Malawian chess making strides

Malawi was ably represented at the 42nd Chess Olympiad that took place in Baku, Azerbaijan from 1st-14th September, 2016 where Malawi moved three steps down the ladder and two candidate masters in the names of Petros Mfune and Paul Khuphwathea were born from this tournament.

Chinese Grandmaster Zhu Chen playing simultaneous games with Malawians

Chinese Grandmaster Zhu Chen playing simultaneous games with Malawians

42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan

42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan

Team leader and ladies captain at the tournament, Magret Ngugama said Malawi was represented by 10 players — five ladies (Linda Jambo, Ellen Mpinganjira, Vitumbiko Gondwe, Desidarata Nkhoma and Tupokiwe Msukwa) and five men (Gerald Mphungu, Alfred Chimthere, Chiletso Chipanga, Petros Mfune and Paul Khuphwathea.

Ngugama said both teams did well at the Olympiad bearing in mind that it is the highest level of chess play and bearing in mind that Mfune and  Khuphwathea attained candidate master status.

Other candidate masters in the squad were Chimthere and Chipanga.

She said 18-year-old Tupokiwe Msukwa was participating in a major tournament for the first time. But he represented Malawi at the 2015 African Youth Championships in Lusaka, Zambia.

Chess is quickly taking root in the country and currently kids are being trained for the game every weekend in Blantyre through support from Jungle Pepper Restaurant at Chichiri Shopping Centre.

“At the just ended World Chess Olympiad, the youngest girl was nine years old and youngest boy was 13,” Ngugama said. “It is possible that the youngsters we are training can make it into the national team with more training and hard work.

“It was a great inspiration to see young girls and boys being part of some national teams.

“It is possible for Malawi to send a kid to the Olympiad. We have a good crop of youths who can overtake the older players. Players like our Under-12 girl Anne Simwaba from the North, Rafik Waliyala, Mirabelle Chafumuka and Happiness Masuku for the South, just to mention a few.”

She said the Jungle Pepper training initiative is working beyond Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) expectations.

It has trained over 100 players and five out of the 12 that participated at the 2015 African Youth Championships in Lusaka were from the Jungle Pepper initiative.

To add some inspiration for the game, Chessam falicilitated a visit to Malawi of Grandmaster Zhu Chen in November 2015.

“It was part of her tour of Africa trip which was funded by Commission of Women Chess. Her prime objective was to inspire girls and the youths.

“For that reason we took her to our schools in Blantyre. We had a group of about 30 girls and 20 boys whom she  addressed. She staged simultaneous games with 20 players which took about four hours.

“She had a chance to meet senior players at Country Club, Limbe where she had another simultaneous display. The visit had a great impact to the way locals view chess.

“We felt proud as Chessam to be hosting such an important visit to the chess family. To the young players and girls, Zhu Chen — a Chinese who is married to a Grandmaster from Qatar — was a great inspiration,” said Ngugama, who is Chessam’s National Schools Chess Coordinator and a qualified national arbiter as well as an active chess player.

Some time back, another foreign Grandmaster Nigel Short visited the country as well as world chess governing body FIDE’s chief executive, Geoffrey Bogg, who toured Malawi in 2014.

She said the qualifying process for the 42nd Chess Olympiad was done from regional to national level where the 10 proved their mettle.

The trip was partly funded by FIDE and Malawi National Council of Sports.

Most of the players use the internet for training, viewing other players games, playing online and othrr  learning tactics.

Chessam is headed by Kezzie Msukwa as president and he was the head of delegation for the Azerbaijan trip where he participated at the FIDE congress and was also a match arbiter.

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