The game of chess is coming back home to Zanzibar, the Indian Ocean islands, after a lull of 26 year since the last tournament was held in 1991.
According to Interim Chairman of Zanzibar Chess Association Ally Saleh, the beautiful mind game is being revived with the holding of Zanzibar Open Chess Tournament (ZOCT) slated for 14th – 15th January 2017 and will be held at the Zanzibar Disabled Association premises.
Saleh, who organised the 1991 tournament when he was then the Secretary General of Zanzibar Chess Association and also Secretary General of Tanzania Chess Federation, said ZOCT will now be an annual event.
“We held four successive open tournaments at that time and we feel proud to bring it back to Zanzibar and we want it to be part of the annual events held in Eastern Africa” said Saleh.
This year’s tournament will be a six rounds Swiss with a time control of 75 minutes plus 10 seconds.
The tournament will have a modest cash prize of Tanzania Shillings TZH 150,000 (USD 70), TZH 100,000 (USD 50) and TZH 50,000 (USD 25) for first, second and third place respectively. Saleh promised a bigger prize fund next year.
ZOCT in the past has attracted players from Zambia, Tanzania Mainland, Uganda and Kenya. William Juma Arogo , who was then Kenyan champion won that last tournament in 1991. Salim Abdulrahman and Eberhard Krain a German playing for Zanzibar were second and third respectively.
Saleh said this year tournament was hastily arranged and might have rough edges to polish, but he believes it would attract over 30 players from Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland.
“There is still time for Kenyan players to drop in and we would love to have them” Saleh said.
“From Dar es Salaam we expect two players recognised by World Chess Federation (FIDE) in the name of Nurdin Hassuji and Godlove Kimaro who have solid FIDE ratings. They will help to lift the standard of the tournament,” explained Saleh.
Zanzibar is fielding mostly junior players after efforts to embark on fresh coaching program was launched two months ago.” We are starting from the scratch as we want to build from a strong foundation” Saleh said.
He added that Zanzibar Chess Association is targeting to reach out to introduce the game to 300 junior players in the next one year so as to create the love of the game and build a solid base for the future.
“ It might seem to be very ambitious but is possible because we have very conducive infra structure that we are going to take full advantage of,” said Saleh who formerly was a reporter now Member of Tanzania Parliament for Malindi Constituency in Zanzibar.
He said he has a dream to make Zanzibar the hub of chess in East Africa, and he plans to go all the way to achieve this because Zanzibar is also favoured by geography and proximity.
Past winners include the following;
1990 – Eberhard Krain.
1991 – William Juma Arogo.