The Kenya National Youth Chess Championship Rift Valley edition was held on 5th and 6th March 2016 at St Patrick’s School, Iten.
There were 150 boys and 80 girls from Loreto Convent Girls, Sing’ore Girls, St. Patrick’s Iten Boys, & Sacred Heart of Jesus Iten Academy.
The Loreto Girls who started chess from basics during the last two days of January 2016 surprised many by clinching some top overall positions.
The Principal of St. Patrick’s Iten, Mr Yego Wilson was applauded for his immense support to chess development in the Rift Valley.
Mr. Shem Vilembwa, Club Patron at the Pawns to Kings Chess Club at St. Patrick’s Iten was happy that despite numerous challenges and shortcomings, the tournament was a resounding success.
I must admit that I was very upset when I went through the list of participants and realised that boys from St Patrick’s Iten represented almost 90% of the male participants. I investigated a bit more and realised that chess is not taken up seriously in many of the upcountry schools. There were various attempts to pull in more schools to take part in this event which is the first stage to select the Kenya National Youth Team to take part in various events around the world. These events include the 2016 Africa Youth Chess Championship slated for Port Elizabeth, South Africa from 21st to 29th August 2016 and the World Youth Chess Championship slated for Khanty Mansiysk, Russia from 20th September to 4th October 2016.
I guess no story on St Patrick’s Iten can ever be complete without mentioning why it is a world famous school. Some of Kenya’s best runners have come from this school. These include Matthew Birir (1992 Olympic Gold 3000 m steeplechase), Wilson Boit Kipketer (2000 Olympic Gold 3000 m steeplechase), Peter Rono (1998 Olympic Gold 1500 m) and David Rudisha (2012 Gold 800 m) and many other famous runners who all attended this Catholic School which is set in the small town of Iten.
Will the magic that St Patrick’s Iten used in athletic help Kenya become a strong nation in African chess with the ability to compete with countries like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria? Will Kenya’s first IM or GM come from this school? I do not know the answer but one this is sure that St Patrick’s Iten will soon have some of Kenya’s finest chess players. You have been warned!
Credit for all the photos in this story – Mr Shem Vilembwa).