It was Hollywood in reality at the Batumi world chess Olympiad as Africa’s own celebrity Phiona Mutesi, the Queen of Katwe was present at the event. The Uganda based Hollywood movie, “The Queen of Katwe” has inspired a lot of African youngsters to take up the game of chess.
At the 2018 World Chess Olympiad, we had a few chess players under the age of twenty (20), representing their various countries, and some of them were able to achieve FIDE titles, which is a harbinger of great things to come for Africa chess. Here are the African juniors that represented their countries at this year’s Olympiad:
Perhaps the most stunning achievement among the African juniors at the Olympiad is that of 15 year old Rwandan Jocelyne Uwase, who netted the Woman FIDE Master title after achieving 7 wins of the 9 games she played. Her compatriot, Rwandan whiz kid, 14 year old Christelle Uwamahoro, also scored 4 points out of 6 games to achieve a Woman Candidate Master title. These results give Africa confidence that chess is being well taken care of from the grassroots.
But the African junior player that got subjected to the hottest wave of heat is IM Fawzy Adham of Egypt, who was playing on board 3 of the highly ranked Egyptian team, which was by default, playing against highly rated teams. But he did not disappoint, as he scored 4.5 points out of the 9 games he played, picking up a very important win over the 2600+ rated Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi in the process. The Africa Junior Champion has shown that he is following in the footsteps of Egyptian Grandmasters Dr Amin Bassem and Ahmed Adly.
It was very refreshing to see the 15 year old Namibian chess prodigy, FM Dante Beukes, on the top board for the Namibian team. The fast improving Namibian wonder boy, who became the youngest Champion in Namibia’s chess history in 2017, scored an impressive 6 points out of 10 games at the event, which was the best score for his country. In 2017, he doubled as both Namibian Champion and Namibian Junior Champion. Dante gets a lot of support from his parents, who sacrifice time and resources to enable him travel around the globe to participate in tournaments as well as the moral and every other support needed to be at the top.
Perhaps Hollywood will soon make another Ugandan chess movie titled “The Queen of Kampala”, because another fairytale could be unfolding through 17 year old Ugandan girl, Gloria Nasabunga, who amassed a total 6 points out of 9 games, to earn a one kick Woman Fide Master title. She is a pupil of the popular SOM Chess Academy in Kampala. And she already drew comments from Coca Cola, who tweeted without consultation with the Ugandan Chess Federation, insinuating that their drink is why Gloria did so well at the Olympiad.
Yavo Tchetche Marie:
Also of note is the Ivorian girl prodigy, 13 year old, Woman Candidate Master Yavo Tchetche Marie, who scored 5.5 of the possible 9 games, which she played in her very first Olympiad. She would most likely be one of the youngest female to hold the title in the Western Region of Africa.
Another Inspirational story was unfolding for Botswana as their 16 year old board 4 player Woman FIDE Master Besa Masaiti, was able to achieve 6 points out of 11 games, to leave an indelible mark in the event. According to her father, Besa was also inspired by the movie “Queen of Katwe”, to start taking chess seriously. According to Keenese Neyosiame of Botswana’s Limitless Mind Chess Academy, Besa’s game is improving by the day and can easily make it into the higher echelons of the game sooner rather than later. She also said Besa has supportive parents who encourage her a lot.
19 year old clever faced, Tobi Felix, playing on board 3 for Ghana, achieved 5 points out of 10 games to earn herself the Woman Candidate Master title. Tobi is also inspired by the Queen of Katwe , Phiona Mutesi and Hikaru Nakamura of USA.
Zambia fielded 2 teenagers in Lubuuto Bwalya (17 years) and Daisy Simenda (20 years). Lubuuto scored 4 points out of 9 games, while Daisy scored 6 points out of 11 games, to give us hope that grassroot chess in Zambia is alive and well.
14 year old Christelle Uwamahoro from Rwanda played 6 games on board 4 and was a reserve player. She won 4 of her 6 chances and earned herself a WCM title.
From the Somali Republic, we had Abdirahman Abdullahi who registered 4.5 points out of 7 games, to achieve a Candidate Master title.
Abdikani Nor Muhamed:
Another 14 year old whiz kid, Abdikani Nor Muhamed also from Somalia was only able to register 2 wins out of the 9 games experience he got at this big event.
Charlize Van Zyl:
19 year old Woman International Master, Van Zyl Charlize of South Africa, was also able to register an impressive 3.5 out of 8 largely from playing on board four.
Another interesting story was unfolding on the 4th board for Malawi, in 14 year old Anne Simwawa. In her maiden Olympiad appearance, despite her score of 1.5 points out of 8 games, the ever confident Katoto Secondary School student gave hope to millions of Malawian school girls that they can achieve great things on the big stage, by giving promising plays on the board and only losing by whiskers.
The above stories clearly tell us that grassroots chess in Africa is alive and well, and if well organized, Africa can take the world by storm.