On July 11th, Garry arrived on the continent with the mission of bringing chess into educational systems through out the region by facilitating cooperation among public and private sponsors and organisations. Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe – six countries in five days were on the hectic itinerary of the former world chess champion and his wife Dasha Kasparova, who joined him in this endeavour.
In partnership with Moves for Life initiative and accompanied by business, political and education officials, the tour is the continuation of Kasparov’s effort, which began in South Africa in 2012. Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa (KCFA) focuses on introduction of chess in schools as an instrument of early cognitive development. Building on the success of South African model, KCFA aims at building infrastructure for chess-in-school initiatives through out the continent.
“It’s an awareness-raising trip,” Kasparov said, “both to raise awareness of chess in our destinations and to raise our own awareness about these places and what they need.”
Kenya. Garry addressed Kenya National Youth Chess Championship and gave out prizes to the contestants. In his remarks on the state of the Kenyan chess federation he said, “It’s a real shame to see how abandoned the Kenyan federation had been. For all the talk from FIDE about supporting chess in developing world, it’s clear here on the ground that that’s all just talk. Githinji (Githinji Hinga, Federation President) is serious about rebuilding and we are just as serious about helping them do it. We are glad to talk, but we aren’t here with empty hands! FIDE sends a box of chess sets, KCFA is working on ten entire schools!”
Uganda. Garry met with Uganda Chess Federation, Schools and Chess Community. Garry’s recent appearance in New York City with Moves for Life co-founder Marisa van der Merwe and young Ugandan chess star Phiona Mutesi was covered here, and this entire trip was a logical follow-up move to Kasparov’s powerful exhortation in NYC about the importance of education. Ironically, as Kasparov became the first world champion to visit Uganda, Mutesi was playing in an event in South Africa!
“All Uganda requires is to have the right infrastructure, network and professional training,” said Garry Kasparov shortly after arrival in the country this afternoon.
“Chess is a proper irrigation for students because like academics, it also involves thinking, planning and focusing” he added.
Rwanda. Meeting with Sports and Culture Minister Protais Mitali and Education Minister Mathias Harebamungu Garry went on to discuss benefits of chess in its famous definition as a sport, an art, and a science. In the light of overwhelming amount of evidence that chess has universal positive impact on early and late childhood development, introduction of the ancient game in schools could spell improvement in all disciplines.
Malawi. Garry was met with enthusiasm and overwhelming excitement. Speaking about the state of affairs of the local Federation and its relationship with FIDE, Garry said, “if we as a chess community are going to take our global responsibility to the game seriously, we need to do everything we can to promote its growth where there is the most potential. For the most part that means Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, especially in the areas we call the developing world. Hitting these struggling little federations with FIDE fees is anti-growth and anti-chess.”
Democratic Republic of Congo. Garry met with Governor of Katanga Province, Moise Katumbi Chapwe. “A very impressive figure,” was Kasparov’s evaluation. “I’m always happy to meet people who are more interested in doing than in talking, and Governor Chapwe is such man.” Later meetings included Minister of Education, Laurent Kahozi Sumba, who was given the presentation of the KCFA program.
Zimbabwe. Harpal S. Randhawa of GEMS Education has announced that Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa programs will be implemented in their network of 20 schools. Meeting with Federation president Charles Kuzawa, Kasparov said, “these small federations get a few little gifts from Ilyumzhinov (current FIDE president) every four years and then are safely ignored. It’s entirely backwards at the moment. FIDE shouldn’t be living off the taxes of these federations, it should be the other way around, with FIDE having enough sponsors to give them the support they need. Real support, real chess brotherhood, also means being available and listening and responding, not disappearing and taking all your big promises with you when you go. KCFA is *here*, and we aren’t leaving!”
On July 16, the trip concluded in fine fashion when Kasparov met with the South African Ministry of Sport and Recreation to discuss a program to find and train the most talented kids in the country.
“You can’t ignore the importance of sporting achievement to promote the game at every level,” Kasparov told us. “The successes of national champions inspire kids and parents, bring media coverage and sponsorship, and build national pride in an intellectual pursuit. The model that has worked is to focus on education and the grassroots but not to ignore the top talents and professional infrastructure.”
In conclusion of the blitz tour, Garry attended Commonwealth Open Chess Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.