Excellent prizes at Kenani’s chess tourney on Feb 3

Excellent chess related prizes are up for grabs for Malawi’s Southern Region school’s chess tournament, which will be sponsored by renowned Malawian writer and newspaper columnist Stanley Onjezani Kenani in conjunction with one of the country’s great female chess players, Susan Musa Namangale.

Kids are fast enjoying the game throughout the country

Up for grabs at the tournament, to be held at St. Andrews International High School in Blantyre, chess boards and their pieces, clocks and medals in a bid to inspire the kids in the promotion of the sport in schools at all levels.

Southern Region Chess League chairman Wasoka Chirwa said the tournament, dubbed S&S Geniuses Schools Chess Championship (with S&S standing for Stanley and Susan) is  open to high and primary school students from all over the country.

“It will be played on individual format and 7 rounds of 30 min/player,” Chirwa said. “Registration is K1,000 per player and K5,000 school team. Registrations closes on Feb 2.”

A statement from the two sponsors says: “We are delighted to sponsor this competition because empirical evidence shows that chess is essential for young minds to learn and master.”

They quote the book Championship Chess, by Dr. Robert Ferguson, as saying: “playing chess well increases spatial, numerical, and administrative skills.  There is also improvement in logic, creativity, and IQ.  Chess has also been found to increase both math and verbal skills.”

“We wish more Malawians could come on board to increase the sponsorship amount. There are many schools in Malawi and to reach them all, a bigger funding is required.

“For now, what is needed is to make the most of what we have. Sometimes grandmasters come from harsher backgrounds, where there isn’t even any sponsorship worth talking about.”

On his part, Kenani believes that chess is a good game and those with the opportunity to learn it while young deserve his support.

“Chess helps with skills to analyse options and to think hard before making a move. When you look at it thoughtfully, life is a game of chess. Those skills will be essential for today’s youth as they grow up, whatever career they end up choosing.

“We, therefore, need to support the young in schools so that they can grow in the game of chess. This is why I agreed to join hands with Susan Namangale to sponsor a school competition,” Kenani said.

He confessed that he has been a competitive chess player but  did play in the national championship once, in 2001.

“While I won some games against some of the finest players, my performance in the tournament overall was dismal, and I realized I would never grow in chess the way I would grow in writing, my other passion.

“However, I do play the game a lot these days here in France where I am based, mostly with other players online on chess.com. At our work place there is also a chess club, where I alternate between playing on board one or board two, depending on my strength at any particular time. At present, we are preparing for a tournament in Italy in April next year.

“One thing I am grateful for is that I have made a lot of lifelong friendships through chess. When I was based in Blantyre, for instance, I used to play with the likes of Innocent Salanjira, Stanley Mpinganjira and James Kamowa at James Kamowa’s house at Zingwangwa. James and Stanley – and I also think Innocent at a certain point – all went on to win national championships. All these and more became friends.

“So my passion is to see more Malawian youths play the game and maybe produce a grandmaster. Zambia produced a Grandmaster in Amon Simutowe. Why can’t we? And, you know, top-notch grandmasters end up earning a living through the game.”

Southern Region also has another schools’ special tournament called Finesse Chess Championship which is sponsored by former Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) publicity secretary Gilton Mkumbwa, who is also an international chess arbiter.

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