Virus sends Chess Kenya back to the drawing board

Wednesday May 13 2020
By VICTOR OTIENO            

Chess Kenya has been thrown into confusion following the postponement of the 2020 World Chess Olympiad due to coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the World Chess Federation announced the postponement the 44th edition of the Olympiad, which was due to be held in Russia from August 5 to 18, with a view of “protecting the well-being of the entire chess community.”

It rescheduled the biennial competition to the same time next year.

Chess Kenya is undecided on whether to hold new qualifier or to maintain the team of 10 players who had been selected.

The 10 had clinched tickets for the Olympiad in the qualifiers held last month at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Sports Club in Nairobi.

Normally, the team that represents Kenya in the Olympiad is selected from the national championships of the year preceding the global competition.

The top 24 players in national championships in both men’s and women’s categories battle for tickets in two stages, with the top five in every category qualifying for the biennial event.


“The postponement means we have to go back to the drawing board. We will sit as a national executive and decide on which way forward,” said Chess Kenya chairman Benard Wanjala.

He noted the need to get players who are on form, as the main reason why Chess Kenya uses the national championship to select the national team for the prestigious competition.

The men’s players who had booked tickets to the 44th Olympiad are KCB Chess Club’s Ben Magana, Ben Nguku, Joseph Maragu, Jackson Kamau and Ricky Sang.

Their female counterparts are Woman Fide Master Sasha Mongeli, Woman Candidate Masters (CM) Joyce Nyaruai and Lucy Wanjiru, Nakuru Chess Club’s Julie Mutisya and Glenda Matelda of Equity Chess Club.

Magana who is also a CM, was due to feature in his seventh Olympiad, while Mongeli, Nyaruai, Wanjiru were due to make a return, having competed in the 2018 event held in Baitumi Georgia.

Should Chess Kenya decide to hold new selection exercise of the team to represent country in the Olympiad, reigning men’s champion Mehul Gohil will have an opportunity to make amends after failing to qualify for the competition.

Gohil finished a disappointing seventh in the March qualifiers.

As Chess Kenya awaits to make a decision on the matter on a date yet to be agreed on, Wanjala has asked the players not to lose focus.

“They (players) should take advantage of extended time and continue training to better themselves, because as a country, we want to improve on our performance,” he said.