As the curtains roll down on 2013, the Ugandan Chess fraternity will look back with nostalgic memories of what a great year it has been. From getting the first International Master in East Africa in Elijah Emojong to hosting a larger-than-life figure in former World Chess Champion, GM Garry Kasparov, it has certainly been an action packed year with plenty of promises of what is yet to come.
Emojong set the ball rolling when he put in a splendid display at the Zone 4.2 Africa Chess Championship in Cairo, Egypt which saw him finish second with 7.5 points out of 9 in May, a performance that earned him the much coveted IM title from FIDE, the world's governing body.
The National Chess League became bigger and more competitive with a record 22 clubs battling for honours. The heightened competition and activity on the local scene gave impetus to Ugandan players to go and excel in all regional competitions held in the course of the year. Emojong finished second behind British Grandmaster Nigel Short in the star studded Spicenet Tanzania Open Chess Championship ahead of another GM from Romania. Haruna Nsubuga and FM Harold Wanyama went on to sweep the Mombasa Open and Daystar University Open Chess Championships held in Kenya.
With support from City Tyres, Uganda Chess Federation put up a highly successful National Junior Chess Championship that attracted a record entry of over 300 participants. Such numbers of children playing Chess in one location was a joy to behold. One of the pupils who excelled in that event, 17 year old Benjamin Mukumbya is now confirmed to represent Uganda at the World Youth Chess Championship scheduled from 17th to 29th December 2013 in Al Ain, UAE. This will be the first time that Uganda is represented at such an event.
With lots of activity, GM Kasparov's inaugural visit to the country was the icing on the cake. Two South Africans from the Kasparov Chess Foundation have recently followed up that visit and toured a pilot mini chess programme in a rural school in Kagoma.
Two Ugandans, Stephen Kisuze a member of the FIDE Development commission and Robert Katende a member of the FIDE Social Action commission attended the 84th World Chess Congress in Tallinn Estonia. Uganda was priviliged, because this was the first time that we sent representatives at a FIDE congress. Stephen also took part in a blitz tournament that took place at the world famous Paul Keres House in the Old Town of Tallinn. Kisuze's title of International Arbiter was approved at this congress.
In furtherance of the promotion of Chess in Schools and disadvantaged communities, FIDE through its Social Action Commission recently offered the Federation 8,000 US dollars to specifically promote Chess in Gulu, Northern Uganda. That project is already off the ground. The sky is the limit.