By Duncan Mlanjira
Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM) held its extraordinary annual general meeting on Saturday where among other discussions, it made some amendments to its constitution by demarcating all districts into zones as it plans to take the sport to every part of the country.
CHESSAM president, Susan Namangale said they discussed their performance for the past two years — that included winning the prestigious Malawi Sport Awards for second year running.
Namangale was awarded the 2019 the Best Sport Administrator Award for the second year running after the association previously were awarded in 6 categories.
“This has energised ourselves to push for more improvement and thus we want to infiltrate across the country by demarcating the districts into zones,” she said.
The zones in the three regional leagues are Chitipa/Karonga; Mzimba /Rumphi; Nkhata Bay/Likoma (for the North); Lilongwe/Ntcheu/Dedza; Ntchisi/Nkhotakota/Salima; Mchinji/Kasungu/Dowa for the Centre.
The Southern Region’s are Thyolo/Mulanje/Phalombe/Chiradzulu; Mangochi/Zomba/Balaka/Machinga and Blantyre/Nsanje/Chikwawa/Mwanza/Neno.
Due to observance of COVID-19 measures, the meeting was done in three venues — Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu connected virtually through a Microsoft Teams Platform.
“Members from all three leagues participated, thanks to Crossroads Hotels in Lilongwe and Blantyre and Illala Crest in Mzuzu for providing us these venues.
“We discussed how COVID-19 has affected us and our milestones amidst the pandemic. The pandemic allowed our players to adapt to technology and most of them, including the youths are now familiar with online chess.
“We shall continue to embrace the over the board as well as online tournaments knowing that we are living in a digital era. The online served as training and helped the players master the game as they are constantly playing.”
Recently, Malawi participated in the Southern Africa Zone 4.5 Games but came 8th out of nine teams that took part.
However, Malawi’s board one player, Candidate Master (CM) Petros ‘Razorblade’ Mfune (2025 Elo ranking) produced the upset of the tournament when he beat South African International Master Watu Kobese (2340 Elo) in the last round.
Also Malawi featured the youngest female player of the tournament — nine-year-old Rachael Jailosi, daughter to former vice-chairperson of Southern Region Chess League, Peter Jailosi.
Namangale said the position 8 was not satisfactory as most of the players were being introduced to online tournaments but having learnt from their shortfalls, they are determined to improve their performance.
“There were some special improvements that came from the tournament such as time management which is key in chess. However, the time control for online and over the board tournaments is different as OTB has more time.”
She said the lesson learnt from COVID-19 was that they must always be alert to disruption and ready to change plans.
“When we embark on ambitious plans, we often face unforeseen threats and difficult problems. As we do on the chessboard, in life and in business, we try to meet hardship and setback by rethinking our situation and adapting our strategy to the new realities.
“Often times this involves doing things in a completely new way — finding opportunities to re-channel our strengths, learning to use new tools, and managing with the available little resources.”
Amongst highlights discussed at the EAGM included successful national tournaments sponsored by MyBucks Bank and participating in the World Olympiad and the Zone 4.5.
CHESSAM also took part in world chess governing body FIDE’s initiative to help COVID-19 awareness by implementing the Checkmate Coronavirus tournaments.
“Amidst the pandemic, we have been able to conduct elections for the three leagues and for the first time managed to orient all leagues through virtual meetings.
“Let us celebrate that amidst COVID-19 our chess players quickly adapted and continued to enjoy the game by playing online games.
“As for tournaments, we continue to take stock of the situation with respect to COVID-19 and allow some games to be played at league level as was done with Central Region Chess League recently.”
On funding, CHESSAM received $20,000 in 2019 under FIDE’s FEDFUnding Program which helped them to participate in international tournaments.
It also received K5.1 million (2019-2020) from Malawi National Council of Sports for the Presidential Sport Initiative (2019) and to support various activities such as air ticket cost for U-16 team to travel to Lesotho and the online World Olympiad.
“An additional K7 million has been approved for youth chess development activities including procurement of equipment.
“We sold the chess boards at subsidized prices to schools and development programme players. Over 250 chess boards have been sold to schools across the country in the past two years.”
The meeting also took cognizance that CHESSAM trained 44 chess patrons from 38 schools across the country in 2019; piloted a chess club project for the people with disability at Karonga School for the Deaf as well as developing resuscitating national club championship after many years of being inactive.
The committee that was ushered two years ago also implemented the player membership system in which 147 members registered in 2019 with 67% of members now having ID cards.
Namangale was also appointed as as Africa Women Commission chairperson and various CHESSAM officials were elected into Africa and Zonal Technical Committees.
To become more visible and relevant as the most active sport association in Malawi, changed its logo in 2019 which represents fresh new mindset and it signaled an energetic association. The idea was — and still is — to become as visible
She also applauded various partners and sponsors such as the Sports Council; Crossroads Hotel for continued support to provide a conducive venue for all CHESSAM events in Blantyre and Lilongwe; MyBucks Bank and Malawi Revenue Authority for promoting chess through the sponsorship.
She also paid tribute to Malawi top ranked player, Joseph Mwale who has set up his Chess Academy that is keeping young players active through online training and tournaments.
Among others, CHESSAM plans to engage the corporate world more for sponsorship; improve marketing and fundraising initiatives and to lobby more support from Government through National Sport Council.
They also strive to procure more electronic boards and chess equipment for schools; participate in many international tournaments to improve player ratings and titles and to continue their focus on school chess development.
“Going forward and borrowing from the words spoken by the Malawi President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, “let us all work hard, work hard and work smart” to improve our smart and beautiful game of chess,” Namangale said.