By Samuel Sanya
Garry Kasparov touched down at 12:55pm Thursday at the Entebbe international airport — an hour earlier than planned with a promise to devote more time and resources to developing chess in Uganda.
On his second visit to Uganda, the Russian Chess great was accompanied by Githinji Hinga, the Kenya Chess chairman and Nurdin Hassuji, the Tanzania Chess Association general secretary as he rallies support for his FIDE presidential bid.
Kasparov —an author, movie star, businessman and politician, rumoured to be worth $185m (sh463b) arrived to a pompous reception. He was received by Uganda Chess Federation President Vianney Luggya, association officials and chess fans.
“There is so much talent in Uganda waiting to be tapped. Just look at Phiona Mutesi, she was discovered by ‘accident’. Africa has been neglected for so long. Imagine the talent that could be discovered if 5,000 girls where deliberately chosen for chess tournaments,” Kasparov asked.
He noted that unlike Asia and Europe, countries like Uganda in Africa are hungry to succeed in chess and that there is abundance of intelligent people who can succeed on the global chess scene.
Kasparov added that Africa has a limited number of Grand Masters simply due to neglect from the global chess body - FIDE. “All it takes is more rated chess players from Europe coming for tournaments in Africa. I have done this in South Africa,” he said.
Kasparov was flanked by Afrika Msimang, the Kasparov Chess Foundation president for Africa who noted that some countries like Ethiopia have not hosted a top FIDE official in a half century.
“What we want is more respect for Africa. The continent should not just be remembered during election years,” she said.
After his first visit in July 2013, the Kasparov foundation started a mini-chess pilot at the Kagoma Gate Friendship school in eastern Uganda. Kasparov revealed that he rallying global funders to roll out the programme to all schools in the country later this year.
The mini-chess program targets primary one to primary three pupils. Kasparov noted that a study in South Africa showed that children who play chess early in life develop strong cognitive skills which are essential for mastering science subjects like maths.
“We have rolled out the mini-chess program in Malawi and Rwanda. We are looking for funders to start the project in Uganda, Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, and DR Congo,” Kasparov said.