Sunday, August 23, 2009, 11:00By Brian Haran
The grieving mother of a chess starlet who fell 65 feet to her death has spoken of the poignant moments this time of year brings.
July 26 was the third anniversary of teenage prodigy Jessie Gilbert's fatal plunge from the eighth floor of a Czech hotel during an international tournament.
And yesterday (Saturday) saw the start of the second annual Jessie Gilbert Celebration International Chess Festival in her memory.
The 19-year-old, who had lived in Southdown Road, Woldingham, for most of her life, died a few months before she was due to give evidence against her father Ian, who had been accused of repeatedly raping her.
Mr Gilbert, 50, was subsequently found not guilty at Guildford Crown Court of five charges of rape.
Jessie, a former Croydon High School pupil, had won the women's world amateur chess championships when she was aged just 11.
She was a long-standing member of Coulsdon Chess Fellowship - and yesterday saw the start of the nine-day tournament in her memory.
Her mother Angela, 55, who now lives in Reigate, said: "The summer is hard for us with these two landmark events in our minds.
"Jessie always wanted to stage her own chess tournament one day.
"I just wish she was alive to see this. She was such a modest and self-effacing person, Jessie could have no concept just how much her death would affect so many people - and how much she would mean to them."
Mrs Gilbert visits Jessie's grave in Redhill about three times a week.
She added: "My other daughters have been determined to ensure they make successes of their lives, partly in Jessie's honour."
Her oldest daughter Samantha, 24, is a qualified solicitor working in London.
Anni , a 17-year-old pupil at Woldingham School, will take her A Levels next year and is hoping to study medicine at Oxford University, following the precise aspirations of Jessie.
And Josie, 11, is transferring next term from Croydon High School to Woldingham School.
Up to 40 players of all ages are expected to take part in the memorial chess tournament.
Among them will be two chess grandmasters who are travelling down from Dundee and Manchester respectively.
Scott Freeman, activities manager for Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, said: "I have known Jessie since she was eight years old.
"We were all absolutely devastated to lose her but we see this annual tournament as an opportunity to celebrate her life as opposed to mourning her."