Malawi chess is gaining some respect following the recent exploits of Chiletso Chipanga after his emphatic performance in Livingstone, Zambia where he was crowned African Amateurs champion after winning eight out of eight rounds.
The feat in Zambia earned him an automatic qualification for the World Amateurs in Cagliari, Italy from where he returned on Tuesday having finished an impressive 6th position out of 49 participants.
Out of nine rounds played, Chipanga won six and lost three to garner six points, just one point behind eventual winner, Singh Arvider Preet of India, who had 7 points tieing with Galavato Miguel Angel of Colombia, who came second. Chiletso managed to beat the eventual champion in round six.
What is his secret? He says he practises a lot and plays serious money bet games against other players but he feels that the local players need a lot of exposure which will empower them to take head on any international player of repute.
I agree and I have said it before on this column and other media platforms. We need more players of Chiltso’s calibre for Malawi flag to fly high on the world chess map.
In Zambia, Chiletso created a storm and was envied by the participants as well as the organisers and spectators. In Italy, after winning the first three rounds, losing the 4th and the 5th, he attracted attention from participants as he took o the evential champion, Preet in round six.
He only played one African, Ehab Mohamed of Egypt and Egypt is not an ordinary chess country — it is a respected country in world chess and has several Grandmasters. The others he beat were were also top class players; Said Ahmed Ali Jidal Fadhil from Omar, Zhunussow Bibek from Kazakhstan, Caetano Hugo Mendonca from Brazil and Ibba Isacco from Italy.
He lost to Gunbayar Myagmarsuren from Mongolia, Galavito Miguel Angel from Colombia and Bigabylov Zhuban from Kazakhstan and Chiletso says in all the three games he led but somewhere inexperience played a part and they eventually cornered him.
Malawi is not known on the world chess map but after what Chiletso has done, we have earned some respect and the rest of the Malawian players should emulate him during this year’s Mdina Malawi Open Chess Championship scheduled to be played from June 14 to 18 in Blantyre organised by Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam), which attracts foreign players.
Previous tournaments were participated by Zambians but following much publicity on African chess website, Nigerian International Master (IM) Adu Oladapo got interested and asked to participate but he is demanding an appearance fee, which Chessam cannot afford.
He is asking a $500 appearance fee and also to take care of his accomodation and meals for his stay but since it was not budget for Chessam is only asking him to sponsor himself if he so wishes.
Ever since, 10 Zambians have participated in the Mdina Open but none have claimed appearance fees. In its 9th edition, the Mdina Malawi Open was launched in 2010 as a local tournament before turning international in 2016.
First local champion was Kajani Kaunda, Edgar Khan did it in 2011, Candidate Master (CM) Chiletso Chipanga in 2012, Fide Master Gerald Mphungu in 2013, Peter Jailosi in 2014 and (CM) Petros Mfune as the last Malawian in 2015.
When it turned international, Zambia CM Godwin Phiri won it and the feat was achieved by another Zambian, International Master Chitumbo Mwali the following year.
This time all eyes will be on Chiletso after his marvelous performance in Zambia and Italy.
If the Zambians, and now the Nigerian are interested in Malawi chess, we need other stakeholders to come in and offer more international tournaments where we can offer appearance fees for both local and foreign participants.
And we should also provide for our players to participate regular in internationals where they can also benefit from appearance fees.
Well done, Chiletso. Take them on at the Mdina Malawi Open.