Reflection on Chess in 2014

CM Chipanga in action - Pic By James Mwale

By James Mwale and Harold Kapindu

According to Tiwone Mdina, a South Africa based chess sponsor, chess helps one to develop critical thinking and the ability to always anticipate challenges and prepare for them and it is in this spirit that he believes as many Malawians as possible should get a chance at competitive chess.

In June, the renowned sponsor widened his sponsorship net to include the country’s Northern Region which has the least number of tournaments in the mental sport.

“My philosophy is that every citizen of Malawi who wants to play chess is motivated enough and should benefit from Mdina chess,” says the sponsor.

He adds; “The Northern Region has the least number of chess tournaments and thus, it is most logical that we must also focus our efforts, where we will make the most impact.”

Chess players in the North have in many national tournaments cried foul arguing that their counter parts in the Centre and South have much greater experience from competitive games in tournaments.

Mdina, who also grew up playing chess, says “As a young player, I did not get enough support from older and experienced players and there were also not many competitions that I would participate in.

“Thus as a player of a” minor sport”, I felt marginalized and unappreciated and it would break my heart to see current upcoming players to experience the same challenges.”

Currently, Mdina sponsors yearly tournaments in the country and he has assured that extending the sponsorship hand will not in any way compromise the yearly tournaments he sponsors.

However, he bemoans lack of sufficient sponsorship from stake holders and the absence of a national chess tournament calendar which he argues that would help enhance the game in the country.

Mdina also complains of the fact that chess is still considered a minority and male dominated sport in Malawi.

Peter Jailosi claimed the Mdina title from Mphungu in the North making him a 2014 champion.

In April this year, Lilongwe based Petros Mfune earned the right to face defending champion Chiletso Chipanga in a completely different sponsored contest called Paul & Mike Candidates Chess Tournament final for the K 100 000 grand prize, Both players have represented Malawi on international tournaments on several occasions.

Mfune, also known as King Razorblade in chess circles for his sharp calculations, outplayed the likes of defending champion for the Presidential Initiative on Sports, Gerald Mphungu, Malawi’s highest rated player Joseph Nyambalo and candidate master Alfred Chimthere, amassing 7.5 points in 10 games to emerge as the number one contender.

“I didn’t take for granted the fact that I was going to encounter the country’s top level players and so I decided to practice seriously which has obviously yielded fruits,” says the Razorblade in an interview after the games.

Mphungu, Chimthere and Nyambalo amassed 7, 6, 5.5 points respectively claiming second, third and fourth positions.

In the same month, Mphungu who also represented Malawi in the World Amateur Chess Championship in Singapore displayed an impressive performance registering two wins and a draw in the first four rounds of nine.

According to the Publicity Secretary of Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM), Gilton Mkumbwa, who was also in Singapore as arbiter, “Mphungu defeated Altaher Tarek Ali from United Arab Emirates in the fourth round, a victory that saw him claiming position four of 177.”

Mkumbwa also revealed that Mphungu’s performance rating has so far boosted up to 1956 according to the standards of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).”

The Malawian chess ambassador, who is also currently defending champion of two titles, Presidential Initiative on Sports and Mdina National Chess Tourney, got sponsored to the prestigious international chess tournament by the Kasparov Chess Foundation as the county’s best player of 2013.

According to a senior chess analyst who is also General Secretary for Central Region Chess League (CRCL), Mischeck Nyirenda, “Mphungu has been one of Malawi’s best chess players for a while now and his participation in such an internationally reputable tourney has been a long time in coming for him.”

The World Amateur Chess Championship ran up to May 4, from April 26, 2014 and the Malawian participant made it into the top 20 and brought home a medal, an achievement which had been described by analysts as an easy one for him.

Mphungu became one of Malawi’s few FIDE rated players after the tournament, joining the likes of Joseph Nyambalo, who is so far Malawi’s highest rated player with 2115.

The Malawian chess genius who is a student at University of Malawi’s Polytechnic was also among the five, who qualified to represent the country as a chess national team in Tromso, Norway in the Word Chess Olympiad in August, 2014.

Mphungu pictured in a game during the national team qualifiers- Pic by James Mwale

Fast forward, in October, Zomba based Candidate Master (CM) Chiletso Chipanga played through a thick forest of chess brains to claim the K 100 000 grand prize in the Central Region Chess League (CRCL) open tournament in Lilongwe.

The victory, according to the champion, was a critical comeback after he had just lost his title having suffered a devastating 7.5 to 3.5 defeat in a 12 round match against Lilongwe based Petros Mfune in the Paul and Mike tournament grand finale.

“That defeat against Mfune really lowered my spirits and I came here solely to prove that I am still one force to reckon with,” says Chipanga.

To claim the top prize, the Candidate Master went through a tough ride of player in the likes of Alfred Chimthere and Fide Master (FM) Gerald Mphungu and managed to amass 6 points in seven games having lost only one game to Mphungu.

He however describes his game against Lilongwe based Eddie Kulesi as the toughest of the seven.

The tournament which took place over the weekend attracted at least 30 contenders including two female players.

On the second position was FM Gerald Mphungu who went away with K 60 000 while Bunda College of Agriculture student Lumbani Banda claimed K 40 000 on third place.

South Africa based Joseph Mwale is 2014 Nation Champion and among the three who have qualified to participate in the 2014 continental individual tourney in Namibia. He will go with Candidate Master Alfred Chimthere and Malawi’s highest rated player Joseph Nyambalo who came 2nd and 3rd to Mwale respectively in a 9 round encounter played from 15 to 17 Nov at Capital City Motel.

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