West African feds support Kasparov2014

Garry Kasparov next to the plaque commemorating his visit in Dakar, Senegal. Photo by kasparov2014.com.

Former World Champion Garry Kasparov has been busy with his campaign for FIDE President having recently finished an Asian tour and an African tour. The Asian tour occurred during the World Chess Championship in November and the latter covered a number of countries in Africa to augment the seven-country African tour last summer (included Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa). Kasparov visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria and was well-received.

Kasparov posed an interesting question about the future of African chess… “When will we see the first African world chess champion? If we begin big training push now?” Interestingly enough, Africa (West Africa in particular) has had a champion in another board game. The region boasts some of the world’s strongest draughts players… most notably francophone countries such as Ivory Coast and Senegal. In fact, Senegal has even produced the legendary Baba Sy, who was 1963-64 World Champion. If this is the case, there is no reason that West Africa cannot produce a vibrant chess culture.


When will we see the first African world chess champion? If we begin big training push now?

~A question Kasparov posed to each country on the African tour


Kasparov expressed optimism after his trip and was seemingly impressed at the reception. Despite the success, his visit ignited controversy. The presidents of three federations (Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana) have written a declaration as a sign of support for “Kasparov2014” while condemning what they see as “Good Old Way Of Doing Business” from Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The declaration was in a rather sharp style and rebuked the pattern of campaign politics. It read,

Over the course of the last several weeks, we have been approached, like many of our neighboring African chess federations, and requested to either host or participate in “visits to our countries” by Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE since November 1995. Almost everywhere, such visits are being officially presented as the occasion to launch “Chess in Schools Programs” in the countries being visited. In actual fact, these visits are being used to exert significant political and financial pressures on the local chess federation Presidents to cast their votes for Mr. Ilyumzhinov, who will be running for his fifth term as FIDE President in the 2014 FIDE elections.

As members of a new generation of African leaders and managers, we believe that these campaign strategies and tactics are illustrative of the “Good Old Way Of Doing Business” (GOWODB) with Africa’s governments, and with its public, private and civil society organizations. We believe in particular that the GOWODB is based on a concept of “Elections in Africa” which is not only insulting and demeaning for all Africans, but also totally out of touch with the vibrant reality of our continent which has engaged in an irreversible process of political transformation and economic development.

This declaration could have tremendous repercussions on the election and Ilyumzhinov’s campaign staff will certainly scramble to right the ship. In previous years, Ilyumzhinov has had some success in Africa despite a fierce battle against Bessel Kok in 2006 and Anatoly Karpov in 2010. However, it appears that Kasparov is taking a more measured approach and has many qualities missing in the previous candidates.

Kasparov welcomed in the Ivory Coast, a country traditionally strong in draughts. Joel Atse won the blitz gold medal in draughts at the World Mind Sport Games in China. Perhaps there is room for chess!

Kasparov addresses students at Queen’s International School in Ghana.

Members of the Ghana Chess Association

After the tour, three West Africans released the aforementioned declaration (dated 17 February 2014) showing support for Garry Kasparov. Signatories to the declaration were: Mr. Adeyemi OLALEKAN, President – Nigeria Chess Federation, Dr. Essoh Jean Mathieu Claude ESSIS, President – Federation Ivoirienne des Echecs, Mr. George Kweku ARKO-DADZIE, President – Ghana Chess Association. This show of solidarity may set the tone of an election where stakes are increasingly high.

FIDEC – Joint Declaration of West African Federations (PDF)

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  2. West Africa Chess Association President Sets to Support GCF
    By Cherno Omar Bobb, 3 March 2014

    Larbi Houari, president of West Africa Chess Association, has expressed his readiness to help the Gambia Chess Federation (GCF) have a structure in place as well as handle the project of chess in schools.

    Mr Houari, who was speaking to reporters on Friday, 28 February 2014 at the Badala Park Hotel during the opening ceremony of the Gambia Chess Federation Open Championship, added that he is in the country to listen to Gambia Chess Federation to know their problems and then advise them on how they can organise themselves as well as on how to provide money for them to keep some people working all year round.

    He stated that he was positively impressed with the Gambia Chess Federation as well as positively surprised by many things such as the volunteers, their energy and wish for change as well as their support for Garry Kasparov and his projects in Africa.

    He added that he was happy to represent Kasparov in The Gambia, noting that he will be personally involved in the change and development of chess in The Gambia, not only for chess players but also in schools.

    “We have to develop chess in high-level play and low-level play,” he pointed out, saying: “When I say low-level play it means from the very beginning for kids in schools because chess has proven its educational advantages for memories, strategies, concentration and many positive aspects of chess.”

    He remarked that they have many statistics in the African Kasparov Chess Foundation, noting that they are confident in that they can try to introduce chess in schools and then get the numbers and with the numbers they hope partners will be interested to help the Federation go ahead.

    The GCF needs to be solid, he went on, saying: “We will help the Federation have a structure and to handle the project of chess in schools.”

    “We are thinking of a long-term project,” said the founder of West Africa Chess Association, who added that “if you want to develop chess you need long-term projects – something during the year with schools and clubs.”

    The championship, fully sponsored by Kasparov, is an event dedicated to remind people that chess still exists in The Gambia, Mr Houari, a member of Kasparov Foundation, also said, adding that after the event they would start work in earnest.

    The championship is not by way of developing chess but a kind of publicity for chess, he added.

    He also said: “I am here to listen to Gambia Chess Federation’s problems and then if I can advise on how they can organise themselves and how to provide money to keep some people working all the year; not from time to time because what kills the sport is non-continued process. So we have to make sure ones we start we work on it every day, week, month, year.”

    His relationship with the President of the Gambia Chess Federation is really good, he said, noting that they are like brothers.

    For this reason, he is sure they will definitely have successful development of chess in the country, he noted, but was quick to add that they have to be patient because there is a lot of work to be done.

    The giving of prizes to the players is a good encouragement (the winner of the championship will receive $600, second position $400, and from 3rd to 10th positions each $150), he observed, saying they need players to become actors in chess development.

    “Players should not just play but also involve themselves in helping the Federation to extend chess, particularly in schools,” he highlighted, calling on the players not to concentrate only on playing chess as it can serve as a full-time job for them (for example, arbiters, trainers and such kinds of jobs around chess).

    Mr Houari, who is personally engaged in helping The Gambia Chess Federation to progress, added that he thinks the Federation has all they need but only need the first push.

    “The first push Kasparov told me to come and listen to you and your needs to try to make a plan for long term,” he revealed, saying they will give them the push to see that chess in The Gambia rise in different ways.

    In conclusion he said: “I hope The Gambia will also have an influence in other neighboring countries.”

    Link: https://allafrica.com/stories/201403032267.html

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