By Luggya Vianney
Uganda’s most celebrated Olympian Shaddrack Kantinti has hinted on retiring from active chess. The shocking revelation comes on the heels of a lackluster showing at the just ended 39th World Chess Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk Russia.
Kantinti revealed this before the penultimate round of the Olympiad to the surprise of many. The usually ruthless tactician was a shadow of his former self through out this Olympiad, failing to convert even the most basic of wins after securing an overwhelming advantage with a queen for a minor piece but ended up drawing against a little known opponent from Sao Tome and Principe!! Kantinti played a total of 8 games but scored a dismal 2.5 points ending as the worst Ugandan performer with a 31.2% score. This is what his fans feel could have precipitated this rather premature retirement announcement.
Kantinti, 33 has played in every single Olympiad since the year 2000 setting an unprecedented Ugandan record of appearing at 5 consecutive Olympiads. He has a collection of silverware won from numerous local, national and regional championships.
He started out as gifted youngster from Nsambya, a Kampala surburb. It was not long before he made his mark on the national scene. Once he got there, he became an established member of the chess playing elite.
It was not clear whether his announcement meant totally quitting chess or simply keeping away from World Olympiads. It is most likely that the Uganda Chess Federation would not take this lightly as they would certainly be better off with his wealth of experience and sobriety. As a trainer or Coach, Kantinti would be a valuable asset of UCF whose skill resource base is so limited.
He will always be remembered in the chess fraternity as a fearless warrior who often attacked opponents with ruthless but reckless abandon and sacrificed pieces out of the blue, leading to complicated variations that are simply out of this world. He turned out victorious on most occasions.
From a neutral’s perspective, one would say that his only weakness has been an apparent lack of adequate conceptualization of opening theory. Once out of the established opening schemes, his opponents would have to contend with his energy, talent and natural ability to calculate original and precise moves. This quality is simply un-matched (locally) but may be compared to that of renowned players such as Grandmaster Alexander Morozevich of Russia.
His love for the game of chess and its promotion is unprecedented. At the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany (2008), the bulk of Uganda’s chess team was denied visas to EU until midway through the Olympiad. At the time, Uganda had only two representatives who had successfully made it in time and these were UK based FMs Steven and Moses Kawuma. The two had been featuring for Uganda’s team on boards three and four, respectively for the first 8 rounds, leaving boards one and two without any players.
When the Germany embassy in Uganda finally succumbed to pressure from all corners after relentless player appeals to the Olympiad organizers, they eventually issued visas to the rest of the local contingent. However, because it was too late with several games already played, most players gave up on the costly travel but not Kantinti who flew to Germany in time for the last three rounds. Much to their delight and astonishment, Moses and Steven were shocked on entering the playing hall to find Kantinti seated on board one of the Ugandan corner with a body language exhuming readiness for battle. After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, the trio didn’t have time to go through the reasons as to how the rest of the team had failed to make it before going straight to business and running over their unsuspecting Chinese Taipei opponents 3-1. Inspired by the arrival of Kantinti, Uganda went on to white-wash their next two opponents Madagascar and Liechtenstein by the same margin as if trying to compensate earlier round pitfalls to conclude the 2008 Olympiad in style.
As if the on-board exploits in Dresden were not enough, Kantinti bumped into Sierra Leone chess officials who were stuck with a consignment of chess equipment that they were about to abandon because they could not easily transport it to their country due to flight baggage limitations. Being the chess lover that he is, Kantinti struck a sudden deal with them, paid for the equipment out of his own pockets and flew with it to Kampala, handing it to the Uganda Chess Federation, intact. How many individuals are capable of such a noble feat!
If Kantinti were to live up to his word and retire at that age, he would join lesser accomplished talents in the likes of former Olympians Andrew Naimanye, Geoffrey Makumbi, Dr. Umar Kakumba, Steven Opio, Godfrey Bisereko and Stephen Kisuze, who hardly feature anymore. Other formerly promising talents in limbo (under-achievers) that would view Kantinti’s impending retirement as long overdue include Ivan Katamba, Kenneth Kaheru, Raphael Buti, Godfrey Luberenga, George W. Ssenyomo and Pius Mwinganisa (quite debatable whether he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath).