Kiambu Open Breaks All Time Record With 361 Entries

This had to be historic!

A chess tournament in Kenya that attracts a total of 361 players is an all time record.  Welcome to the 2015 Kiambu Open which has been sponsored by Kiambu County and organised by Nairobi Chess Academy & Club.

Many commentators said that the event attracted such huge numbers because there was no entry fee.  I think that was probably true but the main reason was that this event was one where "Chess went to the people" rather than "People coming for chess events".

I missed day one as being papa means that one has to drive kids up and down for various activities.  I managed to go on day 2 and managed to get some nice photos of this blockbuster chess event.

Posters at the event.
Steve Ouma who is the CEO of Nairob Chess Academy & Club has been actively working to promote chess within the different counties which is great. 

Former Kenya Champion waits for the start of round 5
All the big boys were present - Peter Gilruth, Ben Magana, John Mukabi and all seeking the glory of the first prize of KShs 30,000. 2nd prize was KShs 20,000 & 3rd was KShs 10,000.  Notable absentee was Mehul Gohil, Githinji Hinga & Akello Atwoli.

The ladies had the same prize structure and attracted Ivy Amoko of Ugandan together with Purity Maina, & Rose Wabuti.

Rose Wabuti in action

Ms Purity Maina

Joseph Methu - Winner of the 2015 Kiambu Open.

View of the playing hall

View of the playing hall

View of the playing hall

Peter Gilruth (left) v John Mukabi
Extracts of the final results

For the full listing of the event visit -

Interesting observation is that another new player Arnold Oyagi is up there in 4th position.  I unfortunately do not know him so not sure if I have any photos of him.

I am very impressed by this event and hope that this will generate some new interest in this long neglected sport.  The sad news will be if one year later the only event in Kiambu is the same one sponsored by the County Govt.

I congratulate Kiambu County and Nairobi Chess Academy & Club for this ground breaking event.  For Joseph Methu that was a fine performance and hope to see you in the 2016 Olympiad Team.

I leave with a photo of CEO of Nairobi Chess Academy & Club Mr Steve Ouma.

Mehul Gohil (left) takes on CEO Steve Ouma

Chess Kenya Appoints Chief Executive Officer

1st March 2015 will go down as a big day in the history of Kenyan Chess.

This was the day when the chess fraternity appointed the first ever Chief Executive Officer.  The person is Satish Deshpande father to two rising stars in Kenyan Chess.  2014 Kenya Ladies National Champion Sanjana Deshpande and her brother Sumit Deshpande.

This was a bombshell that surprised all and sundry at the the SGM which was being held that that day at the Nyayo Stadium.  I unfortunately could not attend and hence could not give you all the full details that transpired.

Apparently the Chess Kenya Chairman Githinji Hinga had requested that there should be professional staff to run the affairs and jokingly suggested that if there was anyone who was willing to work as the CEO.  The laughter in the room died out when Satish put up his hand and volunteered to do the job!

Let us see what happens as I am sure that he will make a big difference in the short term.

This is our Chief Executive Officer in full action at the recently concluded 5th Capablanca Cup which was held during the weekend of 21st & 22nd February 2015 at the Braeburn School.

Satish Deshpande carefully records his name on his score sheet

Chess Highlights Of The 20th Century

Those who love chess and run a small business will understand this post.  Life is ever so busy with 2 kids, wife, running a small business which only means one thing - Less time for chess.

Having over 150 chess books only makes one feel horrible.  In one of my posts I will put up a photo of all the chess books that I have.  Some are kept in my house and others in my office.

I had ordered this book - Chess Highlights of the 20th Century by Graham Burgress many years ago and hardly ever read it.  Sometime ago decided that I needed to keep a chess board in my office so that I can study a bit.  The key word here is "bit" ie small bits of chess which take like 5 to 10 minutes.

I use one of the many wooden sets that I have and decided to check out the book that had laid in my shelf for so many years unloved and unread!  I have also not reviewed a book on my blog for a long time so thought that this might be a good start again.

My companion in my office.
Hard cover book
 I just love this book as it has games from 1901 all the way to 1999.  Most of the positions are middle game with another 10-20 moves to the end.  This enables us busy bodies to enjoy the game and learn something new everyday.
Sample pages
 Each page has some history for those who love to learn history - another of my favorite subjects incidentally.  I guess that is the topic for another day.
Sample pages

Some nice photos
 Some great photos accompany the book.
More photos

More games and bit of history

Index of games
 Overall rating for the book.  Go ahead and buy it without hesitation and enjoy it.

Note - Graham has not paid me to say nice things about his book!

Chess Kenya Embroilled In Scandal

You will recall my earlier post titled;

2014 Proud Kenya National Champions - Ms Sanjana Deshpande & Mehul Gohil pose with their trophies. Photo credit to  - S. Deshpande

Ms Sanjana receives her trophy while a beaming Chairman Githinji Hinga stands behind

It is now apparent that was only Part 1 and the Part 2 turned out to be much more juicier and exposed the terrible attitudes that some officials and players had.

The bombshell landed on 4th February 2015 when this email came in;

Reaction was swift on Facebook from irate chess players and some supporting the move.  The person who was affected by all this was Ms Sanjana Deshpande who won the event with a clear 6.5/8 points. My logic was simple and to the point.

1. Why allow non citizens but residents to play if you are not going to be fair?  Why waste their time in the first place.

2. Children under 18 years do not chose which country to live in and hence they should be allowed to play and win National events if they are residents.

3. Stopping non citizens from winning our events is detrimental to our chess and it chases away the very players that we need to support chess in this country.

4. My view was that this was a blatant racist move.

5. This point only came up when Kasparov Chess Foundation were going to sponsor a team from Kenya to attend the "40th Year TPLF Anniversary Chess Tournament".  If there was no trip then non of this nonsense would have come up.  

The Facebook Page - "Kenya Chess Central" was a beehive of activity as claims and counter claims were proposed by all and sundry.  Chess certainly was in the news but for the wrong reason.

In the end the xenophobic officials had their way.  Sanjana's father Satish Deshpande decided that enough is enough and went and banked the cash prize into the Chess Kenya bank account and returned the trophy.

The 2014 men's Champion - Mehul Gohil provoked a storm when he declared that he was renouncing his title as well in support.

My Fascination With Wooden Chess Sets

I think some chess players have a screw loose in the head.

Why would I have 18 wooden chess sets in my house?  It is absolutely crazy.   Here are some photos which you can enjoy.

I have another collection of plastic chess sets and that is a story for another time!
A collection of 18 chess sets? Why

My first wooden set that I purchased from my friend Aslam.

A close up view of the set from my from my friend Aslam
This set is from India and brought by my late Uncle.  It has a nice smell
The chess set shown below from France has a long story.  This set belonged to my French friend Pajot.  The set is beautiful and I love using it whenever I get chance.  The pieces are not weighted and there is no felt at the bottom.  The board is currently a roll up one but it originally had a hard base so that you could fold it.

This set got stolen from Pajot during the closing ceremony of one of our chess championships in the early 1990s.  In those days it was very usual for sets and clocks to be stolen at chess tournaments.  Pajot's contract ended and he left the country.  By the way he was a very strong player and I loved learning from him.

I happened to come and watch a chess tournament at the Kenya Poly a few months later and hey what do I see?  Pajot's chess sets in use but the hard cover for the board had been removed.    My friend Edwin who was the organiser of the event confiscated the set and gave it to me as he knew that Pajot and I were good friends.  So that is the story of how the set is in my  custody.  I have unfortunately lost all contact with Pajot.
Set from France with a long story

Set from France with a long story.  See the hard cover was removed

.Set from France with a long story. Close up of the Black pieces

Set from France with a long story. Close up of the White pieces
Another of my favorite set is the one form a French firm "Chavet".  The pieces are not felted and not weighted but it is still so beautiful to use.  I have seen that they do have felted and weighted sets.  I bought this from a friend in Kenya.
Set from Chavet

View of the Black pieces from Chavet
The set below is from TSL and I purchased it from a second hand dealer in Nairobi called Dominic who used to operate a small second sports shot in Uni-Afric House in Nairobi.  This set had a nice matt finish and was one that I used very often as the King is only 2.5 inches tall.
TSL set from Dominic

Weighted & felted wooden set.  Unfortunately a few pieces in this set is a bit chipped.

This set is from Aslam

The above set was refurbished by my self

This board is from my friend Aslam who got this set for attending the above Olympiad

Big felted and weighted set that I purchased from England when I visited in 1990.  The board is inlaid as well.  My Swiss friend Phillip Robyr always insisted on playing with this set whenever he came home.  I just cannot remember how much this set cost.

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