Country Profiling: Gabon Chess Federation ūüá¨ūüá¶

Last year, we started a series of articles, which are billed to tell the story of each Federation’s setup.

Today, we take a trip down to the Gabonese Chess Federation, where the president, Monsieur Bongo Akanga Ndjila, Barthelemy, talks to us about his federation, their past, the last Olympiad, and their plans for the future.

Monsieur Barthelemy – President of Gabonese Chess Federation|Image Courtesy: Ogunsiku Babatunde

For this article, we will have the interview in both French and English, so that members of the country, as well as the general public, can understand the responses being provided.

Question: How did the Federation begin?

Pergunta: Como começou a federação?

President Barthelemy: Nous avons d√©but√© en 1998 avec l’association pour le d√©veloppement des √©checs au Gabon (ADEG). Nous avons int√©gr√© la grande famille de le FIDE en 2007 en tant qu’association nationale fans cette discipline sportive. En 2016, nous sommes devenus f√©d√©ration gabonaise des √©checs.

Translation: We started in 1998, with the Association for the Development of Chess in Gabon (ADEG). We joined the big family of FIDE in 2007 as a national association, a fan of this sport. In 2016, we became the Gabonese chess federation.

Question: When was the Federation accredited by FIDE?

Pergunta: Quando a federação foi acreditada pela FIDE?

President Barthelemy: L’association pour le d√©veloppement des √©checs √† √©t√© reconnu par la fide en 2007. Nous remercions l’actuel Pr√©sident de ACC, Lewis NCUBE, qui nous a fortement aid√© √† nous affilier √† la f√©d√©ration internationale des √©checs.

Translation: The association for the development of chess was recognized by FIDE in 2007. We thank the current President of ACC, Mr. Lewis NCUBE, who greatly helped us with our affiliation to the international chess federation.

Question: Who were the first set of board members for the Federation?

Pergunta: Quem foram os primeiros membros do conselho de administração da Federação?

President Barthelemy: Lorsque nous √©tions ADEG, association pour le d√©veloppement des √©checs, le Premier Pr√©sident fut Jean pierre MOULAIN. C’√©tait notre meilleur joueur du moment. Aujourd’hui, il est d√©c√©d√© depuis quelques ann√©es mais il reste comme le pionnier pour le d√©veloppement de cette discipline sportive au Gabon. Puis il y a eu Guy van de geschuchte, un sujet belge. S’en est suivi un gabonais, un docteur mais le nom m’√©chappe. Avant il n’y avait pas beaucoup de gabonais qui s’adonnaient √† ce sport. Le but √©tait de vulgariser ce jeu aupr√®s de la population. Cela n’a pas beaucoup chang√© depuis lors. Peu de personnes s’int√©ressent √† ce sport. Moi je fus Pr√©sident en 2005 jusqu’√† 2014. De nouveau pr√©sident en 2019.

Jean Pierre MOULAIN in action|Image Credit: Gabonese Chess Federation

Translation: When we were association for the development of chess (ADEG), the First President was Jean Pierre MOULAIN. He was our best player at the time. Although he died a few years ago, he remains the pioneer for the development of this sporting discipline in Gabon. Furthermore, there was Guy van de Geschuchte, a Belgian. Afterward, we had a Gabonese leader, he was a doctor, however, I can’t seem to remember his name at the moment. When the sport started in Gabon, there were not many individuals who indulged in it. The goal was to make the game popular and accessible to the general public. Unfortunately, it has not changed much since then. Only a few people are currently interested in this sport. I was President from 2005 until 2014, and I was reelected in 2019.

Question: What is the structure of the Federation like? Who votes, What is the role of players, What is the role of the government, is there a viable chess in school platform linked to the Federation?

Pergunta: Como é a estrutura da Federação? Quem vota, Qual é o papel dos jogadores, Qual é o papel do governo, existe um xadrez viável na plataforma escolar ligada à Federação?

President Barthelemy: Au sein de la f√©d√©ration gabonaise des √©checs, cela devrait √™tre les clubs qui votent. Malheureusement, √† ce jour, il n’y a pas beaucoup de clubs qui ont √©t√© cr√©√©s. Il y en a 2. Un troisi√®me clubs est en passe d’√™tre reconnu par les autorit√©s administratives. Donc ils se trouvent que pour instant, ce sont les joueurs qui votent. Nous devrions faire une tourn√©e dans le Gabon pour am√©liorer le fonctionnement de la f√©d√©ration mais avec la covid 19,ce n’√©tait plus possible l’an dernier. S’agissant des joueurs, ils repr√©sentent le Gabon dans les comp√©titions √©checs au niveau international. Sur le plan national, ils jouent et tentent de glaner les titres en jeu. Mais ils ont aussi le r√īle de promouvoir la discipline partout o√Ļ ils se rendent et nous les encourageons fortement √† cr√©er des clubs √©checs partout o√Ļ ils le peuvent avec les personnes qui sont int√©ress√©es.

Translation: Within the Gabonese chess Federation, it should be the clubs that vote. Unfortunately, to date, there aren’t many clubs that have been created. For now, there are only two (2). A third club is in the process of being recognized by the administrative authorities. This implies that for the moment, it is the players who vote. We planned to organize a tour in Gabon, which is aimed at improving the functions of the Federation. Unfortunately, with the advent of COVID-19, this was no longer possible last year. As for the players, they represent Gabon in chess competitions at the international level. On a national level, they play and try to glean the titles at stake. But they also have the role of promoting the discipline wherever they go and we strongly encourage them to create chess clubs wherever they can with the people who are interested.

Question: Does this mean that you have local titles? Or the players are working towards the FIDE titles?

Pergunta: Isto significa que tem títulos locais? Ou os jogadores estão a trabalhar para os títulos da FIDE?

President Barthelemy: Nous organisons des tournois au Gabon et lorsque tous les girls joueurs sont r√©unis. Il est d√©sign√© champion. Pour obtenir les titres fide c’est au travers de la comp√©tition: participer √† des tournois internationaux class√©s fide. Obtenir le nombre points requis pour obtenir le titre. Je suis CM obtenu en 2018 √† Batumi.

Translation: We organize tournaments in Gabon, and when all the players are gathered, there is a designated champion after the tournament. To obtain FIDE titles, this is through competing and participating in international tournaments that are classified as FIDE rated. Furthermore, one would need to obtain the number of points required to qualify for the title. I became a Candidate Master (CM) through my performance at the 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad.

President Barthelemy: Le r√īle du Gouvernement est d’encadrer les disciplines sportives qui se font sur le sol gabonais. Le Gouvernement alloue aussi des subventions dans le but de promouvoir ces disciplines sportives et √† aider aux fonctionnement de ces structures.

Translation: The role of the Government is to supervise the sports disciplines, which take place on Gabonese soil. The Government also allocates subsidies in order to promote these sports disciplines and to help the functioning of their structures.

President Barthelemy: En 2014, le Conseil des Ministres avait pris la d√©cision d’int√©grer le Scrabble et le jeu √©checs dans les curricula au sein des √©coles primaires et secondaires. Nous avons par le biais de l’ancien pr√©sident, remis notre contribution pour que ce projet se fasse. Le Gouvernement a s√Ľrement des difficult√©s pour instant si bien qu’il a d√Ľ reporter. Mais nous continuons de travailler. Mais le covid 19 nous a grandement frein√© dans ce que nous souhaitons faire. Personnellement, j’ai pu mettre en place un clubs qui √©tait au niveau du stade de football d’angondje. Aujourd’hui ce stade √† √©t√© r√©quisitionn√© par l’√©tat pour en faire un h√īpital de campagne. Il y avait aussi un clubs dans une √©cole conventionn√©e. Aujourd’hui les activit√©s sont au ralenties.

Gabonese Parliament in Session

Translation: In 2014, the Council of Ministers took the decision to integrate Scrabble and the game of chess into the curricula of primary and secondary schools. We, through the former president, gave our contributions to make this project happen. The Government is currently having difficulties, thus the integration had to be postponed. However, we continue to work. Although COVID-19 has greatly hampered us as regards what we want to do. Personally, I was able to set up a club which was at the Angondje football stadium. Unfortunately, this stadium has been requisitioned by the state, to make it a field hospital. There was also a club in an approved school. Today activities have slowed down a great deal.

Question: What is the Federation’s 5-year plan from now?

Pergunta: Qual é o plano de 5 anos da Federação a partir de agora?

President Barthelemy: Le plan est d’avoir plus de joueurs (filles et gar√ßons) qui jouent au jeu. Avoir plus d’arbitres, plus d’entra√ģneurs, plus de mat√©riel d’√©checs, plus de clubs, plus de sponsors, plus de tournois et faire en sorte que notre niveau augmente. Aujourd’hui, cela ne suffit pas. Nous n’avons que 2 joueurs not√©s Fide √ČLO. Le niveau n’est pas trop mal, cependant, il faut augmenter. C’est notre objectif. C’est pourquoi nous travaillons avec beaucoup de jeunes joueurs!

Bongo Ngombele, Tary of Gabon | Image Credit: Ogunsiku Babatunde

Translation: The plan is to have more players (girls and boys) playing the game. To have more arbiters, more trainers, more chess materials, more clubs, more sponsors, more tournaments and to ensure that our level is growing. Today, it is not enough. We have only 2 players with a Fide √ČLO rating. The level is not too bad, however, we must increase. It is our goal. This is why we are working with a lot of young players!

Question: What are some notable achievements in the Federation so far?

Pergunta: Quais são, até agora, conquistas notáveis na Federação?

President Barthelemy: Participer √† l’Olympiade d’√©checs de Batumi en 2018 avec de jeunes joueurs a √©t√© un grand appel de la f√©d√©ration. Ce fut une exp√©rience importante pour les enfants. Terminer √† la 3e place du tournoi d’√©checs par √©quipe zonale des moins de 16 ans en 2019 √† Sao Tom√©-et-Principe a √©t√© une autre r√©alisation tr√®s importante pour les enfants et notre f√©d√©ration. C’√©tait un √©norme exploit pour les enfants. Ils voulaient √™tre 2e, cependant, 3e n’√©tait pas trop mal. Nous avons essay√© de nous concentrer davantage sur les enfants, car nous croyons que l‚Äôavenir de la f√©d√©ration et celui de notre nation reposent entre leurs mains et leur cerveau.

The young Gabonese team finishing 3rd in the U16 zonal team championship in 2019 | Image Credit: Gabonese Chess Federation

Translation: Participating at the Batumi Chess Olympiad in 2018 with young players was a big call by the federation. It was an important experience for the kids. Finishing in 3rd place at the under 16 zonal team chess tournament in 2019 at Sao Tome and Principe was another very important achievement for the children and our federation. It was a huge feat for the kids. They wanted to be 2nd, however, 3rd was not too bad. We have tried to focus more on the children, because we believe that the future of the federation and that of our nation lie in their hands and in their brains.

Question: Who has been the longest serving National Champion in the history of the Federation (male and female)?

Pergunta: Quem foi o campeão nacional mais antigo na história da Federação (masculino e feminino)?

President Barthelemy: En fait, je suis actuellement le meilleur joueur du Gabon. Quand Jean Pierre MOULAIN AYOMBO est d√©c√©d√©, je suis devenu le meilleur. Je ne me souviens pas compl√®tement, mais je crois que cela fait environ 8 ou 9 ans. En ce qui concerne la meilleure joueuse, il s’agit de Ntolo Darla, 13 ans. Maintenant, elle a quatorze ans. Je n’ai pas pu lui donner de cours de formation en raison de la pand√©mie, cependant, c’est la meilleure fille de la f√©d√©ration.

Bongo Akanga Ndjila, Barthelemy in action

Translation: Actually, I am currently the best player in Gabon. When Jean Pierre MOULAIN AYOMBO passed on, I became the best. I can not fully remember, but I believe it has been about 8 or 9 years. As regards the best female player, It has been 13 year-old Ntolo Darla. Now she is fourteen. I have been unable to give her training lessons due to the pandemic, however, she is the best girl from the federation

Question: What would you and your board like to do differently, during COVID, and post COVID?

Pergunta: O que você e o seu conselho gostariam de fazer de forma diferente, durante o COVID, e postAR COVID?

President Barthelemy: Pour l’instant, nous avons d√Ľ arr√™ter toutes les activit√©s d’√©checs. Nous attendons simplement que tout revienne √† la normale pour que nous puissions faire un peu de travail. Nous avons essay√© d’organiser beaucoup de r√©unions mais nous avons d√Ľ nous arr√™ter. La situation n’a pas √©t√© tr√®s bonne pour nous. Par cons√©quent, tant que nous ne parvenons pas √† surmonter la situation actuelle dans le pays, nous ne pouvons pas faire grand-chose.

Libreville, Capital of Gabon | Photo by Kennedy8kp (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Translation: For now, we had to stop all the chess activities. We are just waiting for everything to go back to normal so that we can get some work done. We tried to organize a lot of meetings but we had to stop. The situation has not been very good for us. Therefore, until we are able to overcome the current situation in the country, we can not do much.

Question: What is your opinion about online chess (playing, training, seminar, etc)?

Pergunta: Qual é a sua opinião sobre o xadrez online (jogar, treinar, seminário, etc)?

President Barthelemy: Les √©checs en ligne sont tr√®s bons. Nous pouvons jouer, suivre des tournois d’√©checs et s’entra√ģner. Pour les s√©minaires, je pr√©f√®re quand un individu peut interagir directement avec le pr√©sident ou l’h√īte. Je n’aime pas les s√©minaires en ligne (uniquement pour les s√©minaires). Lors du dernier s√©minaire, ma connexion Internet √©tait verrouill√©e (mauvaise), et √† cause de cela, mon examen n’√©tait pas tr√®s bon.

Online Platforms Mostly used for Chess Events in Africa

Translation: Chess online is very good. We can play, follow chess tournaments, and training. For seminars, I prefer when an individual can interact directly with the chairman or host. I don’t like online seminars (only for seminars). During the last seminar, my internet connection was locked (bad), and because of that, my exam was not very good.

Question: A final word to your people, your zone, Africa, and the world at large.

Pergunta: Quais são, até agora, conquistas notáveis na Federação?

President Barthelemy: La pand√©mie du covid 19 s√©vit encore dans le monde. Dans certains pays comme le n√ītre, le sport √† √©t√© rel√©gu√© sur un plan secondaire voire insignifiant si bien que toutes les activit√©s sportives ont √©t√© purement et simplement arr√™t√©es. Pourtant le sport est utile dans ce genre de cas non seulement pour nous a√©rer l’esprit mais aussi assurer notre bien-√™tre physique, moral et psychique. Il est temps pour tous de reconsid√©rer cette position et de donner au sport sa vraie place. Le jeu √©chec est un compl√©ment scolaire important pour les enfants mais utile aussi pour les adultes. Il v√©hicule des valeurs. Les gouvernements doivent d√©velopper ce genre de sport qui ne n√©cessite pas de grands ou de lourds moyens financiers pour assurer son d√©veloppement. Nous attendons avec impatience que cette crise sanitaire puisse se terminer et que nous nous retrouvons en famille autour du jeu √©chec. Le jeu √©chec est une grande famille et la federation internationale des √©checs (fide)et les pays dits d√©velopp√©s doivent pouvoir soutenir les pays en d√©veloppement de sorte que nos prochaines joutes sur l’√©chiquier ne soient que meilleurs. Au lieu de nous laisser nous d√©battre seul sans aide sans r√©confort. Sachez que cette situation √† fait r√©gresser le niveau aux √©checs consid√©rablement dans nos pays surtout en Afrique. Gens una sumus .il est temps de r√©ellement donner du sens √† cette phrase et que nous soyons tous solidaires les uns des autres vu que nous sommes une famille!!

Translation: The covid 19 pandemic is still raging around the world. In some countries like ours, sport has been relegated to a secondary or even insignificant level, such that all sporting activities have been purely and simply stopped. However, sport is useful in this kind of case, not only to clear our minds, but also to ensure our physical, moral and psychological well-being. It is time for everyone to reconsider this position and to give sport its true place. The chess game is an important school supplement for children, and it is also useful for adults. It conveys good values. Governments must help to develop this kind of sport. A sport that does not require large or heavy financial means to ensure its development. We look forward to this health crisis ending, so that we can meet as a family, around the game of chess once again. The chess game is a big family and the strongest (so-called developed countries) must be able to support the developing countries. This will ensure that our next games on the chessboard are only better. Instead of leaving ourselves to struggle alone without help, and without comfort. Know that this situation has made our countries regress considerably, especially in Africa. Gens una sumus. It is time to really make sense of this sentence, and show that we all stand in solidarity with each other, since we are a family!!

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