9th All-Africa Games: The Kenyan Principle

 Kenyan ace, Ben Magana 

I have found a story on the Kenyan team and their strategy to field their boards in reverse order… from weakest to strongest. This is sometimes called “stacking” your boards. The idea is that the lower boards will be sure points and anything the top board can get will be a bonus. This strategy only works if the team members are relatively close in strength. Otherwise, the top boards will be sure points for the opposing team and it would negate any advantage of board stacking. Read it for yourself.

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Chess team to field strong players on lower boards
By Samson Ateka

The national chess team technical bench hopes to improve its medal prospects by fielding stronger players on lower boards.

Chess is usually played in four boards with the top seed fielded on board one. Olympian and coach John Mukabi said they intend to field their players in a descending order because “our top players will face weak opposition at lower boards.”

Reigning champion Ben Magana could be fielded on the lowest board with Ben Ngungu on the third last board.

Mukabi said Steve Ouma and Akello Atwoli might be taken on to the top boards. The chess team has brought to camp at Kasarani two computers for sparring matches with Fritz nine programmes, which coach Mukabi said is able to play various intricate lines against a human being.

“Our top players will face weak opposition
at lower boards.”

~ John Mukabi, Coach of Kenyan team ~

“The management Committee has hired two computers that players are using to test their might on the chess board and it has really done a lot of good to the players. The programme looks at up to 20 different and strong moves and this will help improve the players’ flair in the long run,” Mukabi said.  Mukabi said the advantage of the programme is that you can tune it to the level of a player or higher above the standards if one so wishes.

Mukabi said they would decide on the order of the boards tomorrow. Mukabi has tipped Egypt as the possible champions.

“They have International Masters and grandmasters in their team and their standards should be way above the continental level. But we will fight to be in the medal brackets by virtue of having played at various Fide World Chess Olympiads,” Mukabi said.

Posted in The Standard, 5 July 2007


  1. In my local chess league, playing in reverse strength order on the boards for tactical reasons is not allowed. The rule state that:

    “Team captains will arrange players within teams in order of playing strength. A player’s grade shall be deemed to reflect his playing strength within a tolerance of 100 points for an adult and 150 points for a junior”.

    So the team players would have to be VERY close in rating for the reverse-board order to be allowed and that would pretty much defeat the object.

    In any case, I don’t personally think that it makes any difference to a team’s chances. It’s more of a psychological effect at work.

  2. I have always wondered about the scoring in the team competitions. Why is a win on board one worth the same as a win on board four? I would think the scoring should go something like this, a win on board one would be worth four points. A win on board two, worth three points, a win on board three two points and only one point for a win on board four. I think that would make team competition much more interesting and the make up the team very important. Does any team events use alternative scoring?

  3. Richard,

    The match points vs. board points is one of the most heavily debated issues for international team tournaments. I believe next year the Olympiad will use match points vs. board points. Many accused China of fattening up on weakies (4-0 and 3½-½) while stronger teams were facing each other in close matches (2½-1½ and 2-2). Armenia would still have won by either formula, but I believe Russia would have gotten a medal if they went by match results. (Note: There is always an issue when Russia doesn’t win. They feel entitled to win these events.) 🙄

    However, I’m not sure how the All-Africa team event will go. It appears that each board will be one point otherwise “stacking boards” makes no sense at all. Why put your weakest player on top board with four points on the line? I do like the board point system… it seems to be the most logical.

  4. a moire critical ploy is fofeiting bd one and bd 1 moves to bd two etc. it is a stacking that presumes 3-1 will be the outcome. in our BAL league if bd one forfeits all bds below forfeit whther they are playing or not. reliability in a teammate becomes a equal factor to his playing strength. to the captain anyway

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