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Interview – Ghana Chess President

by Ogunsiku Babatunde
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With the Africa Junior Under 20 Chess Championships coming up later this month, Africans and the World would now focus on Ghana, to host another major continental event, after the zonal success a few months ago.

Ghana Chess President and Vice President

Earlier in the year, there was a fuss about who would host this event, and after much deliberation and seeking, by the Africa Chess Confederation, Ghana Chess Association secured the hosting rights for the event.

I was able to catch up with the President of the Ghana Chess Association, who answered some questions in an online interview.

For the purpose of this interview, I have decided to use the initials BO for myself, while asking the questions and PA for Mr Philip Ameku, who is both the president of his federation as well as the president of the Zone 4.3. Enjoy.

BO – The Africa Junior Chess Championship is one of the biggest opportunities for young and aspiring chess players. What made you take up the hosting rights?

PA – I saw this as a unique opportunity for the Ghanaian and of course West African chess players, because if you observe, you would realize that federations from our zone especially, find it difficult travelling to Southern Africa or Northern Africa to participate in tournaments. Therefore hosting this tournament is a way of giving our players that kind of exposure and opportunity.

BO – Over the years, less than 40 players have represented their countries at this event. What are you doing differently to ensure countries send their representatives for this event?

PA – I am yet to know why African Junior Championships do not attract the best turn out as you have mentioned. What I will do is to sell the hospitality of Ghana and the Ghana Chess Association, as well as put in a lot of efforts into good publicity and hope we have a good turnout.

Moreover every federation has a role to play in ensuring African juniors are able to rub shoulders with other players from Europe in the near future and that will only be possible if we invest in our junior players of course.

GM Maurice Ashley training the Ivorian kids

BO – GM Maurice Ashley is currently in Abidjan to help the young players prepare for this event. What plans are you putting in place to ensure your country is well represented at the championship?

PA – If you quite remember, during the Grand Chess Tour in Abidjan we tried to get support from these GMs, which led to our discussion with Maurice Ashley. In fact it was initiated by Dr. Essoh and I decided to take advantage since Abidjan is just next door, and included Ghana in the arrangement, so Maurice will fly in to Ghana from Abidjan to do a similar training regime with our team as well.

Mr Philip Ameku of Ghana Chess with Dr Essoh Essis of Cote D’Ivoire Chess

BO – This is the first time in this decade that this event would be brought to the western parts of Africa. How important is it for Ghana to put together an excellent event for Africa and African chess?

PA – This event means a lot to us, because this is our first tournament we are hosting at the Africa level, as opposed to the Zonal level and we want to make it a big success. I would also like to thank the ACC President for his confidence in our federation to pull this off, and we hope to repay that trust with a great show and event for the guys and girls.

GM Fawzy Adham of Egypt

BO – The Egyptian chess federation have confirmed that GM Fawzy Adham would be participating in this event. Do you see anyone pipping the 20 year old African grandmaster to the top prize?

PA – I watched GM Fawzy in Tunisia during the Africa Individuals event and there is no doubt the Egyptian is the clear favorite to win this tournament, however with chess, the least distraction can cost you a game, so we will only wait and see.

IM Fy Rakotomharo of Madagascar

We also have the talented IM Fy Rakotomaharo of Madagascar attending the event (with the hopes of getting a GM Norm) and some other good players from Angola and Nigeria, who are confirmed to participate. We hope to see the West Africans giving them a good fight come 25th October in Accra.

BO – After successfully hosting the women’s event for the zone 4.4, with several countries being present, would you be hosting a girls category at the juniors event?

WCM Tobi Felix of Ghana. Photo Credit: David Llada

PA – Of course we are going to have the girls category as well and we should expect some strong players, notably from Angola and Nigeria. In fact we already have a WIM in the registration list so far, and we expect it to attract other girls from the continent. We shall also be fielding our female national champion WCM Tobi Felix as well as Maud Benson, who are both qualified to play.

BO – What are some of the successes you have had with your street chess training program?

Ghana Street Chess Training Initiative With Philip Ameku

PA – The idea is to implement chess as a tool for social change and also proving the many ways in which Chess can be employed in the society. The Street Chess program is actually an initiative of CM Joseph Mensah and I only joined as a volunteer in mentoring the street kids whenever I am free. However we hope to expose the kids in the next edition of the National youth championships sometime next year.

Ghana Street Chess Team with Ghana Chess President and Vice

BO – What are your plans for 2020? Any continental event to look forward to?

PA – Next year we look forward to hosting the Africa Club Championships as a way of getting some more exposure for the best players on our continent. Let me also appreciate your efforts and that of your team at Africa Chess Media aimed at giving us a unique platform for publicity.

BO – Thank you for your time Mr President.

PA – Thank you too and we look forward to more collaborations with you.

Africa Chess Media will be represented at this prestigious event, would your country be represented?

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