Yesterday, Peniel sent a passionate appeal to well-wishers to aid him get an air ticket to travel and represent the country at the world championships. Accompanied by his father Watson Mburungo and mother Prisca Wangeci, Peniel said he hopes to become the first world junior champion from East Africa if he gets the opportunity to play in Serbia and Montenegro. The tournament, which brings together the world's best chess players, starts on Sunday.
Other Kenyan players travelling for the tournament are Rahul Mohan and Vishwandh Gopa Kumar. The two have already managed to raise tickets. "I know I can represent this country well and make history by becoming the first player from Kenya to win the title. But I may not go because we cannot afford an air ticket," said Peniel, a Standard Three pupil at Karatina Primary School in Nyeri.
The seven-year-old first played the mind game in 2003 at the age of five after being coached by his father, a businessman in Nyeri, who was a part-time chess player but went along with Peniel for games when he realised his son had mastered the game by just observing him play.
"I was playing a teacher who was also my trainer in Nyeri when Peniel advised me against making a move which would cost me the game. From there I realised that he understood the game. From that day I started coaching him to a point he can now play and beat me at the game," says Mburungo.
Peniel has since played in 55 games and lost only twice. He is currently the reigning national champion in the under-12 category and the third best in the Nyeri District primary and secondary schools' rankings. His main challenger is 12-year-old Gur Kumar.
Kenya Chess Association chairman Stanley Rumuti said it will be unfortunate if Peniel does not make it to the championship because he is one of the best junior players in the country today: "We are stuck because the association does not have the funds to raise the air ticket."
Damary Arita, "Mburungo strikes gold as youth tourney ends," The Standard, 28 February 2005.