Chess is fast becoming a game for all in the street corners of the ghetto out here in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. The game started as an elitist game for most players who survived almost insurmountable obstacles to make it to the top during the hard times of the colonial era. They had to endure the long suffering so that they could get to the top or apex in terms of the game. This was essentially a preserve of the few who had the resources to ensure that they could play it.
It is now a story of another day. Players across the racial divide are now jostling for titles at the introduced African Schools Individual Chess Championships, African Youth Chess Championships as well as the Africa Junior Chess Championships. Of late, the only common feature on the African calendar for juniors was the Africa Junior Chess Championships. It was after the introduction of the latter two mentioned tourneys that chess became the order of the day to all the school going learners, who then showed a lot of prowess as they played the game. The African Schools Individual Chess Championships, which was hosted in Kampala, Uganda has to be the result of well thought strategies that brought about chess activity as well as independence among the chess players of school going ages, from under 7 to under 17, for both boys and girls.
The African Schools chess championships was recently held in Kampala, Uganda. The countries that took part in the competition were: Botswana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, which has now become an annual tournament on the calendar for African schools. Zimbabwe had three participants namely Tawananyasha Mawire, Nokutenda Mitchel Madzikwa and Mukundi Shepherd Madzikwa. The trio represented Zimbabwe and came from Young Chess Masters the only FIDE registered Academy in Zimbabwe.
Tawananyasha Mawire finished with 7.5 points out of the 9 games they played, as he lost to the eventual winner of the tournament from Botswana, Thuto Mpene, who won the gold medal in that category. The game between him and Tawananyasha Mawire lasted almost 3 hours, it was a battle of the English Opening in which Thuto was white while Mawire was the defender. Mawire’s draw was against Thandela Shilo, who was the top seed from Uganda, and whose FIDE rating was ELO 1463 at the time of this tournament, which I must say was played in a very conducive chess playing environment.
In this section, by amassing 7.5 points out of nine games played, Tawananyasha Mawire scooped a silver medal, much to the delight of his coach as well as his parents, adding to the Zimbabwean youth medals tally, amassed during these tournaments since the inception of the youth tournaments, which were far much less than what they are now and ensuring that the young players can actually get some chess titles at a tender age.
Nokutenda Mitchel Madzikwa played well in a mixed age group in which she finished with 5 points out of 9 games played. She narrowly missed scooping a gold medal had she defeated her opponent in round 7 in which she failed to contain the Colle System leading to her demise in the game. She had played well in the opening but alas it was another story after she fell in the end game to some interesting trap for their age category. However, for her efforts she finished second and won a silver medal. The two players, Tawananyasha and Nokutenda were awarded the conditional titles of Candidate Master and Woman Candidate Master, respectively.
Mukundi Madzikwa performed well but not enough for a podium finish. He finished with 4/9 points in this tournament. This was his first tournament of this magnitude, and with the experience+exposure, certainly more is to come from the young Zimbabwean. The vision of the boy can certainly improve and hence the results overall will also be positive.
The chess game is becoming a force to reckon with in Zimbabwe as we are producing players of repute. The young Tawananyasha Mawire was profiled sometime last month and this has come into fruition as expected. The beginning of better things to come. Chess in Zimbabwe will never be the same again.
The coach Walter Mkundwa performed a sterling job as he managed to produce two out of the three players getting a podium finish. This was a great piece of work from the Young Chess Masters Coach, who has produced players like Woman FIDE Master Refiloe Mudodo, Farai Hamandishe who scooped a gold medal at the African Schools Chess Championships hosted by Zimbabwe in 2017, at the Rainbow Towers, in Harare. The star is shining for the young coach who has to continue working hard in order to produce more players of strong calibre enabling the Curriculum Vitae to be strong enough with reputable products.
In conclusion, one can say that the game of chess is growing from strength to strength in Africa and the world at large after the introduction of many tournaments of interest, which also resulted in tapping talent from the young. Grandmaster Fawzy Adham of Egypt is a product of these tournaments. I remember in Pretoria, South Africa in 2012 when he won his age group that was the under 14 Open section with a perfect score 9/9. He even won a blitz chess tournament which was organized at the Fair City Roodevalley Hotel and won the play offs against International Arbiter Chanda of Zambia.
This is only a kick off point and the President Arkady Dvorkovic led FIDE administration is greatly appreciated for the innovations and cutting down on costs to participate in continental events.