Today I shall look at the year as it was, as I take this opportunity to thank you all for your readership, and hereby wish you a prosperous 2015, filled with God’s favour in your life!
This year saw a flurry of activities across the country, which was a feather in Chess Kenya’s (CK) cap, evidence of a departure from the previous regimes modus operandi, where organizers where subjected to stringent conditions to meet before hosting an event, thus scuttling their well-intentioned plans.
Under the stewardship of its chair Githinji Hinga, all has not been rosy at the office as they struggle with a limited budget with so much to do. This has occasionally brought them up in arms with players, a difficult lot to please, just as in any other establishment.
Given that we were also operating under a new constitutional dispensation that was promulgated during the AGM held at Nyayo National Stadium last year, players at times found certain clauses draconian and dubious in nature, yet the minority had actually passed it, at the expense of the majority who missed the AGM all together!
But away from the boardroom and unto the chessboard, things gave a glimmer of hope insofar as the future of chess is concerned. The biggest tournament happened in April at Kenyatta University (KU), dubbed the East Africa Open Chess Championship, which boasted of a total cash prize of US$ 5,000, and Uganda’s Arthur Ssegwanyi took home US$ 1,000 as the winner. Grandmaster Dejan Antic from Serbia graced the event and gave a simultaneous exhibition and later on conducted chess clinics.
Proudly sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation-Africa (KCF-A) this tournament promises to get bigger and better in the coming years if the new partnership forged between them and CK is nurtured. KCF-A later in the year donated a whopping 5,000 chess equipment (boards and pieces) to Kenya to jumpstart the Chess in Schools initiative. CK had already started popularizing chess in schools in Kisumu and Nairobi Counties.
The foundation also sponsored a FIDE-rated tournament organized by the rebirthed Tanzania Chess Association, at which Kenyan players were fully funded to help the Tanzanians get international rating. Local arbiters (chess referees) also had an opportunity of getting sponsored by KCF-A to distance lands for training, hence attaining recognized arbitration titles – FIDE Arbiter (FA).
Perhaps not to dilute its importance, the 41st Word Chess Olympiad took place in Tromso, Norway in August and yet again, Kenya was represented by a team of 10 players and 2 officials.
Notably, FA Purity Maina became the first Kenyan to arbitrate at the world stage, as Steve Ouma earned a FIDE Master (FM) and Rose Wabuti a Woman FIDE Master (WFM) after their sterling individual Olympiad performances. Team Kenya performed disastrously, and we can reverse this trend by selecting our team early enough and subjecting it to intensive training.
In September, we were also present at the World Youth Chess Championship held in Durban, South Africa, and our young players took away valuable lessons in spite the beating received.
And as late as last week, our players took part in the Africa Youth Chess Championship held in Monastir, Tunisia, with the immediate former national men’s champion CM Ben Magana of KCB Chess Club doing duty at the African Individual Chess Championship (AICC) in Windhoek, Namibia.
He had earlier represented the country in Nigeria in the Lagos International Chess Classic and in November Moses Andiwo and Equity Bank Chess Club player Gweyani Jumba, were our flag bearers at the Zone 4.2 African Championship in Cairo, Egypt. In the Kenya Open held last week in KU Mehul Gohil and Sanjana Deshpande were crowned the men and women national champions respectively.
Another memorable milestones were the inaugural St. Patrick’s High School tournament which attracted 56 players and UNHCR tournament organized by CM Jane Wambugu in Kakuma Refugee Camo to commemorate the World Refuge Day. Shem Vilembwa, the school’s chess club patron was instrumental in making it happen in a club that boasts of an enviable 334 members! Baricho Boys High School also hosted its maiden event. Other traditional chess tournaments took place as expected, i.e. the Mombasa Open, Daystar Open, Kisumu Scottish Tartan Open, Eastlands Open, the Migingo III between Kenya and Uganda organized by Nairobi Chess Club, Bungoma Governor’s Open, Mt. Kenya Junior Open Championship and Kenya hosted the 7th FASU All Africa University Games at the University of Nairobi. The national chess league kicked off late in the year and is expected to run until March 2015.
We also witnessed the emergence of Terrian Chess Academy and The Nairobi Chess Academy and Club that were instrument in holding various tournaments across the city. Another veteran organizer Lawrence Kagambi is in the process of registering an academy and it is envisioned that this will spur the growth of chess, especially amongst our youth.
Happy new year and see you there then, God-willing!!
Puzzle: This game was played at the 2014 AICC in Windhoek, between CM Ben Magana (White) and FM Simplice Degonde (Black). White to play and get a decisive advantage.