As I write this, I tremble with excitement at being able to bring back the ubiquitous chess column that vagaries of time wiped off Kenya’s English dailies. It is an honour and I thank the management of The Star for this opportunity.
2013 has been an action-packed year for chess in Kenya with more tournaments than ever, new officials at Chess Kenya, the National Chess League being organised after a gap of 2 years and controversy looming high over forthcoming events.
Internationally, Bulgarian Borislav Ivanov made headlines after being suspected of cheating via a device in his shoe when he beat a string of Grand Masters with Houdini-like accuracy. (Houdini is a powerful chess engine used by top players to analyse games).
After famously announcing retirement in early October, he was back to being kicked out of a tournament in Spain last week over more cheating allegations.
In more positive international news, October saw former world champion Garry Kasparov launch his bid for FIDE Presidency during the 84th Congress, where our neighbours Tanzania Chess Association were also approved to become member federation.
In November, 23 year-old Magnus Carlsen snatched the World Chess Championship title from a deflated Viswanathan Anand while Azerbaijan and Ukraine won the Open and women’s categories respectively of the European Team Chess Championship.
Russia bounced back to win the World Chess Team Championship last week after beating off stiff competition from Ukraine (3rd place) and China (2nd place).
Meanwhile in Kenya, some players have threatened to boycott the 2014 National Chess Championship slated for December 12-15 over an entry fee of Sh2,000. “The highest entry fee in Kenyan chess history, one of the lowest prize funds for the national championships, the lack of marketing, all these indicate, to me at least, that players are not the main focus,” complained past Olympian Mehul Gohil.
In other news, Kenya will send its largest contingent yet (50+ persons) to the 2013 World Youth Chess Championships in Al Ain, UAE from 17-29 December.