The Sarit Expo Center in Nairobi, Kenya will be home to some of the biggest chess names globally come April 5 when the Kenya Open Chess Championship gets underway.
Ugandan players have normalized flocking Kenyan events as headliners and favourites, but when this event commences next week on Wednesday, they, like the hosts will be underdogs as the event will be graced by Grandmasters from allover the World.
Over 100 players will take part in this edition, but the star players will be the eight GMs who’ve confirmed participation, with GM Guseinov Gadir from Azerbaijan the top seeded with a 2661 rating.
Fide Master Harold Wanyama, the defending champion of this event, admits that like Kenyans, Ugandans have minimal chances of winning the top prize, but while he thinks so, the rated 2303 says the opportunity to play against the very best is what excites him.
“The excitement for me is exactly the same I have when going for the Olympiad,” Wanyama who has won this event three times told The Sports Nation.
“This is a rare opportunity to play in an event with more than 2 GMs in Africa. You can only improve by playing top opposition. You cannot improve when you are always the top player in an event. For me this is also a learning experience.”
Uganda will be represented by 15 players including the No.1 seed in East Africa International Master Arthur Ssegwanyi. IM Elijah Emojong, FM Patrick Kawuma and Wanyama are some of the top players from Uganda.
They will go head to head with GMs from USA, Latvia, Russia, Paraguay, and India. From Africa, GM Fawzy Adam and Hesham Abdelrahman from Egypt will represent the Pharaohs.
Zambia, one of the top chess countries in the continent will also be represented by its finest. IM Andrew Kayonde with a 2363 rating leads that team that includes IM Gilian Bwalya, IM Phiri Richmond and FM Prince Daniel Mulenga.
South Africa has FM Mhango Banele and IM Jan Karsten as the only representatives. Kenya, as the hosts have a mammoth of players, but their highest ranked player is Hilary Sagwa and he comes ranked 38th.
The Kenyan federation has come all in, in this tournament in as far as the prize money is concerned. A total of $42000 has been put aside as the reward money of which $8000 will go to the winner. That’s more than the monies put at the African Individual Championship, a FIDE bankrolled tournament.
It is nowonder that the GMs have flocked the event.