As a competitive player, nothing can motivate you to become better at chess as much as a FIDE (World Chess Federation) rating can. In many international tournaments, titled and higher rated players receive conditions such as free entry and complimentary boarding and lodging. A higher rating also means a higher national ranking which could lead to possible sponsorship deals once a player is in the top 10 or 5.
After years of watching others participate in the Kenya National Chess League (also known as Kenya Chess Premier League or more confusingly Kenya National Chess Premier League), my opportunity to play in it finally came last year as the captain of Anchor Chess Club. (It’s a whole other story that in 2016 when my club had begun preparing for that year’s edition in earnest, the tournament didn’t even happen due to wrangles within the federation.)
I’m saddened to inform you, though, that my experience of the tournament was anything but premier. Now before any of you call me an armchair critic or something along those lines, know that I have organised and officiated in several tournaments myself and so I am well aware of the challenges that come with this territory. Challenges should be seen and used as opportunities to improve standards, not as excuses to justify why the quality was and might continue to remain the same (or improve only marginally) in the future.
As I write this, I’ve been in surprisingly nippy Ahmedabad for a little over 9 hours, excited and anxious about attending the final round of the 2017 World Youth Chess Olympiad tomorrow morning. I would have spectated the penultimate round but I needed to catch up on sleep after a tiring 8.5 hour long train journey in a mainly seated position.
The prospect of observing a Kenya A vs Kenya B match didn’t make it any more appealing either. Tomorrow’s matches should be a lot more exciting though.
If you are an organiser of a FIDE rated tournament and want your event to be worthy of scrutiny from chess commentators, making some or all of the games played available online is absolutely critical, more so if you aren’t offering live broadcast through DGT boards. Thankfully, the world’s most sophisticated pairings program, Swiss Manager, makes it possible to upload games manually from players’ scoresheets to Chess-Results via database compilation programs like ChessBase 13.
This past Saturday (5th August), I came very close to winning a prize after 18 years. I needed to draw my final game of the 2nd ANCC Closed Championship to finish in third place. Instead, I got schooled by a 15 year-old on when not to pursue a win that isn’t there in hope of silver when even bronze isn’t assured (talk about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush).
A little over a month ago, on 1st July 2017, I played the game that will cost me the 2nd ANCC Closed Championship. It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon at the YWCA Hostels where my club meets. I was originally supposed to play against Pranjal Parikh but when it became apparent that the Deshpande siblings weren’t going to make it for their scheduled games, the fixtures had to be modified to accommodate whoever would be turning up. Pranjal would now play her sister Nikita and I would take on Brian Kariuki Waweru with the Black pieces.
It seems like only yesterday that I had first interviewed Graham Jurgensen on the launch of Kasparov Chess Foundation’s African arm for Chess Events EAC. Well, CEEAC is no more but KCF-A celebrated its third year anniversary last month and this is what the director had to say about their journey so far:
Paras: Congratulations on Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa’s 3rd year anniversary! How would you summarise the organisation’s achievements since its launch in March 2012? What has been the biggest of them and which has had the largest impact on chess players in Africa so far?
Graham: Thank you. Time has actually flown by and I didn’t even realise that we had been operating for that period of time but you are absolutely correct. We launched at the end of March 2012 and marked our 3rd anniversary last month.
Twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Methu, an actuarial science student at JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology), has been called a rising star several times in the past with commendable performances against Kenya’s chess elite.
Over the last weekend of March, he finally proved his worth by winning the inaugural Kiambu Open Chess Championship ahead of Kenyan number one Peter Gilruth and ex-National Champion Benjamin Magana. Tied on 5.5 points each out of a possible 6, it took the second tie-breaker score to decide who of the three was the ultimate champion (view the final ranking crosstable).
For my last chess interview of 2014, I present to you a conversation with the beautiful, talented and multilingual Alexandra Samaganova, Kyrgyzstan’s second-highest rated (2022) female player and the reigning women’s national champion.
What I find most fascinating about her story is that she is able to play for her country alongside her mother, Irina Ostry, as a team-mate (they have played together in 4 Olympiads so far: Bled , Turin , Khanty-Mansiysk  and Tromsø ).
Read on to know about Alexandra’s interesting background, Kyrgyzstan’s chess culture, her love for travel and more.