As we approach the chess Kenya AGM, john mukabi has gone down memory lane to bring us up to date with some history of Kenyan chess. Enjoy this wonderful reading from the beast.
John Mukabi with Nigel short.
By John 'the beast' mukabi
The association (formerly Kenya Chess Association) was formed some 31 years ago this month in September 1976. I was in primary school then!?
1976-197?: An Asian descent man whom little is known ran it til late '70s. It is reported the association was too new to go to the Olympiad that year in Argentina.
1979?-1989: Madan Gopal Sharma a famous lawyer. I arrived in the scene around 1982 to find an aura of secrecy regarding who other officials were. It was like a "state secret". Clement Miheso and Alslam Adam (now in England) were visible "officials" in tournaments.
Olympiad teams were handpicked from tournament results used to get airtickets easily & mysteriously through MG as he was known via FIDE and Kenya National Sports Council. It is said he was their lawyer.
At the time Aluta Chess Club ( from French aluta continua or "the struggle continues") came about to counter Nairobi Chess Club which was mainly Asians and Whites.
Largest tournement was Pan Paper Open (now Kenya Open) brought by Nairobi Chess Club (1979-1992). Aluta brought in ART (African Retail Traders) Open 1984 to early '90s.
The chess league was nationwide in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri and Webuye mainly 1986-1990. Had about 15 teams mostly financial institions. So vibrant was chess that toournaments had upto 120 players.
International Master Lodewijk Prins (Holland), a Hungarian IM and GM Jaime Sunya Neto visted Kenya for simuls between 1986 and 1989. Also former Junior British Champ Allan Baker came finishing 2nd behing Uganda's Emmanuel Kabuye.
Juniors Peter Kihara and William Juma Arogo represented Kenya in Lagos, Nigeria, with Juma coming second!
1989-1992: Clement Miheso came in with the Esso School Championships which were in Nakuru, Mombasa and Nairobi. An annual event til 1993. As a result FIDE awarded Nairobi the African Junior Championship in 1992 and 1993. Aderito Pedro of Angola won the 1993 edition.
Also in the event among Kenyans were Matthew Kanegeni and Evanson Mwangi.
1990 saw Kenya play in first FIDE rated in Kampala where Lawrence Kagambi (present CK Secretary played). I got ELO 2215. William Juma again went for the junior event in Harare, Zimbabwe, same year.
Miheso began to get corrupt so much that he gave bouncing cheques to winners of Panpaper. Players camped at the sponsors' office. Panpaper withdrew for good!
It so happened by then that Miheso controlled bank accounts of KCA, Aluta and Nairobi CC and reported to have have bought a car from one of the two FIDE events.He was kicked out by a landslide in 1993 elections.
1993-1996: The late Tom Sagwe who was MD at ART and among founding fathers of Aluta took over. He was largely absent concentrating on politics leaving all the spadework to his vice Francis Caetano Rodriguez.
Kenya held and international 1993 Africa Juniors under new office and alongside it staged an International Open which was 1-2-3 won by Angolans among them IM Nascimento.
I was sent to the Africa Individual Mens' Championship by KCA in Cairo, Egypt. KNSC supplied the airticket. The Panpaper changed its name to Kenya Open. The 1993 edition at Braeburn School had highest number of entries in East and Central Africa at 250!
By this time, the Kenyan economy was limping while the Goldenberg affair (unknown to the public at the time) quietly went on. Sponsors were hard to come by. This saw Kenya miss out for the first time from the world chess Olympiads - 1992, 1994 and 1996.
This culminated in the 1994 Kenya Open fail to take place for the first time since 1979. However, great cal-IBM Kenya Open of 1995 at The Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi attracted about 150 players from Uganda and South Africa (Lyndon Bouah) among others.
I recall Daniels Lauritsen taking part and he placed 2nd or 3rd. In 1996 the Kenya Open at Nairobi Gymkhana was won by South African IM Watu Kobese followed by compatriot FM Shabbir Bhawoodien.
1996-1999: FCA Rodriguez was elected the new KCA chairman. Sponsorship was still a problem but after a lot of struggles, Kenya hosted the 1997 Africa Junior Championship won by 16-year-old Amon Simutowe of Zambia.
The office experienced a number of scams involving the selling of chess sets, literature and clocks donated by FIDE and the German government. Also, the Indian Ocean Olympiad scam where some officials and their spouses went to represent Kenya in Reunion or Mauritius!
Meanwhile, Kenya was being represented in the Africa Individual Mens 1996/1997 by Humphrey Andolo, the late Alexander Makatia, Joseph Kanyingi, Ben Magana and Kenneth Omolo.
In bid to make amends, the office managed to send a team to the Olympiad in 1998 in Elista, Kalmykia, Russia. This was not enough to save them from wrath of players who voted them out in 1999.
1999-2003: In came Lincoln Njenga elected at AGM after postponement due to membership crisis AGAIN! He started off very strongly only to fade off as usual like his predecessors.
First was to set Kenya Anti Corruption Authority (KACA) on the FCA Rodriguez and company on all assets with documentary evidence. FCA "submerged", even appearing to change residence and recovery was in vain.
It further emerged that previous office maintained oddly two bank accounts at Biashara Bank - one where the treasurer was a signatory and other where he was not even aware! Approximately KShs 90,000/= was withdrawn days before the AGM which threw them out.
Anyway, Njenga's watch saw the highest prize monies in KCA's history. Started with the great Eldoret Open in 2000 organised in conjunction with Eldoret Chess Club. Top prize KShs. 40,000/= (was meant to be KShs 100,000/= but some sponsors did not honour pledge).
Then came the much talked about Tusker Malt Open by Kenya Breweries the same year in September at The Stanley. Top prize was KShs. 40,000/= though overall sponsorship was KShs 800,000/=.
It was awarded best organised tournament by FIDE with aggressive marketing in the print and electronic media, banners on main streets, etc. Opening ceremony featured dancers on a giant chessboard like many Olympiads. Challengers section was introduced to Kenyan chess.
The Istanbul (Turkey) Olympiad of 2000 was partly sponsored by Kenya Breweries and for the first time in years no players were asked chip in for their airtickets.
The Regional event in 1991 was the highest of cash prizes with top getting KShs 50,000/= won by Bob Bibasa of Uganda. The youth programes were revived for both primary schools and secondary with sponsors Athi River Mining Company (Rhino Cement) and Fidelity Commercial Bank for two years. Juniors were sent every year to world events as a result.
The national league, which seems to have disappeared large scale with Miheso in early '90s, was revived for one season attracting about ten teams. The Monthly Mug Rapids were also introduced but died out after months.
Problems started when no major tournament was organised by CK in 2002 leading to agitation of the office's removal. Only four players were sent to Olympiad of 2002 in Bled, Slovenia, Rhino Cement pulled out of primary schools training program, etc.
Despite being the first office to present fully audited accounts in the AGM of 2003, the wave was too much leading to the new office being voted in. Again, the membership problem surfaced!
2003-????: Stanley Luruti who was last in chess in 1991 with ICIPE Chess club was voted in as chairman with a narrow win over Fred Nabangi.
As you all know he appears to be largely absent but his watch revived a magazine for the association which went on for a year then faded. The rest I leave to you to judge in the coming AGM.