My fascination with wooden chess sets - part 1

I have from the beginning loved wooden chess pieces.  There has just been a nice feeling to play with a wooden chess set rather than the boring tournament chess sets that you find at all events.

Now I have to count how many wooden sets I have....................12 wooden sets. Why have so many?  I agree it is madness but what do you do.  Which one do I use the most? Well today I will introduce you to my family.

This set was bought many years ago from a second hand shop which was in Uniafric House on Koinange Street, Nairobi.  The shop was run by a nice friendly Goan chap (cannot remember his name - perhaps Dominic?). He used to sell second hand sports stuff.

This set is cute because it is small and very nice to use to analyse.  The King is about 2 inches high. The only problem that I have with this set is that the black pieces have their blackness fading.  It has no felt.

TSL used to also make the set with the 3 inch King but I have not seen any in Kenya for a long long time.

The 2012 Kenya National Chess Championship (we hope!!)

The 2012 Kenya National Chess Championship (we hope!!)

This is the email that I got yesterday.

Dear Chessers,

The Chess Kenya Executive Committee decided on the following;
1)That the Olympiad first phase elimination tournament be held on the easter holiday
2)That the tournament will be FIDE rated and will be used as the National Chess Championship 2012.
3) Approved the Olympiad committee, constituting three Chess Kenya officials and two chess kenya members as follows;
Mary Kanyua- tournament coordinator and chess kenya official. Contacts 0723341866
Fred Orawo- tournament co-coordinator and chess kenya official. Contacts 0722735097
Fransic Ngesa- chess kenya vice chairman
Benson Gicharu- chess kenya member, alunmi daystar university chess captain, co-organiser 2009 Kenya Open.
Wanjala- chess kenya member and alumni, Kenyatta university chess captain.
Attached are the tournament rules and regulations developed by the Olympiad Committee. Kindly sign and forward via soft or hard copy by the deadlines indicated in the entry form.
A map to the tournament venue will be sent later
kind regards,
Mary Kanyua,
Tournament Coordinator,
Chess Kenya, Committee Member,

Entry Fees: CK members; Ksh 900. CK Non-members: Kshs 1600
Cash Prizes and trophies will be issued for the first three positions in both open and ladies
1. The tournament will be run on Swiss system of pairing: 8 rounds: 2 rounds per day.
2. Play will start at 9.30 am on Friday 6thth. 90 minutes per player to finish, 0 minutes walkover.
3. Bucholz will be used to apply in all phases for qualifiers.
4. For the open category, the half of the players will take part in the 2nd phase elimination. Ten
players will proceed to the final phase elimination tournament. Wild card application will not
be allowed.
5. The ladies category, the Grand-pri system will be applied in all the elimination phases, thus
shortlisting to the next phase will not apply. The 5 players with the highest points
accumulated will make ladies team for Olympiad

Well well - You remember the fiasco for the 2011 Kenya National Championship. The event got postponed.  The event is being held at Sandton Palace - 

The hotel is in the middle of the city and is a nice hotel.  Personally - I do not like it as I find it claustrophobic.  You will be able to get parking on the Easter weekend but I do not like the location.  Will I attend the event.  Not so sure.  I guess as one get older one becomes more fussy about venue, location etc.  Talking about location reminds me of the past.

I still remember when the Bigwig of Kenya Chess Association was Clement Miheso we used to have a number of events at Aga Khan Academy, Limuru Road, Nairobi in the library. Yes in the library. It was amazing and so cool as one could read as well.   Another interesting point was that in those days the organisers would provide lunch. Lunch did not consist of 3 course meal. It was a 2 course meal (Kenyan style).  

You got half a loaf of bread and a soft drink. Can you imagine all that sugar in your blood after 20 minutes!!  Well those were the good old days........

I will keep you posted on what is happening for this event.

Ambasi Open International Chess Tournament

Ambasi Open International Chess Tournament

I received a poster for the above event earlier this month.  This event is being sponsored by Andolo Ambasi the current Supremo of Chess Kenya.  A friend of mine from the past and who has played a couple of games at my house over a few Tuskers in the early 1990s with my other chess buddies........that story is for another time.

I was impressed by it especially when you consider the following;

A guaranteed first prize of Ksh 30,000/= (almost USD 350) in the open category and Kshs 30,000/= in the Ladies Category will be awarded. Prizes for the runners up and any supposedly increase in first prize will be announced later.

DATE: MARCH 14th – 18th, 2012

This event was going to be a rated event as well.

Venue :The venue is Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret.

The last time we had a top prize of KShs 30,000 for any chess event in Kenya was years ago.  The other big point was that this event was slated for Eldoret which is fantastic as almost all events in the past 10 years have been in Nairobi and a couple in Mombasa.

Would I go for it. Not really due to work pressure.

This event in any other country would have been highly welcome but no! This is Kenya.  There has been a vicious backlash and even I must admit that I was surprised from some of the comments in cyber-space...

One must bear in mind the current context of chess in Kenya.

The National Championship has not been held for over 4 years, the National League was meant to commence in August 2011 but has not yet started, the team for the All Africa Games was almost sabotaged at the last stages by certain individuals, the Chess Kenya elections are due in April 2012 now when you read the comments you will understand why there is so much anger...

"I've been thinking: we've not had a rated tournament for nearly a decade or longer, the sitting federation chairman and his team organize one and the first thing he thinks of is to name it after
himself. I thought we were done with Moi era" - C.Y

So the National championships has been shelved in favour of Ambasi Championships, or what is going on?. WW

Ambasi has done jack for 4 years and now in an election stunt he does this event. As a matter of principle I will boycott this event. - MG

Someone should tell Ambasi where to stuff his rated tournament - I would rather remain an unrated patzer! C.Y

 We are not that cheap ! GM

My overall comment is the event should still go ahead. Noise makers will always be there but I would have prefer if the funds that Ambasi is investing (I consider it an investment as it is an election year) should have gone for the 2012 Kenya National Chess Championship.  Having that event rated would have been a bonus.

I will keep you my readers updated as the drama unfolds!
Chess in Kenya from 1960s

Chess in Kenya from 1960s

Gosh how time flies.  It is almost 5 weeks since I last posted something. So much has happened in this time. We have had the Kenya Universities Sports Association (KUSA) chess event,  the much awaited 2011 Kenya National Championship was postponed, the 2012 International Open Ambasi Chess event was announced.

For those who are wondering what is Ambasi - Well Andolo Ambasi is the current Bigwig of Chess Kenya.

I will cover the above stories in different posts over the next few days but back to the today's story.

After Christmas I had dropped my mum in Hurlingham and decided that I must pass the University of Nairobi library (apparently this is the biggest in Africa this side of the Limpopo River). I was a student there many decades ago and remembered that they had a huge archiveof all the old newspapers from 1950s.  What treasure would I find there today.  Remember Nairobi after Christmas is idyllic.  Hardly any traffic, parking is easy it is bliss.

Trying to get in the Library was a pain as some honcho decided that I needed to apply to use the library.  He reluctantly agreed to let me go in the Archive section under condition that I did not open any paper. What a moron.

The staff were very pleasant in the Archive section and gladly let me check whatever I wanted.  I realised later that they assumed that I had my library pass.  What a treasure trove for chess stories. I was so excited to find old articles written by long time chess writer Rashid Mughal who now resides in Canada.

I then realised that this was crazy.  How was I going to get photocopies as each binder had like 50 dailies bound together and  it was going to be a nightmare.  The staff who thought I must be crazy to be looking for old stories on chess told me to try the Nation Newspaper head-office.

On 29th December 2011 I landed at the Nation Newspapers offices on Kimathi Street just like a little boy excited to the bone on this journey.  Gosh what did I find...............

Nation Newspaper have archived all the newspapers from 1960 in Adobe. You just do a search, the page comes up, find the article and print. Simple. You get a print in A3 size and it costs KShs 30.  Was one day enough. Not really. I had to go back again the next day as they only open from 12pm.......In the end after KShs 5,000 less and almost 180 pages I was a happy kid once again.

I have photos of the late Mr Le'Pelly (former Chairman of Nairobi Chess Club) taking on Mr N.J Rayal during the Asian Sports Association Chess Event in August 1961!!.  Yes remember 1961 was before Independence and sports was highly segregated.

In 1963 Zahiruddin Farooqui the Karachi Champion played a simultaneous against 25 players at the Sir Ali Muslim Club.

We had the manager of Air Madagascar Andre Cohen playing a simultaneous in April 1972.

In 1975 Nairobi Chess Club played Uganda at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi.  I can remember this vaguely as a young lad being dropped by my dad to go and see this event.  I remember Peter Le'Pelley had a set with red pieces. That image is stuck in my mind. Was I dreaming - no I do not think so.

In 1977 Saif Kanani (Silver medalist at the 1984 Olympiad) played Percy Barreto in a blindfold match!!

Chess was vibrant in those days and it felt good to go back in time and feel the joys of the past.

What will I do with these 180 A5 newspaper cuttings?  I have no idea.  I first may cut out the article and stick them on A4 page first and then see what to do.

I have not finished with Nation Newspapers. I am going back again to see what more I can dig up.  I will also call the Standard Newspapers and see what I can find there.  I will try and put up some of the stories here as well for my readers.

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