TCD: How do players qualify for the national team and how do they train?
NSIBAMBI: Uganda's qualification method is quite transparent. We use progressive elimination tournaments that start off with a large number of players drawn from a major tournament . They participate in qualifying Swiss tournaments whittling themselves down to a final group of 12.
The final 12 then participate in a round robin tournament to select the best six to represent the country. We find this system beneficial because it compels the established players to always be on their toes as there are no guaranteed places on the national team. It also gives the upcoming ones an opportunity to gun for the top.
The National coach normally takes the team through theory and practicals. We also encourage the players to use the computer to prepare themselves. The national chess league, which is held over the weekends for the bigger part of the year, also forms part of the training regime.
TCD: Does the UCF have practice matches with neighboring African nations (i.e., Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa)?
NSIBAMBI: Uganda maintains close and cordial ties with the Kenyan, Botswana, Zambian and Egyptian chess fraternities. With Kenya, the ties border on the brotherly and the two federations endeavor to help out on accommodation whenever they visit each other. Travel funding is the major constraint against more intra-African chess interaction.
TCD: Please tell us about the Olympic team members.
NSIBAMBI: This year's Uganda Olympic team is a product of UCF's schools programme and is composed of:
Grace Nsubuga (2239) aged 29 is the most experienced player and this is his third Olympiad after Elista (1998) and Istanbul (2000). In July/August 2001 a few weeks before 9/11, he was part of the historic group that participated in the inaugural Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament in New York. He is a positional player.
Shadrack Kantinti (25) will also be in his third Olympiad having gone to Yerevan in 1996 and Istanbul 2000. His style wavers between tactical and positional and he is therefore quite unpredictable.
Steven Kawuma (21) has more recently been Uganda's long reigning junior champion. A 2nd year Makerere University mechanical engineering student, this is his second Olympiad after Istanbul. His style is similar to Kantinti hovering towards positional.
Ignatius Wanderema (22), Isaac Munanira (22) and Emmanuel Mwaka (23) are debutants at this year's Olympiad. Steven, Ignatius and Isaac participated in the 1997 African Junior championship that UCF hosted in Kampala.
TCD: Is women's chess very active in Uganda?
NSIBAMBI: Women chess in Uganda is highly encouraged. For instance, we always ensure that for every major tournament, we hold a separate women's category for both open and juniors with different age-limits. Some of the leading names that have represented Uganda internationally are Elisabeth Namirembe, Charity Nanteza, Juliet Nakandi and Catherine Namutebi.