Ngubeni analyzes Africa’s Top 20!



The African Top 20 presents an interesting perspective of the continent’s chess masters. The list shows four Grandmasters, there are in fact five. GM Slim Bouaziz (2338) of Tunisia, does not make the top 20 club due to his low fide rating.  Also GM is WGM Tuduetso Sabure of Botswana can be mentioned. She holds the unenviable 1st woman in that category for the continent. We say this because she will always be thought in the same realm as the European woman Grandmasters, however in fairness the region is not presenting the environment that she can freely thrive in strength.

FM Farai Mandizha (2366) of Zimbabwe, like the terrific duo GMs of Egypt, is the new fresh face of youth Africa chess. He is a phenomenally talented player. He has in a series of serious competitive events in the USA (2006), he scalped the fearsome GM Nakamura and went on to deliver consistently a +2550 performance! This is the young man to watch. He will clinch the GM title, perhaps this even ahead of much fancied “elders” in the Southern Africa.

IM Kenny Solomon (2344) is a solid chess player who does not make the top 20 but alas, this Cape town warrior is not enjoying the view of the mother city. He is a consummate theorist who likes the indoors cuddling only his chess men. The results are all too familiar. In the last half a decade Solomon has consistently ranked tops in RSA events. He will soon be relegating someone to settle in the above list.

Stanley Chumfwa is simply the most dangerous player this continent habours. Those who regard his lack of title to go with his skill in chess underestimate him to their peril. He stormed to qualification in the 2006 World Chess Champs held in his home country with a comfortable margin. Inspired Zambia to a crushing 3-1 defeat of the regional much fancied South Africa (Personally winning against super IM Kobese) and held the Egyptians! He will be causing some upsets once more in Namibia later in August 2007.

~ Jackie Ngubeni, The Chess Academy (South Africa)


  1. This is some interesting analysis from Jackie. I hope he likes my aesthetic touch to his table. :mrgreen:

    The chart clearly shows that the balance of power (all five GMs) is still in the Saharan region and there are many reasons. These countries have have more support; they are closer to strong competition in Europe and the Middle East; they have a longer tradition in chess; they simply have larger chess communities. Egypt’s team of two GMs and four IMs was a bit too strong in the All-Africa Games. They won 5/6 gold medals which is amazing.

    Looking at the list, it is amazing the progress Bassem Amin has made. He won the African Junior twice (in 2004 with 7.5/9 and in 2005 with 8.5/9) not too long ago. When one wins African Junior, there is still a question of how strong the player really is because the field is not always challenging. His compatriot Ahmed Adly had won the 2001 African Junior with a 9-0 score. Both Amin and Adly have improved rapidly. Ali Frhat (#19) is a young player whom I met and interviewed in Turin, Italy during the Chess Olympiad. He has played in the U.S. and performed quite well. There is an old list of top Arab players at and many of its top players are also on the list above. Thus, Arab players have two ways to qualify for the Championship cycle and compete for norms.

    However, there is talent south of the Sahara. Chikwere Onyekwere of Nigeria is another talented player who is barely about 21 years. I have seen his games and believe he has the tenacity to become a special player. As Jackie mentioned, Farai Mandizha is also quite strong and win over Hikaru Nakamura was a gem. I have not seen Chitumbo Mwali’s games, but he seems to be scoring well in recent times. Johannes Mabusela has not played much outside of South Africa since winning 2002 African Junior, so the jury is out on him.

    African stars such as Robert Gwaze and Amon Simutowe are only in their mid-20s, so they still have a lot of time to find their games. Both are raw talents. Simutowe is perhaps one of the most experienced players on the continent, but needs to refine his openings and gain a better board demeanor. He blunders far too often after getting good positions. Gwaze appears to be attack-oriented and needs to broaden his style a bit. Kenny Solomon is also a player with a lot of energy, but he is not getting the exposure he needs. One quality he has is his will to win. This is illustrated in the length of his games. At the Wilbert Paige Memorial, he averaged 62 moves for his nine games! Stanley Chumfwa is another star from this era. He beat Kobese at the All-Africa Games and that is at least his 2nd victory over the “South African Lion.” He beat Kobese beautifully at the 2002 Golden Cleopatra Open in Egypt.

    I would imagine that there is talent in Angola which had for many years been the most powerful Sub-Saharan federation, fielding five IMs at the same time. While IM Manual Mateus is more of a coach than a player these days, Pedro Aderito continues to shine Is there any new blood in Angola… or elsewhere in Africa?

  2. Thanks Jackie for providing this important list. I do hope this will create some interest among the young African chess players to aspire to climb to the top of this ladder. Hopefully, African Chess Federations will also use this list as a sort of guide to spur their chess players on with bold initiatives. Go and find out what the Egyptians and Moroccans are doing right and try to adopt it or better it. Who said we don’t transfer technology these days? Chess ideas do not have patents rights and anyone can learn from countries whose chess programs are getting results.

    On the other, we need more chess tournaments in Africa. This is the only way our chess players will obtain the needed titles and ratings. They are brilliant enough to do it but they lack the exposure and the finances to get to the top. Now where are the sponsors when you need them the most? If you are a chess promoter or an organizer or a chess federation boss and your chess players are not listed among the top 20 players in Africa, then you have been handed a useful tool (a gift) to argue your way to the top in your country. Shove it in their face and make as much noise as you can until you get blue in the face or they become red in the face, whichever comes first. Tell them it’s a new day in African chess and you want your players on that list this time next year. Its time to re examine your program and adopt a new one. And of course you know exactly which countries in Africa to be looking at for answers. We hang out with those who are getting results and dump those who aren’t. Such is the secret of archivers and the entrepreneurs of our world.

    Don’t say I told you this though. It’s meant only for those who are willing to do something about their chess player’s welfare and not the idle dreamers. It’s for those organizers who have the yeast to help their chess players rise to the top of the list of the African roll of honor of worthy chess players.

    We are going to be here next year reexamining what your have done with this information presented to you. This may sound harsh but this is the only way to get to the top. It’s not for the faint of hearts. Chess playing and Chess organizations are not for the sissy (nor is it for those who want to make quick money at the expense of their chess playing constituencies either), it’s a noble calling for noble people and your result will expose your handy work. Having said that, now let’s play some serious chess Africa.

  3. Kunle,

    I think we very well know what Egypt and Morocco are doing. They have geographical advantages and in Egypt, they have a strong federation with ample support. Some of African Grandmasters are based in Europe (e.g., Hamdouchi, Belkhodja, Bouaziz) and others play in the Middle East and Asia where the competition is rapidly improving. 

    I don’t believe there is any magical formula, but what I hope happens is that the government realizes the national importance of chess. Zambia’s athletic delegation got a total of nine medals at the All-Africa Games… four of those were from chess! This is what I call “leverage” for sponsorship!

    There are several federations who would like to build chess communities, but they are having a difficult time. Some are: Liberia, Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon. West Africa is the home of “draughts,” but struggles to attract support in chess. Only Nigeria has a strong community and the Ivory Coast has some players. Senegal has at least one strong player named Gorgui Gueye. Why is it that West Africa can produce so many Grandmasters in draughts (including former World Champion, Baba Sy), but not in chess?

    I agree… African federations SHOULD make noise, but one way to do that is to have a public relations effort. Many companies DO want positive publicity in exchange for sponsorship. If there is no publicity for the company, should they be interested? The human side says “yes,” but from the business side I’d say, “no.”

    We have yet bigger problems…

    I have recently heard from Amon Simutowe that he is not getting accommodations for the African Individuals. I’m not sure why Amon is having such a hard time getting the support he needs to earn the last GM norm. What a historic event that would be for Sub-Saharan Africa!

    They could have done it by giving the top player or top two from each country free accommodation…thats what they did in the zonals or do in the African Juniors and I don’t know why they wouldn’t do that for the continental championships.

    For the past few months, Amon is writing all types of letters and complaints, but his energy would be better spent focusing on his last norm and moving up that list to 2500! If Amon, or any one of the other top players in Sub-Saharan Africa, could earn the GM title, it would do a lot to provide positive publicity to a continent that is typecast (in the Western media) as corrupt, unstable, impoverished and backward. 

    Certainly football provides Africa with immense pride, but it will never have the same intellectual intrigue as chess! Everyone already knows about the quality of African football, but chess??? Chess provides an opportunity.

  4. A thought that came to me (and I am sure must have occurred to a number of people) is whether it is possible to extend this list to 50. Leave the first twenty lists intact and separate as the enviable place to be (the cream of the crop sort of list) and then establish what is called the next 20-50 players list. This way, aspiring chess players can know how far down the ladder they are in order to work on their games. Then update this list periodically. This should promote a healthy competition among chess players in Africa. Then we know we are cooking and on our way to some place in African chess. There you have it, my three cent suggestion.

  5. Kunle, Daaim & Chess friends at large,

    I am very excited about the dialogue (Also the prospect for more!) this compilation is whipping up! It was intended to exactly cause the effect of honest introspections, inter alia of which are elaborated so eloquently in above posted comments. We MUST beat the DRUM on problems impeding(Expose malice) our chess DEVELOPMENT and equally beat the DRUM in recognizition(Invite to celebrate) of success! From this we will learn the ” best” practices to bridge the devide and begin to play catch-up.

    Thanks for the many positive feed-back emails I have since received. But I rather would like reading them from several Blogs available including The Chess Drum’s.

    Regarding elongating the list to say Top 50, I really see no fuss in doing that, provided it will encourage the comperative benchmarking intended. Why then not Top 100?

    It is obviously plausable and know for certain that some of the Top 20 players listed will henceforth be working on improving their ladder status come the next Fide rating publication. This alone proves that such publications and Blog discussions have a positive impact on these African heroes! Can anyone think of a negative impact emanating from the publication? (Then blog it please :-))


  6. I have added the following to the list. It still shows an overwhelming absence of Sub-Saharan players… only three of the next 20. I don’t believe the trend changes in the top 100. We should not wonder why this is the case. There are so many reasons, but lately it is apparent that Sub-Saharan Africa is not getting the support it needs.

    (rank, name, title, country, rating, (birth year))
    21 Boudiba, Mahfoud m ALG 2373
    22 Abdel Razik, Khaled f EGY 2372 (1975)
    23 Mandizha, Farai f ZIM 2366 (1985)
    23 Nijili, Kamel 2366 TUN (1982)
    25 Naby, Said EGY 2356
    26 Kaabi, Mejdi m TUN 2355
    27 Elbilia, Jacques f MAR 2351 (1971)
    28 Solomon, Kenny m RSA 2344
    29 Elgabry, Mohsen m EGY 2338 (1964)
    29 Bouaziz, Slim g TUN 2338 (1950)
    31 Doghri, Nabil f TUN 2335 (1964)
    32 Chikhaoui, Walid f TUN 2334
    33 Tahan, Sabri m EGY 2333 (1959)
    34 Yasseen, Aly m EGY 2332 (1952)
    35 Chumfwa, Stanley ZAM 2329 (1976)
    36 Adou El Zein, Eid Mahmoud m EGY 2327 (1952)
    37 Atea, Saad EGY 2323 (1970)
    38 Ibrahim, Hatim EGY 2319
    39 Ismail, Hamed EGY 2315
    40 Haddouche, Mohamed m ALG 2312  (1984)

  7. Thanks Daaim,

    Even though the ratings has been out there for sometime now, I don’t think it has ever been listed and presented this way before and that is what makes it useful. Data’s and statistics are used for policy formulation. This Africa chess rating can also be used to formulate ideas for improvements especially in the sub Saharan Africa and I would like to explore some of the possibilities here:

    1. Apart from the need for each of the chess federations whose players are too far down the list to make immediate adjustments to their chess programs, they have to realize it’s not just organizing chess tournaments for chess player’s fun that counts. It’s the ratings and titles stupid (and those in the west know this is a common figure of speech and no offence meant here). Yes, don’t just play chess, strive to organize chess tournaments that will be rated. Better still, try to attract titled players so your players can get some norms (and granted this is more difficulty than the former). In order words, make your chess tournaments counts far more than the goose bumps of winning for the chess players and the excitements of organizing one. No matter how small it is, get it rated. That is what counts.

    2. The Arab brothers may have some geographical advantage of being close to Europe where many rated chess events take place but there is something you can also do to your own advantage. It will only take some leadership, some commitments and the will to begin and implement such a program that’s all. And what is that? Begin some chess collaboration among chess playing nations in the sub Saharan region. Join forces to organize rated chess events on a 3-4 months basis. Work together beyond your borders and attract sponsors together. Get the ministry of sports of your country to communicate with other nation’s sports ministry for chess tournaments. Put up the money together and plan at least five solid rated tournaments open to all Africans in the next coming year. What may be difficult for one struggling chess nation can be archived when help and motivation comes from the synergy of joining forces with another nation.

    If you like, you can even name it “The Sub Saharan Chess Tournaments 1-5” (meaning 5 of these will take place in a year). Rotate this from country to country every 3 months and make publicity for your sponsors the highest priority ever. Any titled chess player from around the world can come and participate or you structure it in a way that will be beneficial to your players. You can bet chess players in Africa will look forward to this important event by steeping up their preparations. Then come back in a year to compare notes. You will have climbed Mount Everest with your eyes closed. This is your own equivalence of geographical advantage.

    And how do you begin this seemly difficult collaboration effort? Simple. The data and the facts presented here in this list is the starting point. That is all you need to start a discussion. Again, if the chess players in your country are not among the first 20 and the next 40, and maybe far below subsequent lists, you definitely have a gift in your hand. Just be sure you use it for the right purpose and not a way to feed your self while the sheep are starving to death (and this has been the problem with so many of our leaders in Africa). Use this to benefit your chess playing constituency. I am curious to see which country will take the lead in initiating these ideas. So what are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose.

  8. Kunle,

    My concern goes back to our other conversation about players’ and officials’ passion. There has to be a change of mindset if there is to be more (Saharan/Sub-Saharan) balance on the list. Will this list motivate? I’m not sure. As you say, to be enthusiatic to play chess is not good enough. If one is a Master-level player and wants to earn a higher FIDE title, he/she has to be enthusiastic about studying, playing, analyzing, annotating, and speaking about chess. Fortunately, IM Amon Simutowe has developed that mindset in quest for his 3rd norm.

    On passion…

    The most passionate player of African descent I have ever seen in chess is IM Emory Tate. People may have diverse opinions of him, but they never question his passion about chess. This why his fan base is so large. He is a very active player; he shares his analysis both in person and through annotated games; he is animated, witty and candid; he looks for new ideas (has a opening named for him); he doesn’t depend on databases to do his work; he plays beautiful chess filled with power and passion.

    On professionalism…

    While Tate is a role model far and wide, passion may be lacking among some Black players here in the states. Yes… chess is challenging, but we have barely produced five Master-level players (2200 USCF) in the past decade. Part of the problem, as I see it, may be our approach toward the game. For example, I’ll walk by a game and see that a player does not have the opponent’s name written down! Some players leave their scoresheets around like pieces of trash. I also see tardiness to matches and incessant blitz-playing during major tournaments.

    Another case… I was playing in a tournament in Jamaica and at the next board, a young player developed a strong attack against a veteran. The young player had gotten up to take a walk. A spectator (a seasoned player in Jamaica) was intently watching the game and decided to sit down in the player’s empty seat while the other player was still pondering his move. After pondering, the veteran player extended his hand (in resignation) and found the spectator sitting there! A laugh broke out. It certainly was funny, but it was poor manners. We have to be more cognizant of these habits.

    I’m not certain that these issue occur habits in African tournaments, but there needs to be an effort toward professionalism in chess… at all levels. If we take such approach to the game, we will see more players emerging on the African continent and within the African Diaspora.

  9. Hey guys!

    The latest elicitation on Africa Chess has set the pointers of this otherwise confused compass firm on what has been the problem, and most importantly (with Kunle’s golden advice!) how to remedy the situation.
    Let’s hope that those who chose to be our leaders(federations included) read these missives, and bear the torch for goodness sake!
    Hey Kay(Kunle), I really appreciate your thoughts on the issues. I am in the thick of things and am convinced (and convicted) to the end that South Africa(RSA) as the furthermost country from the proverbial epi-center of chess, must play a role of lynch-pinning the continent forward with organising well to do events.
    I am fighting tooth & nail to see the golden era of chess, which incidentally was at its peak during the height of the evil “aparheid” regime be realized in the new era. Believe it or not, so great was chess in RSA with Watu Kobese (under 10 years only then), GM. Korchnoi, was welcomed with a ticker-tape parade! All to glorify the pariah state. The first category 16 chess event in the world was held in this country with a world champion dueling at least three top five players then. This was the naturing ground as Linares has become for many spanish current top players.
    With the young Kobese emerging rapidly as a world class player, with many black player deriving special pleasure in “check-mating” white players. This did not help at all! In fact, some paid a heavy price. For instance, it was common to see police arrest the leader of the tournament during a game on trumped-up charges, beat him up, drag him away to later claim he died in detention or was freed, but never to be seen again! With chess attracting more and more blacks, and sponsorship money pouring in the bulk of which being collected by Kobese and mostly black players, the white supremists rulers then tried enforcing segregation. Outcries from abroad became louder. They abundoned the chess upsurge they had help splurge. Perhaps rejoiced when FIDE banned RSA. I point out this part of our sad history as the reason why we do not have GM’s.
    However now is the time to rediscover the magic!


  10. Thank you Jackie for exposing the history of chess in your country, often one encounters difficulty here in Amerikkka doing just that. I had heard of a GM strength player from your country in the 70s but he suddenly disappeared from the scene. Do you know of whom I speak?

  11. Dear Daaim,

    Heil Dubya!

    Thank you for publicizing this seminar! I also thank Jackie Ngubeni for initiating it, through his initial “Top 20” list and analysis, in addition to his continued dialog with you. (This is not to deny the importance of Kunle Elegbede’s contribution. I wonder why he did not continue after both you and Mr. Ngubeni commented on his words and persisted in the discussion.}

    I have said this often before, both publicly and privately, so this “repeat” may begin to bore you. However, The Chess Drum is, by far, the outstanding website concerning chess in Africa, the Afro-Caribbean and Afro-America. This seminar is yet another proof of that conclusion.

    I would take issue with you on the reason for the position of chess in Afro-America. Unfortunately, the Nation has been coopted by the myth of Uhmuhrikkka, so much so that very few Afro-American nationals will even admit — privately, to say nothing about publicly — that such a nation exists. We hear lots of talk about the “civil rights” of a ‘minority”, but very little about national liberation. It is my belief that we will not produce many more FMs, IMs or GMs in Afro-America until the “minority” syndrome has been overthrown by a true national consciousness and a true struggle for national liberation.

    (I apologize for the implicit arrogance and condescension of a “United Statesian” appearing to lecture Afro-America on national consciousness and the necessity of a struggle for national liberation. I certanly do not wish to appear to be lecturing Afro-America — especially in public, because I recognize that I am not Afro-American and can’t become Afro-American until — if I live that long — the Nation achieves state sovereignty and approves my application for citizenship.)

    Meanwhile. we always can look to IMs Muhammad and Tate, as well as GM Ashley –and the handful of who have achieved the heights despite the handicaps placed on them by the Ooo Esss of Ayy.

  12. Jerome Bilbuld has been a champion of human rights for many years and he is greatly admired and appreciated in our community. I will never forget our first meeting at the 1985 US Open in Miami,Fl where he was the lone demonstrator for African rights in the apartheid system in South Africa. I gained a valuable insight that month into the black & white world of chess thanks to Jerome. Much love and appreciation, Sir Bilbuld.

  13. Jerry,

    Certainly… there are larger societal and international issues at hand such as discrimination. While these issues overlay the discussion, I’m concerned about what WE can do proactively to improve our approach to chess. I’m not concerned about “minority” issues here. We are concerned with the African Diaspora and trying to find solutions to help us produce stronger players around the world. The way I see it, the problems that we have can be remedied if basic actions were taken. We’re in a ‘chess mess’ right now… the entire African Diaspora. Both the Indian and Chinese Diaspora have a built youth movement which has spread around the world. They will dominate chess in ten years.

    The issue I pointed out in the above post was based on my observations of players not taking a professional approach to the sport of chess. I have seen it over and over again and it is unnerving. One pet peeve is the lack of annotated games by Black players. I was asked by a Jamaican (based in England) why Amon Simutowe never annotates his games. I pointed out several annotated games on The Chess Drum by Simutowe, but the general complaint is legitimate. Where are the African games? There are annotated games coming out of Jamaica (and a few in the U.S.), but little else within the Diaspora.

    The issue is… what can we do to help ourselves. History should have taught us that no one is respected who does not help himself. Is Dabilani Buthali (FIDE Africa President) being given any resources? What is Lewis Ncube’s (FIDE Vice-President) role in this? One last thing… people need to participate in this discussion (or whichever blog they want) and share ideas. We have yet to discuss the success and failures of the All-African Games… people who attended have apparently closed that chapter in their books. How will we learn?

  14. Great gentlemen of the round table,

    Sorry for my short absence. I didn’t mean to “cut and run” but had to attend to some other matters. Yes, I agree with your spirited comments and firmly believe we are on the right tract for chess development in Africa.

    Jerome Bibuld: Just what can I say about such a legendary figure in our chess world. All I can say is thank you for your many great works and your comments on this pertinent issue. Oh lest I forget, Jerry, you don’t have to live long to become a citizen of Africa. There is a way around that and it’s simple. You are hereby conferred with an African chieftaincy title as you have earned it. Now you don’t have to be worried about lecturing an Afro American audience anymore Chief Jerome Bibuild, you are now an African and a chief among Africans for that matter.

    Going back to the problem with chess in Africa, I say this is a microcosm of a bigger problem in Africa. This problem is much bigger and wider for this forum. However, my believe is that we can petition for a change in the way chess is being run and add this to other layers of ideas of progressive thought that is being formed as part of a greater building block for change in Africa, chess inclusive. A cleaning from the inside out sort of a thing is what this calls for. I am an optimist to the core and I may be suffering from an overdose of this but we are going to get there and it’s just around the corner.

    I grew up in Africa, Nigeria to be exact, schooled in the best schools and now live in Houston, Texas. I can honestly tell you (and I have told this to a number of friends in the oil industry here in Houston) that I have seen many brilliant people, but the ones I respect the most are the ones I went to school with back in Africa. I mean these folks are simply brilliant people that you can think of and I mean this in every sense of the word brilliant. Out of this pool of extraordinarily talented people, we have many of our chess players that I know back then and now. Wonderfully talented men and women. Sadly, to tell you that a number of them have moved on to other things as there was little or no encouragement to support them during their vibrant chess years. Amon Simutowe and Chikore Onyekwerie among many other talent chess players today are going through the same thing now. Chess players with raw talent but with little or no financial support or program to assist them to get the needed norms they desperately seek. They will wander off into the sunset, like the other chess players we know if we do nothing for them now.

    So where do we go from here folks? Somewhere in the midst of these volumes that you great men have suggested lay the answer to all of Africa’s chess woes. Let’s hope someone with a real authority and the wherewithal in Africa will take this and just run with it for the sake of our young talented chess players. Otherwise, the great divide between the developed and the developing chess nations will continue to become wider. But are we hungry for more Grandmasters in Africa yet? You bet we are.

  15. I asked Dabilani Buthali to post here awhile back. The subject was actually Simutowe’s withdrawal from the All-African Games. Here stated that he regretted that decision and talked further about Africa’s future. Here is what he said:

    As a continent, there is need to identify and nurture more talent to ensure that Africa takes its proper place in the chess arena. Although our major focus at the moment is building technical capacity (trainers/coaches and arbiters), expanding the base of rated players, the next priority area is identifying talent. In Botswana, we currently have an elite athletes programme which is working well. This model could be explored in the rest of the continent. A major challenge would of course be the financial status of African Chess Union.

    Amon Simutowe appears to be upset that the African Chess Union is not providing funding for the players at the African Individuals in Namibia, but Buthali’s last statement may point to one of the problems… financing. Does FIDE provide any funding for these organizations? It is hopeful that they will discuss the issues on this topic, but more importantly, to draw on the influence of Zambia’s Lewis Ncube, who has a position of influence in FIDE. I will also request the input of Barbados’ Allan Herbert, Chair of CACDEC. This is a critical issue.

    It would be an absolute pity to see talented players “wander off into the sunset” as Kunle puts it. I have seen it here in America as well… strong players disappear. It is understandable that players take on other paths in life (or have other pressing issues), but for those who want to pursue chess titles, let’s make sure they have a chance!

  16. Dear Daaim,

    At your invitation I have read the various postings resulting from Jackie’s list. I would like to commend Jackie for the initiative he has shown in preparing the list and putting the ball into play.

    I believe that all will agree that the most important step to solving any problem is first recognizing that one exists.

    As I originate from the English Speaking Caribbean, I have spent the last 25 years grappling with this problem for these small islands, always turning an admiring but jealous eye to our Chess Superpower Cuba.

    Cuba has had a long and rich tradition producing the only World Champion to originate from the Caribbean, Jose Raul Capablanca.

    But their Chess Superpower Status was only of recent vintage and this has puzzled and perplexed me.

    It is true that they received strong state support which many Federations do not have the privileged of.

    But it was only in a chance conversation with a former President of the Cuban Federation, who was instrumental in building this capacity that I found the secret of their success.

    They are self sufficient in producing high quality rated tournaments. Take the last four rating periods as an example:

    October 2006 List – 25 Tournaments

    January 2007 List – 45 Tournaments

    April 2007 List – 37 Tournament

    July 2007 List – 17 Tournaments (guess teh arbiters need a rest)

    That is a 124 FIDE Rated tournaments, and anyone who has gone to Cuba to play, can tell you what a pool of hungry pirinas one finds oneself in.

    The same analysis for Egypt reveals:

    October 2006 List – 4 Tournaments

    January 2007 List – 2 Tournaments

    April 2007 List – 3 Tournaments

    July 2007 List – 4 Tournaments

    That is a total of 13 tournaments for the same period.

    A similar analysis for Morocco would reveal 16 Tournaments 10 of which were the Arab Youth Championships.

    Thus Kunle’s analysis and recommendations for more tournaments immediately touched a raw nerve for me.

    Most, if not all countries, on the continent are much larger than Cuba, unlike many of the countries of the English Speaking Caribbean which will always struggle with lack of size for critical mass.

    Tragically the African Continent moved away from Zonals as part of its World Championship Qualification Cycle thus impoverishing its tournament landscape.

    This not only removed 8 top class events (4 men and 4 women) but the International Master Title opportunities that come with Zonals.

    It is the only continent without a Continental Youth Championships in the Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 age categories. At the recently concluded Pan-American Youth Championships an Under 6 section was piloted with great success!

    That is another 16 (8 boys and 8 girls) critical events key to addressing Dabilani observation on talent identification not to mention the lost rating and title opportunities.

    To see how dismal the picture really is, visit the FIDE Web Site and view the 2007 Calendar

    I don’t even see the African Junior listed for this year and I can only assume that this is an omission.

    All the discussion about motivating players to make a top 20 or 50 list will be futile if rating opportunities at home continued to be constrained.

    One solution that each Federation can immediately implement to hold more rated tournament starting with their own domestic competitions.

    And, this brings me to the issue Financing.

    Ask any Federation what tournaments provide their biggest entry fee revenue opportunity and they will tell you the Scholastic/Youth events. This applies also for FIDE and the Continents.

    What is a Continent’s primary source of funding?

    A percentage of the entry fees for continental events.

    If the 2007 Calendar is correct this will be only the African Individual Chess Championships as the All African Games are not a Continental property.

    You can clearly see the challenge the ACU faces.

    It is simple mathematics to calculate the possible revenue and since the tournament has not been held yet, the ACU has not 1 penny in its coffers.

    FIDE has recognized the great challenge Africa faces in terms of number of CACDEC Federations.

    As a result of this the CACDEC Budget is allocated Africa 40%, America 25% and Asia 25%, all managed by the respective Continental President in consultation with CACDEC Chairman. The remaining 10% is managed by the CACDEC Chairman.

    The one piece of advice I can offer to the ACU for 2008 is to introduce the African Youth Championships and reintroduce the Zonals.

  17. Dear Allan,
    Thank you very much for the “secrets” and the key to success for especially in the Cuban federation. While many of us may say we knew it all along, I like the manner in which you succinctly and figuratively argued the point for more rated events.
    You and I talked at great length on what Africa and the diaspora in the Pan Africa can do to emancipate chess excellence in within. I hope the Continental chess leadership together with the Vice-president from Africa take-up the challenge; MORE RATED EVENTS IN AFRICA!

  18. Thanks Allan for such a comprehensive post! I was unaware that the tournament infrastructure had broken down so thoroughly. No African Junior (this year)… no zonals, no continental age-group championships. We certainly need to rectify this since it is stunting the development of talent.

    There are similar problems in other parts of the Diaspora. I have talked with Allan and Ian Wilkinson of Jamaica about regional tournaments in the Caribbean (including North American players). I will be in Trinidad for a few days to get an idea of the chess landscape there and make some assessments. The Cuban example is quite incisive and shows that strong competition is accessible in regions without an abundance of resources. If players cannot travel to Europe, North America or Asia, then perhaps Africa can attract strong players to the continent. Of course logistics have to be in place and conditions have to be world-class. As pointed out, funding is a challenge.

    In 2001, Jerry Bibuld and Jones Murphy, Jr. (a Dominican who lives in Italy these days 🙂 ) hosted the historic Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament in Harlem, New York.  It was the quite a success in building bridges within the Diaspora and we need more of them whether in Africa, the Caribbean or North America. The Caribbean is certainly more hospitable than America in terms of visas! ❗

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