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Crystal ball into Kenyan Chess


#chessmashinani is the latest hashtag in Kenyan chess!  “Chess Mashinani” loosely translated to mean “chess at the grassroots”.  There has been an explosion of chess at different levels and regions of the country over the past few months.

There have been various organisers who are moving heaven and earth to take chess where it has never been seen before.  There are three particular cases that come to my mind.  The first is Shem Vilembwa of St Patrick’s, Iten, the other is Erik Oyugi of Sports Outreach Programme Kenya and the third is Watson Weru of Nyeri.

Shem Vilembwa was covered in a story on this website St Patrick’s, Iten.  We also did a story on Erik Oyugi on Sports Outreach and chess.  We have not covered Watson Weru but hope to do so in the near future.

Do we have a crystal ball to see what the future holds for Kenyan chess due to #chessmashinani?  I cannot tell but one thing is sure.  The work done by these 3 gentlemen will shape the future of Kenyan chess in the years to come.

What is now key is to get corporate sponsors to come onboard with our own vision of chess.  This could take various shapes and sizes.  One idea that I have in mind is to have a chess tournament with 1 million players!  Is that impossible?  Not really and I reckon that we could be able to have a tournament of 100,000 students within 3 years and reach the 1 million mark within 5 to 10 years.

The first prize for such an event could be to take part in the World Youth Chess Champion in the various age categories and a fully paid up scholarship for the next 5 years.

All we now need is a corporate titan to take notice of this project that is just waiting to take off and formulate a detailed action plan.  What would it cost?  Say KES 10 million (USD 100,000) for each year?  This event would capture the imagination of the Kenyan public and thrust chess into our daily life routine.

The CEO of Equity Bank Mr James Mwangi came up with his
“Wings to Fly” Scholarship Program where scholarships are provided for about 50-100 students to study abroad every year.  This just shows that a chess program for a million school kids is not an impossible dream for a number of Kenyan companies.

“Chess Mashinani” will draw a lot of support from the 5,000 chess sets that have been donated by Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa (Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa).  Bulk of these sets have been in storage in the past year or so and plans are at an advanced stage to release them to the 47 different counties.

We now present a short report done by Erik Oyugi of Sports Outreach Programme Kenya (Sports Outreach) on a historic visit.

We were humbled to receive GM Georg Mohr and his wife from Slovenia. We visited some schools where we run chess programs with kids.

IGM Georg Mohr (left) at the offices of Sports Outreach.

It was great fun trudging through the Mukuru mud till we came to High View Classic Academy. The GM had good time interacting with the kids and teachers as well.

Hill View Classic Academy

Then we proceeded to Ark of Peace Community School. Here the GM encouraged the chess learners as his wife was busy serving lunch to the groups of kids from various schools.

Walking along the “a” file.


“a4” to “c3” and then mate!

The kids enjoyed playing and being taught and encouraged by the GM. None of those kids had met a GM before! Now most of them want to become GMs in the future!

Erik Oyugi looks at how IGM Georg Mohr explains the moves.

It was a big day for us; in fact we felt blessed interacting with kids and teachers. Thanks to all those who participated to make us realise this great stride towards ‪#‎RESTORINGHOPE‬ and ‪#‎TRANSFORMINGLIVES‬

Enthusiastic kids watch the moves
Mini tournament!
Posing for a group photo.

Sports Outreach Programme KENYA is an NGO which uses sports as a tool to transform lives. We also have burden lifting programs such as Feeding, Public Health(HIV positive women) and EmpowerME Sponsorship Programs. Chess is one of the program which is picking up in Mukuru slums and its goal is to use it in mentoring kids in Mukuru and beyond. Much of the support we get comes from our donors in Sports Outreach Institute(SOI) in USA. See also www.sportsoutreach.net