Kenya archives Karanja!

Kangugi ‘KK’ Karanja featured on the cover of Executive Magazine (December 12 1988). Courtesy of Kim Bhari.

Kim Bhari has gone back into his chess archives and made available some vintage newsletters and pictures. For those in the U.S., they may remember a child prodigy named Kangugi “KK” Karanja who blazed the trail of scholastic chess in the 80s. At the time, he was one of the youngest players to reach National Master level. Karanja holds dual citizenship and has returned to Kenya on occasion to conduct simultaneous exhibitions. Below is a photo of one of the exhibitions given by Karanja.

Having unearthed such valuable photos, Bhari can take pride in knowing that thousands of people in the worldwide chess community will be able to witness these moments in history. More archival documents can be seen at


  1. This is nice…KK was really the first African-American chess prodigy. Listing when he made master almost does him a disservice, as he was 2100 at the age of 10 back in the mid-80s, won the Aspis Prize (highest rated US player under age 13) and by the age of 15 he had already lost interest in the game (though he still drew with Kasparov with the black pieces in a simul at the age of 14!).

    Would be nice to see a feature on KK and similar pioneers during Black History month, since over time people tend to forget…

  2. Woody,

    Black History segments are typically done every February, but given the nature of this site, these stories are done all year round, or whenever the information becomes available. In KK’s case, these photos only became available after Kim Bhari of Kenya recently went into his old belongings and pulled them out. There are probably a lot of photos, games and articles in basements, attics and storage units around the world. I remember learning about Rogelio Ortego of Cuba from Jim Kulbacki.

    I did an article on Baraka Shabazz early 2010 and found an old video interview of her at a university library (cost $37 to borrow). I may even be able to present more details on her soon. Many of these people are very hard to track down and information is hard to unearth. I’ve been looking for Howard Daniels for a decade now without success. I did one on the DC/Maryland pioneers and have done a couple on Walter Harris and one on Leroy Muhammad.

    Black History Links:!

  3. I didn’t know how to play chess during the time KK visited Kenya but I recall it was a big deal. I remember him taking on 3 politicians simultaneous on the then only TV station VOK (Voice Of Kenya) and afterwards dissecting the game with them. For the non-chessplayer I was then (at age 7) it was very fascinating to watch. The following night he was back on TV discussing the anatomy of the heart, drawing detailed diagrams on a blackboard, lecturing the news presenters on the intricate functions of this and that valve or vein.

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