Checkmate: Chess gets lifted

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RECENT victories by Malawi’s players have impressed the authorities enough to declare that chess, which was previously regarded as a so-called minority sport, now be placed on an upward trajectory.

Executive Secretary of thr Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS), George Jana and Susan Namalenga an executive member of the Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM) shared the unified opinion at a celebration party held yesterday in Blantyre to honour victories by Chiletso Chipanga; Africa’s Amateur Champion and Yewo Sanga; Malawi’s National Sportsman respectively.

The youthful players won prestigious accolades in a space of five days. Last week, Chipanga, 31, became the first Malawian to win gold at an international chess tournament while his compatriot became the first winner of a junior national sports person award in the maiden edition of the Malawi Sports Awards organised by MNCS.

Chipanga, who doubles as Malawi’s national champion, overcame tough competition from eight contestants representing chess powerhouses on the continent like hosts Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.  The tournament was held in the town of Livingstone from 25 February to 2 March.

Sanga, 12, scooped his award ahead of footballer Haji Wali and cricketer, Macheal Mamadi. Chess’ skyward move was cemented by CHESSAM’s win of the Sports Association of the Year award at a red carpet event held on Saturday at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.

Reacting to the sport’s sensational feat on both the continental and domestic scene, Jana said MNCS is seriously monitoring events at CHESSAM to see how much government can increase its budgetary support towards the continued growth of chess.

“Recent events are proof that chess is steadily rising towards mainstream status. We want to make sure that we maintain that positive momentum. It’s our solemn wish that that chess clubs are formed in public schools as was the case in the past to spur its popularity and acceptance,” he said.

An overly excited Namalenga took her turn by stressing that CHESSAM will make every strategic move to keep up with the ever increasing pressure following the sport’s sudden success.

“We are well aware that it has never been easy to maintain success. We can only go up and that’s what we are going to do from this point on. The pressure at the top is very much high but with support from everyone we believe Chess will become one of the most popular sports codes in the country alongside football and netball,” she envisaged.

Records sourced on fide.com indicate that Malawi has a very long way to go to attain world acclaim as it is ranked 124th with an average of 2033 on a list of 179 members of the World Chess Federation (Federation Internationale des Echecs, known as FIDE from its French acronym)

Tables detailing Chipanga and Sanga’s game records and profile sourced from chess-db.com

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