The Kenyan contingent to the 2015 African Youth Chess Championship held at the Golden Peacock Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia from the 5th - 13th December jetted back into the country the previous Sunday, with two bronze medals to the good.
After 9 rounds of play, Sanjana Deshpande did the country proud by finishing 3rd in the under 18 girls’ category with 6.5 points, behind the favorites, Egyptian duo of Woman International Masters (WIM) Shahenda Wafa (8.5) and Tasneem Ehab (7.5).
For her sterling performance, Sanjana earned herself a well-deserved and coveted title of Woman Fide Master (WFM), which had eluded her on 2 previous occasions by a mere half a point! A visibly ecstatic Sanjana posted on her Facebook page ‘Came third in Under-18 Girls, got the title WFM-Women’s Fide Master which shall be in front of my name for the rest of my life. This wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of my parents Satish and Sandhya Despande, and my coach Moses Andiwo.’
However, given the strides she has been making on the board, the title is bound to change in due course as she graduates to the senior ranks. Another Kenyan in this category, Saloni Karania finished in a commendable 6th place with 4.5 points out of 16 participants.
The other bronze medal was bagged by the mercurial Aravind Vengarai, trained by FIDE Instructor Lawrence Kagambi, in the under 14 boys’ category. Sanjana’s brother Sumit Deshpande garnered 5 points to finish in position 6 out of 18.
Other notable performances came in the boys U10 where Samesh Arul was placed 8th with 5.5 points as the national champion Aguda Lwanga managed 5 points to finish 11th out of 21 entrants. The very promising talent Timothy Mwabu, blazed the trail in the initial stages of the boys U12 category with a blistering 3 wins on the trot to finish with 6 points and in 5th place out of 30.
The event attracted 223 players from 12 African federations which included Algeria, South Africa, Egypt, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe that finished in this order. Others were Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Burundi and Namibia. Kenya sent a strong delegation of 25 players made up of 12 official and 13 additional players in the U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 categories for both boys and girls.
Chess Kenya’s treasurer Moses Kwereba was the head of delegation as Shem Vilembwa was the official team coach.