by Jackie Ngubeni
Garry Kasparov, the world undisputed greatest chess player of all time, visited South Africa to deliver the key-note address for the IBM business convention. I caught-up with him at famed Soccer-City, ground-zero of the 2010 FIFA World-Cup spectacular, just at the outskirt of Soweto. He listened attentively to my two decade long grassroots efforts to popularize chess in schools and the communities. He was readily impressed with the fact that to date we have facilitated more 3 000 teachers and have taught chess to more than 30 000 scholars!
He noted with pride the achievements of African players who toiled to become Grandmasters against many odds the likes of GMs. Simutowe(Zam), Adley and Bassem (Egyt). However, he astonishingly with a sense of determination in his voice, pointed to me that these achievements were a tip of the Iceberg and more MUST be done to unearth and stream-line the African child to world-wide chess glory. Garry astutely knows and understood very well that chess is the tool to enhance educational endeavors and it’s a stepping stone to many elite and professional careers. He went on to challenge me to do more!
The meeting quickly became an inspiration and a source of good ground-game advice from none other than the ultimate doyen, the culmination and the exhibition of chess par excellence from Russian school. My small delegation of young chess Soweto-volunteers, were completely mesmerized by the depth of knowledge around chess development this humble hero has.
However, in all this erudite experience and chess wealth, Garry then dropped what I believe was the mother of all bombshell best news; I call it the Kasparov’s African Dream! The chess maestro, in amongst many of his chess exploits roll-out (trust me I believe this is just the beginning!), revealed exclusively to me that he desires to plant his legacy in Africa by establishing a Kasparov Foundation preferably in Johannesburg as a hub. His model for this he pointed out can be similar to the USA efforts. He painstakingly emphasized the hands-on approach for his involvement as Africa is dearest to his heart!
After this meeting I kicked the can further down the road and even interacted with Kasparov’s emissary one GM. Sokolov who visited the Africa Chess Championships in Maputo. I must report openly that in my efforts to popularize chess, I have never encountered so much enthusiasm and interest within stakeholders (Government, Business and Communities) as I now have recently, by merely mentioning the Garry Kasparov dream. The interest has gone through the roof!
I believe this is the start of great progress for chess in Africa or at least in the communities that we are involved with. The pictures as the one above showing some of our volunteers with the ONE&ONLY has already excited many young kids and has boosted the incumbents image within. This is how powerful the man is! I firmly believe Kasparov can be a bankable credit to FIDE, he sure is to Africa Chess.
I sincerely will like to hear from many regarding this topic and essay. Please blog your comments below and also go to my Facebook profile and leave a note there if you please.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Kasparov to have accepted our meeting within his tight schedule and also thank IBM and its representative shown on the far right on the pic.