been approached independently by “a number” of chess players who had spoken of a possible problem with sleep-walking, PA reported.
But Jan Mazuch, director of the Czech Open, said he believed she had jumped from the eighth-floor room.
He told PA her 14-year-old room-mate, Amisha Parma, had first realized Miss Gilbert was missing when she woke to find her bed empty in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Police were called and found the body of the teenager in a tree below her hotel window.
Mazuch said: “She wasn’t in the room so they started to look for her and they realized she had jumped from the eighth floor.”
Gilbert was taking a gap year to play chess while preparing to go to Oxford University to study medicine. She had been working towards becoming a Women’s International Master.
Described as one of England’s leading women players by the English Chess Federation Friday, she came to prominence at the age of 12 when she won the Women’s World Amateur Championship, the youngest player ever to do so, the ECF told PA.
First taking up the game at the age of eight, Gilbert had been involved in coaching younger players at the newly formed Andrew Martin Chess Academy.
After representing England in the European Individual Women’s Championships in Turkey in April, she was also part of the national women’s team in the chess Olympiads in Turin in May and June of this year.
The ECF said: “Her friendly personality endeared her to all ages in the chess community and she will be much missed.”