Country Profiling: Kenya Chess Federation (Chess Kenya)

Formally recognized as the Kenya Chess Association in September 1976, and led by the firm and graceful Mr Sikand, who led the association for three (3) years, between 1976 and 1979.

Chess Kenya logo

The most prolific Kenyan chess player, who has held the most championship till date remains Humphrey Andolo, who was able to dominate the Kenyan chess scene in the 90s and his record is yet to be beaten.

The federation is governed by an executive board made up of six (6) elected officials, who run the affairs of the federation for a four (4) years term. The officials are elected by registered members (who are below 300) and club delegates of members who are above 18 years (and are more than 300)

Humphrey Andolo in action! Image Courtesy: Chessit.co.uk

The elected board then appoints the head of the different committees, with ten (10) committees currently active and functional.

According to the federation president, the government provides sponsorship to attend international events only. This includes: air tickets, payment of accommodation, team kits and stipend to participants. You must however comply with minimum requirements, such as timely submission of budget, and compliance to sports guidelines. Sponsorship is not usually guaranteed, it depends on availability of funds. And this is the reason why they always try to have a plan-B with corporate sponsorships.

Some of the participating students in one of Chess Kenya’s chess in schools events

Chess Kenya has a robust chess in schools program, which runs in all parts of the country. There are forty seven (47) counties, and they have chess presence in all the counties. The national schools championship is held in rotational basis, from one region to another, and there are seventeen (17) regional coordinators. With the winner of national championship representing Kenya in the annual event in Russia, known as the Famous White Rook.

They are also in the process of formally getting chess incorporated into the educational curriculum through the national legislation.

Petitioning the Legislative arm of Kenyan Government to engage Chess in Schools as a Curriculum and Healthy Importance

As regards the achievements thus far, the current Chess Kenya administration have been able to get the following done:

Reactivation of administrative utility – they now have an active post office and have opened the chess Kenya Secretariat at the heart of Nairobi city.

They have been able to expand the chess in schools reach to become the biggest sport extravaganza in the country with over 2000 participants. Bringing on board almost all national schools is something to be proud of.

Mehul Gohil recipient of the Mazda Car in Red – Prize for winning the 2019 Kenya National Championship

They have also been able to scale up the prizes of national tournament from previous ksh. 30,000 (USD 300) to a brand new car, with the aim of impacting the personal life of the chess players.

They have been able to increase the visibility of chess, as chess now features more frequently in the mainstream media, and was listed for the biggest sports award in Kenya (SOYA award). With one of the players, Sasha Mongeli, picking up an award at the event, over other renowned players from other sports.

Trophy being presented to members of the winning team after the 2019 League season

They now boast of the biggest chess league, with many corporate bodies now joining the league. The league has expanded to two divisions from the thirty (30) major cl. The top teams represent Kenya in Africa Club Championships. At the last event, held in Egypt, Kenya was represented by two top teams. The Africa Chess Confederation were unable to host the event in 2018 and 2019, but the Kenya Chess show readiness to participate.

In terms of capacity building, they have invested hugely in human resource development, especially in trainers. Kenya have hosted two trainers seminars and sent a number of players to attend arbiters seminar at different points in time.

Hosting the FIDE Chess President Mr Arkady Dvorkovich in Kenya

They have also hosted a number of events that have provided the opportunity to learn about hosting events. They hosted the under 16 team championship 2017, Africa Youth 2018, Zone 4.2 Chess Championship 2019, and the Zone 4.4 under 16 team championship 2019.

As regards chess inclusivity, the Chess Kenya introduced mandatory slots for women and people living with disabilities, with prizes in all national championships. They hold separate championships for people living with disabilities as well as women only tournaments. Free Entry to national tournaments for people living with disabilities was among the various ways of having an all-inclusive

At the Chess Kenya Awards Ceremony in 2019

The Chess Kenya team describes the current situation in Kenyan chess as being at an infancy stage. This is
thanks to a lack of sustained master plan for the growth of Chess over the years, and with the introduction
of the Sports Act as well as the new administration, they believe the time is ripe to elevate Chess to the next level.
To attain this goal, Chess Kenya chose to focus her Key Strategic goals as follows:

  • Increase Membership to one hundred thousand (100,000) by 2022. And this is looking more possible with the Online space becoming super active
  • Promote Chess Kenya activities across all the forty seven (47) counties. So as to build a good relationship among member counties
  • Provide Good Governance and Capacity Building, which is targeted at increasing Chess Kenya’s ability to efficiently absorb, manage, and maintain the rapidly increasing membership.
  • Marketing and Branding for Chess Kenya and counties, which is aimed at increasing awareness of Chess in the Country and raising the profile of Chess Kenya to becoming a household name by 2022
  • Increase Activity and Technical Personnel, whose purpose would be the development of others who wish to grow in this space
  • Improve quality of players through camps and the production of a couple of International Masters by 2021

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