Kenya-Netherlands Internet match!

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Like many African nations, Kenya is one with an interesting history. However, their chess history is a bit less storied. Kenya has a small community, but the passion runs high. As part of an ongoing initiative to ignite excitement in Kenya, a friendly match was proposed. Mehul Gohil of the Kenyan “Simbas” sent in the following report covering the Kenya-Netherlands match last weekend.

The Kenyan Simbas.

THE KENYAN SIMBAS

(standing L-R) Akello Atwoli, Phiip Singe, Githinji Hinga, Ben Magana
(seated L-R) Ben Nguku, Mehul Gohil.


Kenya vs. Netherlands Internet Match
by Mehul Gohil

A few months ago, in the corner of a bar that converts itself into a chess club on weekday evenings, in a city called Nairobi that is the capital of Kenya, a country hard to find on the chess map, a Dutchman called Dr. Nikolai Van Beek and myself were casually discussing in a smoky, botvinikesque atmosphere how we could come up with a local chess event that would capture the national imagination. The idea of an internet chess match between a select Kenyan side and Wageningen Chess Club of Holland with whom Dr. Nikolai had personal connections was concocted.

Kim Bhari

The two of us set about trying to make this idea a reality but also realized our task would be daunting, especially in a country where an attendance of 50 players in a national open constitutes a success. This is the sort of chess region where owning the latest version of Fritz will give you a cult following.

However, the small Kenyan chess fraternity is anything but not enthusiastic and many volunteers stepped forward to help. Leading the pack was Nairobi Chess Club, the oldest club in the country having set itself up in 1958 and active ever since. Its chairman Kim Bhari (right), the hardest working man in Kenyan chess, decided to have the club take over not only the logistics of organizing the event but also managed to negotiate a lucrative sponsorship deal for the event with Kenya’s biggest mobile communications company, Safaricom.

Safaricom was duly impressed with the Playchess interface we planned to use to make the match happen over the internet. In addition, the Kenyan government also encouraged the event to go ahead as they saw this as an opportunity to exhibit the potential of the newly landed fibre-optic cable in the country.

Wageningen Chess Club also supported our endeavour in a strong way. Not least by lining up for the Kenya select team (which we christened “Kenya Simbas”, simbas meaning lions in Swahili) a mighty opposition in the form of the legendary GM Jan Timman and IM Yochahan Afek as their boards one and two.

Wageningen Chess Club of Holland

Back in Kenya the rest of us thought it couldn’t be true that such strong players would be willing to take some time off their normal schedules and agree to play with us! The other players on the Wageningen team were Sander Van Eijk, Fred Jonker, Erwin Ooerbeek and Hotze Hofstra.

Battle began on Saturday afternoon October 3 2009.

The Kenya Simbas team consisted of Ben Magana, Peter Gilruth, Ben Nguku, Mehul Gohil, Githinji Hinga and Akello Atwoli. Battling the Wageningen team proved a very tough task and in the end the Kenya Simbas went down to a heavy 6-0 loss. However, the bad result was more then compensated for by the publicity the event generated back in Kenya. It was certainly one of the biggest chess events ever held in Kenya and all major national media outlets reported on it.

Ben Nguku (partially hidden), Peter Gilruth, Ben Magana

L-R: Ben Nguku, Peter Gilruth, Ben Magana pawn off against the Dutchman while…

GM Jan Timman and company respond in kind. Photo by Kim Bhari.

…GM Jan Timman and company respond in kind!

Photos galleries are courtesy of Kim Bhari, Mehul Gohil, Philip Singe,
Issac Babu and the Wageningen Chess Club.

View games here!!

13 Comments

  1. MATCH PHOTOS

    Dr. Nikolai Van Beek makes a presentation.

    Dr. Nikolai Van Beek makes a presentation.

    Demo Boards.

    So far, the match is even.

    An African drummer in the Netherlands gives blessings to the match.

    An African drummer in the Netherlands gives blessings to the match.

    The Dutch side awaits the beginning of the match.

    The Dutch side awaits the beginning of the match.

    Playing Hall.

    The Playing Hall… the match begins!

    Dr. Nikolai Van Beek was the liaison between the two clubs.

    Dr. Nikolai Van Beek was the liaison between the two clubs.

    Peter Gilruth ruminating against IM Yochahan Afek...

    Peter Gilruth ruminating against IM Yochahan Afek…

    ...while Yochahan Afek ponders position against Gilruth.

    …while Yochahan Afek ponders position against Gilruth.

    The Simbas attempting to hold the Dutchman.

    Simbas Peter Gilruth and Ben Nguku attempting to hold the Dutchman.

    Mehul Gohil tries in vain to score for Kenya.

    Mehul Gohil tries in vain to score for Kenya.

    Playing Hall at the first-rate Wageningen Chess Club.

    Playing Hall at the first-rate Wageningen Chess Club.

    Jan Timman analyzes game versus Ben Magana.

    Jan Timman analyzes game versus Ben Magana.

  2. VISIONS FROM KENYA!!
    Kenya Kenya Kenya

    A weekend of chess at the Nairobi Chess Club.

    The skyline of Nairobi, Kenya.

    The scenic view of Uhuru Park.

    Uhuru Park

    Kenyatta Avenue... cuts right in the middle of Nairobi.

    Kenyatta Avenue… cuts right in the middle of Nairobi.

    Jamia Mosque... located in the heart of Nairobi.

    Jamia Mosque… located in the heart of Nairobi.

    Flower Pot.

    Flower Pot… a monument of apparent significance!

    KANU Monument

    KANU Monument… the symbol of the independence party.

    n

    Khoja Mosque.jpg

    The Khoja Mosque, one of the oldest buildings in Nairobi.

    A weekend of chess at the Nairobi Chess Club in beautiful and sunny Nairobi.

    A weekend of chess at the Nairobi Chess Club in beautiful and sunny Nairobi.

    Purity Gachigi, National Women's Champion.

    Purity Gachigi, National Women’s Champion.

    Benjamin Magana, Kenya's top board.

    Benjamin Magana, Kenya’s top board… one GM scalp to his credit.

  3. That was quite a line up that the Kenyan Simbas faced. It’s wonderful how the internet makes such as match possible. It gives players an opportunity to face off against competition that they otherwise might not get to play in person. Perhaps next on the Simbas’ schedule could be a match against some of the US rising young African-American stars such as Justus Williams and Joshua Colas.

  4. Mr, Shabazz my apologies if i dont share your elation for theses people from the Netherlands , but then again they dont send people to spy on you do they? Since im just theorizing lets say u live in Buffalo, N.Y. and some IM from over there moves next to your home and says hes just there because he got some small time job near you and the next thing you know you, they got some small idea you created yourself on the internet , how would you react ! with a smile? O.K.

  5. Lionel,

    Not sure what you’re referring to, but your last comment had nothing to do with the match. The names you put in your last post had nothing to do with chess. If the comment is not related to the match or the topic, I will delete it.

    Some of what you write is difficult to make out. Not sure what your MO is sometimes.

  6. Mr. Lionel,

    I don’t exactly understand what you said but I kind of get the gist of it. As a part of the main organising team for the event from the Kenyan side I will say that our dutch counterparts were extremely helpful. This whole idea was in general a Kenyan conception. The dutch loved it and were willing to jump on board.

    It’s far fetched to think the dutch ‘stole’ a Kenyan idea!

    Mehul

  7. Wonderful news! Strong chess ,thats the first time ive seen the Kenyas play! They have some really fascinating ideas in their games as well,its clear by the look on the Kenyas faces that all had a great time, thanks for the heads up! I didnt mean to infer that the dutch stole anything but i have competed with their top guys on the ICC and many of them chose to use stealth as the Mode of Operation, they know its time for “Change” you can see it in this recent Tiviakov- Ivanchuck Caro-Kahn game. Peace.

  8. I have been a chess enthusiast and a player for over a decade but never had the opportunity (or cojones) to test myself, so of late I have started searching for prospective clubs…and what a surprise, I didn’t know there was such a vibrant and dedicated chess community in Kenya. Kudos to you guys and I hope I’ll be soon facing some of you across a board. Please send me any details you might have of clubs and upcoming tournaments. THANKS

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