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Health & Fitness

Playing chess and perks that come with it

The Chess Grandmaster playing with the kids among them Aaditya Bhattbhatt from Tanzania at the closing of the Light House Junior Open Chess Championships. Photo | Eunice Murathe| NMG
The Chess Grandmaster playing with the kids among them Aaditya Bhattbhatt from Tanzania at the closing of the Light House Junior Open Chess Championships. Photo | Eunice Murathe| NMG 

Looking at a chess board is like being in a battle field and in a playground at the same time. Once you learn the game, it becomes an addiction and a sort of an escape where you can combine everything from, logic, sport, creativity and art.

Pontus Carlsson, a chess grandmaster from Sweden who was in Kenya recently to promote the game, started playing when he was four years old.

He was so hooked and soon learned winning moves as he is generally a logical and analytical person.

“I started to play with my dad,’’ he said.

So far, he has won over 50 tournaments including the Swedish Tusenmannaschacket game which he has won three times, the only player in history to do so.

For one to be a grand master, you have to win more than three international chess championships. Certification of grand mastery is every chess player’s dream as it attracts good perks and prestige.

“You never lose this title. It is like a certificate that tells you that for the rest of your life you have achieved something great,” said the rapid player.

The recognition also comes with a good steady income which he said is more than what a Kenyan with regular pay earns.

“You can always use the certification during motivation talks and tournaments. It adds more value to a player,” he said while on a tour to play off with Aaditya Bhattbhatt from Tanzania at the Junior Open Chess Championships.

The tournament, which attracted students from all over East Africa, was held at the Oshwal Academy in Mombasa.

With caution and precision, the chess pieces alternated cunningly on the board for almost 30 minutes.

“I have won,’’ said Aaditya, a young chess player who beat the grandmaster.
Mr Carlsson is the second black grandmaster in the world and has been a member of the Swedish national team since 2005. He also won a Bronze medal.

Fluency in eight languages makes it easier for him to communicate and train chess online. “I speak Chinese, Swedish, English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Czech,” he said.

Mr Carlsson has partnered with Terrian Chess Academy in Nairobi to train children. Top business executives will be paired with children who want to learn the game.

Mental exercise

Chess is no longer a preserve of the rich and now more people are playing the game.

‘‘Sometime back, black people were not allowed in chess clubs. Now I see all these kids playing chess and see a lot of potential,” he said.

Chess is a useful mental exercise ideal for everyone, including athletes.

“For rugby and soccer players, chess helps them to be smarter. A rugby player can play for fun and to improve the thinking process,’’ he said.

The challenge facing the sport in Kenya is that few tournaments are organised in the country compared to Europe.

“Europe has an advantage as they play in their own country. But for Kenyan players, the challenge is in the travelling for tournaments. Mombasa is a fantastic city, it could host an international tournament,’’ said the chess champion.

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