Chess players in Kenya are looking forward to some exciting chess when the Kenya Open starts on Easter Friday. This historic and iconic event has been proudly sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa to the tune of USD 1,200.
This event has attracted a strong field of players and include Peter Gilruth who is rated 2164. Other top contenders for this event include former Chess Kenya Chairman Githinji Hinga (2069) & Mehul Gohil (2065).
The top prize is a mouth watering KES 30,000 (USD 300) out of the total prize fund of slightly over KES 100,000. In the Ladies section the top prize is KES 15,000.
The tournament has come up with an interesting idea and that is to award a prize of KES 2,000 for the best player in each of the following categories; Under Elo 2000, Elo 1800, Elo 1600. I think this is a novel idea to encourage other upcoming players.
Easter time in Nairobi has traditionally been set aside for the Kenya Open with crowds of between 100 to 250 players. The sad thing about this year’s Kenya Open is that none of our Ugandan brothers are participating as they have the Kawuma Open which is set for the same weekend in Kampala.
The history of the Kenya Open started in 1979 when a young 14 year old student from the French School Richard Polaczek won the event with an impressive 7.5/8. The prize fund for this event was KES 10,000 with young Richard taking home KES 2,900.
The list of past winners;
Kenya’s oldest chess club Nairobi Chess Nairobi Chess Club ran the event for the first 12 years and which were sponsored by the defunct Pan African Paper Mills, Webuye. The event was then taken over by Kenya Chess Association and has over the years remained one of the biggest events in the Kenyan calendar.
This years event has however attracted some unwelcome attention which has caused a bit of confusion.
There was an SGM for Chess Kenya last Sunday 20th March 2016 where the incumbents lost a vote of no confidence and were replaced by an interim set of officials led by Interim Chairman Benard Wanjala of Equity Chess Team. The new team has a mandate of only 6 months before new elections are held under the newly implemented Sports Act.
The new office supported this event and did not want to disrupt the advanced preparations that had been done by the incumbents. That was a positive move and many players were delighted that politics would not disrupt this highly anticipated event.
The former officials have however continued to use social media to claim that there has been no change in the office bearers! This is a staggering claim and beyond belief. The vote against the incumbents was like 42-3 and it makes no sense whatsoever for the former officials to continue claiming that they are in office.
It has now been confirmed that the event will now be held at KCB Club instead of Stima Club. Fortunately both venues are located next to each other.
We will of course bring you more news on how the event progresses.