2020 was an eye opening year. It showed the world that technology is the way forward in virtually every productive aspects of life. When other sports were recused, chess grew in leaps and bounds all over the world, as the online platforms recorded huge rise in membership and users.
Unfortunately, the physical tournaments were held back, as the African Individual Chess Championship that was meant to hold in Nigeria was postponed indefinitely, and seems not to be holding any longer.
The 2021 edition of the African Individual Chess Championship has been slated for the 25th to 29th of January, 2021. This event is billed to be hosted online via the Tornelo platform.
Fortunately for Africa and Africans, Tornelo helped to host the European blitz edition of the online Championship between the 18th and 20th of December, 2020.
Hosting the European event gave Africa an understanding of what it takes to host an online event of this magnitude; it is hoped that this would make the African Championship seamless to run. However, we do need to take some things into consideration, as we look to host the maiden online edition of the continental championship.
Registration: When Europe organized her blitz championship online, using the same platform, the registration was free for players rated 2300 and above. However, the Africa Chess Confederation are insisting on a $60 registration fee for African players to participate in the event. Apart from the fact that this is on the high side (considering the dire effect of the COVID-19), Africa is unique and should be treated as such.
Titles: Considering the fact that the event is online, and that it would be played as a rapid event of twenty five (25) minutes + ten (10) seconds increment from move one (1), the African event cannot award titles for the event. Good to note also, that since the European event was a blitz event, there were no titles awarded there either.
Internet: Given the quality of internet enjoyed in Europe, they had only a couple of log off issues, plus I do not know what it cost them to make use of the amount of internet required for the participation in the event without fail. However, Africa is a special continent as regards the internet. Furthermore, from my understanding, if the national federations would not be taking care of internet connections for the players, each of the player would spend nothing less than $70 (which may rise to $120) on internet connection for the duration of the tournament.
Qualification: The European Online Blitz Chess Championship qualified players for the physical Rapid and Blitz event that is billed to hold in December 2021, where the ECU will cover lodging at a 4* hotel, as well as the registration of qualified players. Here in Africa, the event is not a qualification for any future event. It only qualifies the winner as the African online champion for the year 2021, as well as the gold, silver and bronze medals for the top three (3) respectively.
Prizes: Prizes in the European Online Blitz Chess Championship was a total of twelve thousand (12,000) euros. While the total prize pool for the African Individual Chess Championship is sixteen thousand (16,000) dollars, which is approximately thirteen thousand (13,000) euros.
Sections: The ECU gave special recognition prizes (200 euros) to the top three (3) senior players at the end of the event, as well as invitation to the rapid and blitz championships in December, along with the top junior boy and girl of three (3) different age groups. The Africa Chess Confederation however, merged the African Junior Chess Championships, the African Senior Championships and the African Individual Chess Championships in one field. It is believed that this is why the top three (3) senior players would be getting a total prize fund of $2,250, instead of the 600 euro afforded the ECU veterans. It is also believed that this is why the best performing juniors (male and female) will be getting flight tickets to the 2021 World Junior Chess Championships (date and venue to be advised).
Africa has a lot to offer in terms of development, however, if we are to attain this development, we need to be our brother’s keepers and uphold the virtues of Gens Una Sumus.
During this global pandemic, where we all understand the fact that COVID-19 has crippled a lot of institutions, this is not the time to make money off the teeming masses who are struggling to survive. Rather, it is a time to ensure that chess is seen as the light that gets people out of distress and evil thoughts.
Charging chess players $60 for an event that the organizers are spending little to nothing on venue, chairs and tables, decorations, closing ceremony, etc, can be seen as unfair.
Putting into considering these same set of players would still be expected to use their own internet, get microphones/headsets, weebcams, speakers, good lighting, etc.
This is a call for the African Chess Confederation to review their invitation for this online event and put the well-being of the players first. A suggested approach could be that the International Masters (IMs), and Grandmasters (GMs) willing to participate in the event, get free entry. Making the event open for more players, registration could be reduced to thirty dollars ($30) or its equivalent, rather than the huge registration of sixty dollars ($60).
Registration for the online event closes by the 22nd of this month of January. This means that the ACC has a few days to right the registration wrong and ensure that our best players, young prospects and prodigies in Africa, do not have a reason not to participate.
Gens Una Sumus!!