For Malawi chess players to emulate the achievements of Chiletso Chipanga, the African Amateurs champion, they need a lot of local and international exposure, the local champion said on his arrival from Cagliari, Italy for the World Ameturs where he 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.
“We need a lot of exposure starting at local level which will be giving us the strong confidence ahead of any international tournament,” Chipanga said at a reception organised by Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) in collaboration with Malawi National Council of Sports soon after he jetted in at Chileka Airport.
A sizeable welcoming party of Chessam officials and Kalibu Academy student chess players were at the airport to offer him solidarity and gratitude over his achievement in Italy and from their he was driven on a convoy cutting across Blantyre Central Business District up to Mandala where the reception was held at Club 15.
He said after his achievement in Livingstone, Zambia where he brirtzed through by winning eight out of eight rounds to crowned African Amatuers champion, he was very confident ahead of Cagliari but he wished he had practised against very strong opponents before taking on the top seeds at the World Amateurs.
There he managed to beat the evential champion, Preet in round six and the others he beat were Said Ahmed Ali Jidal Fadhil from Omar, Zhunussow Bibek from Kazakhstan, Caetano Hugo Mendonca from Brazil, Ehab Mohamed of Egypt and Ibba Isacco from Italy.
He lost to Gunbayar Myagmarsuren from Mongolia, Galavito Miguel Angel from Colombia and Bigabylov Zhuban from Kazakhstan.
“I still punch myself in for losing to these three because at some point I was leading in each of the games but somewhere inexperience played a part and they eventually cornered me.
“After winning the first three, that’s when I atrracted some attention because they couldn’t believe a player from an unknown African country in terms of chess can stand up to and beat the top ranked players.
“Then I lost to a Fide Master [Myagmarsuren from Mongolia] in 4th round but I went on to win in the 5th. Attention turned on me when I faced Preet who was considered a favourite and when I beat him, most people rallied behind me to win the championship.
“But like I say, inexperience played a part and I lost to a [FM] Mongolian [Miguel Angel from Colombia] and someone from Kazakhstan [Bigabylov Zhuban] in the 9th.
“I have gained so much experience from these two championships and given more such oportunities together other Malawian players, we can put Malawi on the chess map all time. Trust me, we have some excellent players who can also do better than me,” Chipanga said.
Akim Chihana was amongst the welcoming party and he concurred with Chipanga, saying his achievements both in Zambia and Italy speaks volume that given the oportunities to participate more at such high profile tournaments, Malawian players can shine.
“He has done us proud and I am so proud of him,” he said. “I plead with all stakeholders to support this sport by sponsoring more tournaments that can produce more players of Chipanha’s calibre.
Chessam executive member Susan Musa Namangale, who sponsored part of the welcoming ceremony, said given the resources, they are willing to internationally expose more players.
“We want more players to make us proud just like Chiletso has done but lack of resources hinder our ambitions.
“However, we are thrilled that Chiletso took on those top seeds in Italy head on and came back with something to boast about,” Namangale said.
At the World Amatuers, Gunbayar Myagmarsuren from Mongolia came third, 4th was Bigabylov Zhuban from Kazakhstan while Locci Damiano from Italy took 5th. All three tied on 6.5 points.
The Candidate Master’s international rating is at 2126 after his performance rating of 2266 with a Fide rating of 33.6.
This is the second time for a Malawi chess player to participate at the World Amateurs — the first being Fide Master Gerald Mphungu in 2014 in Singapore where he ended on position 14.
This is not the first time that the 2006 and 2007 Malawi Junior Champion has represented the country. He has has the record of qualifying for World Chess Olympiad the most number of times — in 2008 (Germany), 2010 (Russia), 2012 (Turkey), 2014 (Norway), 2016 (Azerbaijan) and 2018 (Georgia).
At junior level he has been to Africa Juniors in Angola in 2008 and in Botswana in 2006.
This makes him Malawi’s most capped player and he is Malawi’s Olympiad all time leading scorer and earned the title of Candidate Master 2008 in Germany.
He is the 2018 and 2014 Malawi Champion and has been its runner-up in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Other titles include being Mdina Champion in 2012, Muleso Mphande Open Champion 2015, Paul-Mike Champion (2013 and 2015).