"My opponent left a glass of whisky 'en prise' and I took it 'en passant". - Henry Blackburne | SINCE 2007

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kenya Loses to Dutch team In Internet Match

By Mehul Gohil

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
- Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch painter and genius)

I thought I'd use Van Gogh qoutes rather than Ngugi Wa Thiongo ones since the Kenya Simbas lost by a nightmarish Fischeresque margin of 6-0. We were simply outplayed, outmanouvered, outthought, outprepared but maybe not outorganised! Some players thought that there was probably a game going on at a 'Board 7' between NCC organisers (led by Simba Kim) and Wagenignen ones (Led by Warrior Mr. Stap) and therefore Kenya got a consolation score of 6-1...sounds much better than 6-0!!

It's great we did attempt this thing despite the humiliating loss over the board. One thing for sure, the players learnt valuable lessons and it helped us understand where Kenyan chess stands, that the 'Top Dogs' are only strong relative to weak Kenyan standards. More events like this on at least a semi-regular basis and we are on our way to getting the master norms...more on the games below.

But I do not think I am exegerrating when I say this chess event was probably one of the finest ever staged in Kenya. The venue was set up beautifully. Big demo boards lined up in front , boards + laptops arranged on both sides of the room, seating arrangement for spectators, nice lunch, blazing Safaricom banners, air conditioned room, crash of media people...they were sticking those cameras into our faces when we had losing positions...political celebrities (commisioner of sports checked in...what he saw definitely impressed him), hotel patrons, a side rapid event thrown in, refreshments, good prizes etc. Everything you could wish for in a tournament, it was pure class. (There should be pictures getting posted on the forum) This must happen again!

Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together. -Vincent Van Gogh

Certainly, many small organisational components had come together to make this event a success. The standard pattern in Kenyan events is one club/federation/individual setting out to do everything themselves. This Safaricom sponsored thing was a break from tradition. Many different people and clubs put their hands together to make this thing happen and blossom in a spectucular manner. It goes to show it is possible to get big important things done without any help coming from CK (More on me taking potshots at CK in the 'Gossip & Rants' section below :P). It goes to show there is an alternative to the current chess mess we have in the country. It shows the rest of us can get the job done if CK can't.

In no particular order these are some of the people & clubs who made it happen (I might have left some out):

Philip Singe - Provided the demo boards which was critical to the ambience of the main venue. It clearly gave the event a professional touch. Singe also took some classy photographs which will be of great use pretty soon. Maybe he is the best chessplayer -photographer we have in the country?! lol!

Shiko - She was the brains behind the media operation. She's got the networking and she managed to pull in multiple media houses for this event. It's long since chess in Kenya got TV, Newspaper and Radio attention. Strangest thing...Shiko doesn't know how the pieces move!

Isaac Babu of KCB club - Great of him to take on the personal initiative of managing and arbitrating the Rapid event. Clearly, Kim was already stretched with the main event and Babu did a good job of helping out. By the way this maybe the only Kenyan event to feature two International Arbiters as TD's (other being Kim).

Surabaya & Auntie Cecilia - Where would the forum be without these two Kenyan chess legends? With their devastatingly colourful forum language they did a fantastic job of keeping everyone hooked to the KCF Soap Opera and ushered in the October 3rd event in dramatic style. No one can do it like them.

Checkmates Club, Mombasa Club and Kabete Cares - Goerge Mwangi co-organised the rapid with Babu. Johnah represented Mombasa club with his particpiation in that event and so did Moses of Kabete cares. We sometimes forget what an important component players and spectators are.

The weak players on the Kenya Simbas team - This includes me...though I had to 'sacrifice' my game to handle 'IT details' that cropped up (more below)...yes we were weak but we played for Kenya and represented Kenya to the best we could under the circumstances. Whatsmore without us there was no event!

Antony & Safaricom - Without them their wouldn't have been an event either! Thanks for the sponsorship guys. With what they gave us prizes were given as follows - 10k to each of the six main players (in addition to this Wageningen Chess Club sponsored Playchess accounts for each of them), 10k to the winner of the Rapid event, 1.5k to the subs (Johnny, Steve and Singe), and 5k each as a contribution to helping out other fellow clubs - Checkmates, Mombasa and Kabete Cares. Other details will appear when kim releases accounts at end month.

Dr. Nikolai Van Beek - After the event he became 'Nikolai Van Beer' as he hosted the Kenya team and some fans to some brown bottle action at Pizza Garden. This was the father of the whole idea. I don't how he managed to pull of things like Jan Timman, IM Afek and the other strong guys. What he did was amazing. Back in the Netherlands this event was big. Can you imagine a Kenyan chess event causing a stir nationwide in Holland? Kenyan chessers owe a big thank you to Dr. Nikolai.

Kim Bhari - Possibly the hardest working man in Kenyan chess. 80-90% of all the organisational responsibility lay on his shoulders. He defused a potential 'CK sabotage bomb' with his diplomacy (see gossip and rants below)...if it was me in his place I would have shoved armed bazookas up the a$$es of those CENSORED CENSORED. This guy worked the hardest out of anyone there, player or spectator or organiser. My hat's off to him.

Steve Ouma - He won the Rapid event. That must like the 100th rapid event in a row he has won. Congrats, next time he will have to be on the Kenya Simbas team to face dutch heat. But beside that I must appreciate Steve for his genuine compliments on how the event was organised. It wasn't like the fake unfelt speech his Sec Gen colleague delivered. He may have been the 'only olololo to have manhandled Mehul' as a famous forumater put it but I respect the guy as he had the balls to come up to me privately and say what was true. And he was honest about it.

Jacaranda Hotel Management - Wonderful hotel...an ideal location to express the romance of chess. Maybe we have discovered an ideal chess venue for important events. Ambience was smashing. But they are culprits as well. At the Safari Cafe, the guys gave us this stupendously sumptous buffet lunch...the effect was to fatten the Kenya Simbas for a dutch slaughter...at least now we have an excuse for poor performance!

Spectators on the ground, on the forum and on playchess - Chessdrummer, Niels, Ateka, Wanyama, Hesbon, Wachania and others....it was great to see support on playchess, the forum and main hall from friends. We could see you online. Sorry for letting you guys down! Next time we'll do better! It was kind of embarrasing to see Strong Wanyama looking into us with our weak positons...in a way you guys put us under a little more pressure! lol! Also guys like Johnny were prowling around putting our games under the microscope. Certainly a different feeling from a normal tournament. Our opponents were thousands of miles away but the tension was clear for all spectators to see.

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again. -Vincent Van Gogh

The Kenya Simbas team was clearly no match for this ultra-strong dutch side. I think something may have been possible on Boards 3-6 but it just showed that more effort will be needed to brush up key elementary skills...precise calculation of short variations and basic strategy. Plus what we thought was the main Kenyan strength - tactics - proved to be illusory. We were treated to an exhibition of high quality tactical play and precision in calculation from the dutch side. Another thing, our openings needs major reworking and study. In my game I was playing the book lines but some slight deviation from my opponent left me flummoxed and I fell victim to a brilliant tactical shot Bc7!! Gosh...that came out of nowhere. Our opponents played very well indeed, even on the lower boards, and they deservedly won.

But this does not mean the end of the road. One thing all six of us distinctly felt once games were over was the feeling of revenge. We definitely want another shot. This is not the end for sure. It's amazing how playing against strong players you quickly realise what areas of your game need improvement. In a sense some of us felt given a second chance and good preparation we have a chance. I think 3-4 such events in a year will considerably improve 'top dog' playing standards and Kenyan chess in general. Having these sort of events organised at home would easily make us better prepared for international tornas. As per the Van Gogh quote above we can get up again and keep trying. Only way we will improve. It is now great that this critical absence of strong opposition for Kenyan chess is now being remedied thanks to the efforts of local clubs.

Now for a brief outline of what happened in each individual game...I guess some players will give their own takes on this. Plus Timman said he will annotate his game against Magana.

Magana - Timman - I thought Magana should have been a little more agressive coming out of the opening..he let the situation slide into positional/endgame realms and Timman's technique was just too good. Maybe Timman didn't even need to think at all on some moves and was playing simply on reflex because he had a big time advantage over Magana. But this is scary for us other Kenyans in local events...Magana will now be stronger in postional/endgame chess!! I will throw in an interesting thing in here because Magana told me it would not be appropriate for the chessbase/chessdrum artcles I will prepare, but since this is the allmighty forum here goes: A few days before the game with Timman, Magana asked Mr. Nigel Short on facebook what was his advise for tackling the might dutch legend. I will not quote the unbelievable reply from Short exactly but he said something to the effect that Magana should go in for wild tactical position because Timman's hallucinogenic (aka 'smoke') past have probably left him unable to calculate as well as he used to!!

Afek - Gilruth - This was the dutch showpiece. I think Afek played even better then Timman. Gilruth was completely torn apart after one small mistake. It was a massacre. Gilruth just did not see the ball. It's scary to see Kenya No.1 dismantled like this.

Nguku - Van Eijk - This game was Kenya's only hope. It was a massively complicated Sicilian Najdorf. Nguku was playing the game of his life...he is real good in these attacking positions...he missed the killer Rf6! but even then the fight was raging. Unfortunately he completely forgot about his clock and lost on time!! The final positon with unsual material balance on both sides is arguably drawable for Nguku. Analysis will show. This was clearly the best Kenyan effort.

Fred Jonker - Gohil - Unfortunately, I was unable to do justice to my game. I had prepared the opening well but 40 minutes into our match some boards started having technical problem with the internet connections. Apparently three laptops had the firewall on and this was making them log off Playchess. The arbiter in holland was gracious enough to restart the games, the players blitz to the current position and then continue. That was real cool of them. I thought a guy like Timman would get pissed off but he gingerly obliged. This incdent happened twice and eventually we managed to sort it all out but it completely messed my concentration in the game and by the time I got back to my board I was down to my last 15 minutes or so. I made mistakes like a premature b5 and Rd8 allowing Bc7!!. What I learnt was that you cannot mix organising and playing! Next time I will stick to only playing. But that said, my opponent was deadly precise in converting his advatage. His style is real neat.

Githinji - Ooerbeek - Like Magana, Githinji did not play according to his flamboyant style. He went in for an insipid exchange french. Things got boring. Githinji mistakenly thought he had a draw and in the end had no clue why he lost!! This was definitely a lesson for Githinji on the art of strategic chess. He did not guess the final black plan of swinging the king over to the q-side. At least the game had the positive effect of making him realise he has to change his attitude to how he looks at some positions.

Hotze-Akello - Akello did some strange things in the opening and white made the position explode with e6!! This was a wild game. Very strange things happened in it. I think Akello in the endgame that resulted may have had the better chances but lost the thread somewhere down the line.


This section deals mainly with a psuedo CK attempt to 'sabotage bomb' the event 48 hrs before it was to start. Now we all know that CK is generally unresponsive to mails sent to them. They never reply. So on Thursday afternoon one of the members of the NCC organising comitee (Kim) gets a call asking him 'for a meeting' on Friday 12 noon. At the meeting NCC is asked question like "How comes we were not invited and this is a big event?", "How was this Kenya team selected and on what basis", "Why is a government official invited to the event and we have not been?" "Why are you criticising us on the forum?" "Do you have plans to set up a parrallel chess organisation?" etc etc Basically some kind of interrogation headed by one Congambit. Probably wanting kick backs or afraid that NCC is somehow working in cahoots with some government officials to bring them down. Like we are interested. It is ok for them to never respond but anybody else must respond to them. Plus, how is it that a private event organised by a private club needs to have the approval of a national body before it as much as moves a piece? Furthermore, why contact Kim when Nikolai and Myself were the real creators of this event? Clearly, it's easier to deal with Kim then Mehul. Easier to bully? And why wait until the eleventh hour before CK reacts to all this? What were they doing a week before? Two weeks before? A month before?

Furthermore a whole bevy of CK officials turned up for this meeting...more than the number which came to see the event. Were they this scared of getting their thunder stolen? Who is stopping CK from organising their own big events? I just goes to show that if more CK officials turn up for a meeting that is basically an interogattion of a well meaning chess organiser than the number of who turned up to spectate the event....you then know where CK priorities lie.

It is also notable that the CK chairmam failed to turn up even as a spectator (he was invited for lunch with the team, sponsors other dignitaries) to one of the biggest chess events in Kenyan history. That is telling.

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