However, the federation’s most significant efforts have been on under-18 focused tournaments, both locally and internationally.
Chess in Uganda has significantly progressed from the days when Dr. George William Zirembuzi held end of year meetings at the steps of National Council of Sports where he lent out chess books and collected those previously borrowed.
However, suspicion, rumor, and politics started to creep into the sport when the popularity of chess, sponsorship and lucrative tournaments increased.
The tenure of Vianney Luggya as president of the Uganda Chess Federation saw Uganda host renowned Chess greats such as Russia’s Garry Kasparov, FIDE Vice President, Ali Nihat Yazici and Africa Chess Union President, Lakhdar Mazoouz among others.
There was also the emergence of stars like the Queen of Katwe Phiona Mutesi, Benjamin Mukumbya who earned a Candidate Master title, IMs Arthur Ssegwanyi, and Elijah Emojong among others. Uganda also hosted landmark tournaments like the Zone 4.2 Africa Championships and later the Zonal individual championships which were all well attended.
On the local scene, league participation continued to grow as did the Fr. Grimes inter-school Junior chess championship which was bolstered by new tournaments such as the City Tyres national junior championship.
Despite this success, rumors lingered over money for headquarters and supposed money paid to local officials by candidates vying for the FIDE presidency. Fueled by this speculation and clandestine meetings by aggrieved players; Luggya regime was replaced in 2017 by the Emmanuel Mwaka regime.
Even with a new regime, the rumor mill keeps spinning. Despite a tight grip on who can submit results to FIDE for rated tournaments, there have been some efforts to increase the number of tournaments such as a rapid tournament that featured Grand Master Nigel short, the single-day AMU chess open, in addition to the league and the usual menu of old tournaments.
The federation has also popularized Friday night cyber chess tournaments on lichess.org. However, the federation’s most significant efforts have been on under-18 focused tournaments, both locally and internationally.
With this focus has come friction and division. Interest that was kindled with the City Tyres National Junior championships and Hisense junior chess open has continued to grow and as this interest and actors grew – so did disagreements on the best way forward.
Several chess academies have been founded that train school children; some with the blessings of the Federation and several others running independently. The greatest breakaway and independent faction has been the Chess Parents and Guardians Association (CPGA).
The association unveiled veteran administrator Dr. Martin Aliker as its patron. Association chairman Suubi Kiwanuka also unveiled a national youth championship with Vision Group, Jesa, Sheraton hotel and Stanbic providing sponsorship in the region of sh50m.
The inaugural national youth chess championship closed in December with a huge turnout. The CPGA is set to rival the UCF for years to come when it comes to chess events for under 18 players. The older players who were the focus of the Luggya regime are still thriving on the older established menu of tournaments such as the national chess league, and the Rwabushenyi Memorial Open Rated Chess Championship among others.
As the CPGA Chess Youth Championship ended, Caroline Lanyero, Michael Talemwa, Osborn Mwembezi, and Sivakumar Hamsssadhwane, Benjamin Ajiri, Mary Kevin Ndagire, and Mathew Mwase Shamia Nankabirwa, Suubi Kiwanuka and Jayden Mubiru won the different categories (18-under 8 categories).
From the enthusiasm, it created around the country the CPGA will in the near future produce more budding chess stars to join the likes of Maria Nakanyike.
Earlier this year, Nakanyike attained the Woman Fide Master title after she finished second at the Africa Junior U-20 Championship that Uganda hosted at the J&M Hotel behind South Africa’s Anika Du Plessis who won with 8.5pts, one and a half points better than Nakanyike’s.
At the All Africa Games in Morocco, two chess players Arthur Ssegwanyi and Harold Wanyama were among the contingent that represented Uganda. It was a successful outing for Uganda that bagged silver and bronze medals from different events including one from Chess by Harold Wanyama in the Men's rapid individual event. Ssegwanyi finished 16th.
During the Africa Zone 4.2 Chess Championship in Kenya, the Ugandan duo of Haruna Nsubuga and IM Arthur Ssegwanyi each garnered 7.5/9 points but were separated by tie-break to finish as 1st and 2nd runner-up respectively to tournament’s Egyptian top seed GM Ahmed Adly (2618) and former World Junior Champion who won 7 and drew 2 games to amass 8/9 points to emerge champion. Nsubuga and Ssegwanyi each pocketed $687 (sh2.5m) and $562 (sh2m) respectively from the tournament with Bob Bibasa who finished fifth taking home $200 (sh700, 000/-).
In the Ladies section, Uganda’s WFM Ivy Amoko won 8 games in a row after her round 1 defeat to her compatriot WCM Shakira Ampaire to finish with 8/9 points and be crowned champion, as well as earning the Woman International Master (WIM) title and sh1.8m
Other locally organised tournaments included the Rwabushenyi memorial, Doves Rapid Chess Independence tournament, Kireka Open, and the Uganda National Chess League among others.