Text: Cynthia Wambui
Photos: Kim Bhari
The recently concluded Kenya Inter-Universities Chess Championships, courtesy of KUSA, were a raving success – great media coverage, awesome turnouts, amazing weather…just to mention a few. Having gotten an opportunity to represent my institution at the event, excitement coupled with high expectations was obvious. It was nonetheless short-lived, as it soon dawned on me that little or none of those expectations would come to pass.
Immediately after the opening ceremony at Stima Members Club, chess games began. Each institution was required to have a maximum of 8 players: 4 men and 4 ladies. Due to unavoidable circumstances it was only men who used clocks. Their recorded moves were then handed over to the invigilator, on completion of a game. Paul Maloba and Ben Magana were the overall supervisors for the chess tournament.
Fine, it was a championship we all know that. In fact ,the aura was of competition and it somewhat suggested…. ‘We came to whoop the other teams, get the trophy or whatever reward there is and go home.’ It seemed like all there was to the game was just the competing aspect of it. Though players did not say exactly that, looking at them play, said it all.
Players are, more often than not, indignant at the pervasive opinions that chess is unpopular in Kenya. The championships were a perfect epitome of the popularity of chess even in institutions of higher learning. Having been in existence since the 6th century AD, the game can be credited as having stood the test of time. However, if we continually make this admirable sport entirely about competing, it will just be a matter of time, till the former becomes a reality.
Chess is more than the trophies; its more than the medals, it’s more than the lights and cameras, or whatever other kind of fame there is out there.
Our interests should go beyond beating our opponents. Chess ought to be about: learning from other players; being willing to share anything that will help others improve their game; generating new ideas on how to encourage, motivate and sustain upcoming players; making new acquaintances at platforms such as tournaments; enlightening each other on how to obtain the oh-so-lucrative titles and ultimately for players uniting to see chess grow in Kenya and the around the world at large.
An ideal scenario would probably involve analysing the strengths and flaws of your opponent and vice versa after a game; sharing the doubtful and good moves that were made during the game. Give suggestions on how best to defend certain attacks…etc. Captains can also converge and discuss ways of increasing awareness of chess in their institutions, among other issues. So much can be done at such platforms.
Within the first two days, chess was among the few games to draw on. The remaining two days would have been a superb opportunity for the players to network. However, during these last free days only few teams came round.
Sharing knowledge with others is not necessarily the sole panacea to the challenges facing this game. It is a solution nonetheless that would help us all improve our skills. At the end of the day, beneath the veneer of competition, lies the fact that we are very much behind schedule in making progress. Choosing to become reticent was not a direction I was thus willing to take.
Players really need to pull up their socks and as Auctoritates Aristotelis simply put, ”We were made to help each other. If you have something to teach us, do it. If not, listen to what we are teaching”.
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