Paras Gudka - All Things Chess

Player, organiser, trainer, arbiter, writer & photographer.

Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 2)

Interview: Graham Jurgensen on KCF-A’s 3rd Anniversary

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:

Graham Jurgensen at the Zimbabwe Easter Open 2015 with a junior player

Graham Jurgensen at the Zimbabwe Easter Open 2015 with a junior player

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.

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Interview: Joseph Methu on Winning Inaugural Kiambu Open

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).

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Interview: Alexandra Samaganova on Kyrgyz Chess Culture

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.

Alexandra Samaganova at the Tromsø Olympiad

Alexandra Samaganova at the Tromsø Olympiad

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 [2002], Turin [2006], Khanty-Mansiysk [2010] and Tromsø [2014]).

Read on to know about Alexandra’s interesting background, Kyrgyzstan’s chess culture, her love for travel and more.

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Interview: GM Bassem Amin, Egypt and Africa’s Top Chess Player

GM Bassem Amin is Egypt’s highest-rated (2634) and Africa’s top chess player. His most recent success came at the 2014 Africa Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships held in Cairo last month where I was attending the FIDE trainers’ seminar. Pinning him down for a face-to-face interview proved difficult owing to our conflicting schedules but thanks to modern technology, I was able to ask him a few questions about his chess career, nevertheless. Read on to know how he started out, his views on the importance of social media and future goals.

GM Bassem Amin waiting for his opponent during the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships

GM Bassem Amin waiting for his opponent during the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships

Paras: Who introduced you to chess? How old were you then? What were your early years as a chess player like?

Bassem: My father introduced me to chess when I was about 4.5 years old. He wasn’t a professional player; he just knew how to play the game. I started playing with him and other family members and he noticed I was very interested in the game so he started to look for trainers to improve my level. I started playing in tournaments and my first tournament was the Egyptian youth under-12. I was aged below 6 and finished second in that tournament!

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Interview: Wilfried Ntamatungiro on Burundi’s Chess Scene

Wilfried Ntamatungiro is a young chess player from Bujumbura, Burundi who had the misfortune of losing 8 out of 9 games and finishing in last place at the Africa Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo last month. Barely out of high school, he has big dreams for his chess career. I had the pleasure of interviewing him during the tournament to find out more about Burundi’s chess scene.

Burundian chess player Wilfried Ntamatungiro at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo

Burundian chess player Wilfried Ntamatungiro at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo

Paras: How did you get interested in chess? How did you start playing it?

Wilfried: I was 12. I have a brother who studied in Algeria. When he came back home after finishing his studies, on his computer there was chess. Me with another of my brothers we were interested and we opened chess to know what it is. So we started playing but we only knew how to move the pawns. Then our brother who studied in Algeria came and showed us how to move the pieces. Afterwards, our father came home and saw us playing. He asked, “When have you learnt? How did you know to play chess?” We told him and he bought a chess board for us. He, too, he knew how to play. This was in 2005. We played, played, played but we found only random books on how to move.

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Interview: Hemed Mlawa, Tanzanian Chess Player

Hemed Mlawa is Tanzania’s fourth-highest rated (1709) player and was his federation’s sole representative at the Africa Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo. I caught up with him before Round 8 of the championship to discuss the current chess environment in Tanzania, the impact of sponsorship from Spicenet, support from local media and his future ambitions.

Tanzanian chess player Hemed Mlawa at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo

Tanzanian chess player Hemed Mlawa at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships in Cairo

Paras: Who introduced you to chess? How did you start playing?

Hemed: Yeah, that question actually has always been a mystery to me. The first time I think I saw a chess set was in 1989 but I never knew it was called ‘chess’. When it came to 1998, that’s the first time I actually saw a big glass chess set but I never played chess, we used to play checkers on it. I started playing chess completely in 2007 but I was not really curious about the game. There was this Indian guy who just told me “let’s play” and he would checkmate me in 4 moves and so on.

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Interview: WGM Shrook Wafa, Winner of Africa Zone 4.2 Championships

WGM Shrook Wafa is Egypt’s second-highest rated (2061) female player and winner of the 2014 Africa Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships (women’s section) held in Cairo. During a break between rounds, I caught up with her to discuss her many achievements in just 5 years of playing chess competitively, challenges facing chess in Egypt and her future ambitions.

17 year-old Woman Grand Master Shrook Wafa of Egypt

17 year-old Woman Grand Master Shrook Wafa of Egypt

1. When did you start playing chess? What got you interested in the game?

When I was 12. My father used to play with us and he taught me and my sisters but we weren’t very interested in chess until someday the club near to us needed a young player for the under-12 team and they had no one so they had to ask my father because he was the one who created the club in the first place. The manager of the club played with me and he saw that I could play in the team so I started training since then and I went to the first Egyptian Youth Championship and took first place in the Under-12 Girls category.

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Interview with GM Vidit Gujrathi – Player, Jalgaon Battlers

With the 2014 Maharashtra Chess League just minutes away from being inaugurated, this year’s joint ‘Most Valued Player’ GM Vidit Gujrathi shares his experiences playing for Jalgaon Battlers in last year’s tournament. Don’t let his baby face fool you—he is as sharp with his answers as he is with his moves on the board!

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Interview: WGM Alina L’Ami on Life as a Chess Gypsy

To start off 2014 on a fun note, I bring to you an interview with chess player, photographer, gypsy, correspondent, wife and more—Romanian WGM Alina L’Ami. Hope you enjoy her philosophical and whimsical sides as much as I did! 🙂

Alina L'Ami / Photo courtesy of http://en.chessbase.com/

Alina L’Ami / Photo courtesy of http://en.chessbase.com/

Paras: Like GM Nigel Short, who I have had the honour of interviewing before, you are known for being quite the intrepid traveller, criss-crossing the globe to participate in tournaments without giving it too much thought. (I guess it was no surprise then that both of you met in Dar es Salaam earlier this year for the Spicenet Open tournament.) What drives you more: the passion for chess or the passion for travel? How many countries have you visited so far on chess duty?

Alina: To properly answer this question I should first try to draw an overview (or a summary) of my entire life, views and personality – kind of a difficult task but I will start with the easiest part: how many countries…?

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Interview: WCM Claudia Muñoz on Her Chess Journey So Far

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to meet people that would otherwise never cross your daily path (especially, if, like me, you spend a lot of time indoors). During the FIDE World Championship Match last month, I was glued to social media like everyone else and while having conversations with various strangers on Twitter, I came across a cherubic American teenager doing her own bit to promote chess across the world.

Meet Claudia Muñoz, a 16-year-old Woman Candidate Master who has represented both Mexico and the USA and will be participating in the World Youth Chess Championships 2013 starting next week in Al Ain, UAE. Below is an email interview she so graciously accepted to do.

WCM Claudia Muñoz

WCM Claudia Muñoz

1. How were you introduced to chess and when did you start playing the game competitively?

Claudia: I learned how to play chess when I was 6 years old in Mexico. I was born in the United States from parents with dual American and Mexican citizenship but when I was 6 years old, we moved to Mexico as my parents opened a support company for foreign manufacturers in that country.

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