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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.

University of Nairobi Library

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 archive of 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 and 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.

Nation Newspapers

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 Chess 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.

Nairobi Chess Club played Uganda in 1975 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.

Saif Kanani (Silver medalist at the 1984 Olympiad) in 1977 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 and will be going back again to see what more I can dig up.  Later 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.