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Moves Beyond the Chess Board

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Moves Beyond the Chess Board

An article by Samuel Mugambi

The brisk wind cut through the air at the Shipton Camp, where the majestic snow-covered mountain stood as a silent witness to a historic event – the first documented chess game between two determined 11-year-old boys, Jeshurun Oluchiri and Christian Mwamba. Both hailed from the Sportsview Talent Academy, but their journey to this remote location was not merely for the love of the game.

Jeshurun Oluchiri (left) and Christian Mwamba get set for their game.
Jeshurun Oluchiri (left) and Christian Mwamba get set for their game.

Jeshurun contemplated his opening move as they sat across the makeshift chessboard overlooking the breathtaking landscape. With a sense of purpose, he reached for his pawn and made the move d4.  Christian, a fellow enthusiast, responded promptly with nf6. The chess pieces danced across the board, but their moves were driven by a cause far more significant than a simple game.

The two boys had hiked for hours, navigating the unforgiving terrain with determination etched on their faces.  The journey was not just about showcasing their chess skills; it was a symbolic act to create awareness about mental health issues and solidarity with those silently battling their struggles.

The chess pieces mirrored the resilience and strategy required in the real-life struggles faced by individuals dealing with mental health challenges.  The cold mountain air amplifies their mission’s significance, making each chessboard move more poignant.

As the chess game unfolded, the spectators, a mix of camp staff and fellow hikers, were drawn to the story behind the moves.  Each strategic decision on the board mirrored the strength required to navigate the complexities of mental health issues. The boys’ commitment to their cause was evident in the intensity of their focus, even amidst the distracting beauty of the snow-covered landscape.

Originally planned as a friendly competition, the game became a powerful symbol of solidarity and awareness.  Jeshurun and Christian’s journey, both on the chessboard and through the challenging terrain, inspired those around them to engage in open conversations about mental health.

 The Sportsview Talent Academy has led the campaign to create awareness and solidarity with those silently suffering. The chess game at Shipton camp was just a tiny part of a more significant effort to spark conversations about mental health.

The campaign’s climax is a grand chess tournament scheduled for the 10th to 11th February 2024.  The tournament, with a substantial prize of KES 300,000, aims to attract participants from all corners of the East African region.  Beyond the lure of the prize money, the tournament will create a platform for discussions, fostering a sense of community and support.

Ultimately, the chess game concluded with a handshake and a shared understanding that the true victory was not in the checkmate on the board but in the shared commitment to break the silence surrounding mental health.  As the sun set behind the snow-capped peaks, the boys, with exhaustion and satisfaction etched on their faces, knew that their journey had made a difference beyond the chessboard – a difference in the hearts and minds of those quietly grappling with mental health issues.

Sportview Talent Academy

The Sportsview Talent Academy was initially set up with inline skating as the main activity during the Covid pandemic in 2020.  The academy has now taken up chess as it’s main activity and they meet every Saturday morning at the Sportsview Hotel within Kasarani, Nairobi.

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Fred Sagwe and his epic chess trek.

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