Chess: Malawian youths getting exposed at African schoolstourney in Zambia

After failing to send potential youths to an international junior tournament last August in Port Elizabeth, South Africa due to financial constraints, Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) has managed to send two to the 2016 African Schools Individual Championships that is taking place in Lusaka, Zambia from 10-18 December.

Yewo playing black on the second board.
Yewo playing black on the second board.

The Championship is being held at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lusaka, is attracting kids Under-7 to Under-17 years of age from eight countries across Africa and is played according to age group, Under-7, 9, 11, 13, 15 ans 17 in both categories of girls and boys. The event  played over 9 rounds or games.

Malawi is represented by two lads, Kezzie Msukwa Jnr. (Under-9) and Yewo Sanga (Under 11).

According to Magret Ngugama, who is National Schools Chess Coordinator and has accompanied the two lads, five games have been played so far across all age groups.

Yewo Sanga, in his second appearance at an international, has impressively won two, drew drew two and lost one, a total of 3/5 points. Being his first international appearance, Kezzie Msukwa Jnr. managed to score his first point in the first round.

Yewo and Kezzie have so far played against opponents from Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“This trip has been made possible by respective parents, a great sacrifice for the love of the game,” Ngugama said. “Only two managed to go for the event because of the cost.

“Funds required were for registration fees which are a total of euro 170 per player, which is almost  MK150,000 plus transport costs.”

Leading the delegation is Chessam President Kezzie Msukwa, who is father to the junior player. He is also there as president of Chess Zone 4.3 and a qualified fide arbiter.

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.

The Jungle Pepper training programme 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.

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

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.

To add some inspiration for the game, Chessam falicilitated a visit to Malawi of Grandmaster Zhu Chen in November 2015, which was part of her tour of Africa trip funded by Commission of Women Chess.

Her prime objective was to inspire girls and the youths whilst in Malawi, Chessam took her to the Chessam trqining schools in Blantyre where she  staged simultaneous games with young players.

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

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