Kenya: Chess Kenya Mull Virtual Resumption for Top Leagues

Discussions are ongoing between Chess Kenya officials and club captains, on whether to have their leagues resume virtually.

Kenya National Premier Chess League (KNPCL) and Kenya National Chess Super League (KNCSL) have not taken place since March 2020, when the government banned sporting activities in the country to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

Even in November 2020, when the government lifted the ban on most sporting activities in the country, chess remained closed, as it is among the disciplines that were categorised under high-risk contact sports.

Anthony Kionga, the Secretary KNPCL Committee told Nation Sport that the March 26 ban on all sporting activities in the country by President Uhuru Kenyatta, following the spike in Covid-19 cases is what informed the ongoing discussions.

"The recent ban was a wake-up call to us. It showed that things are not getting better anytime soon and so we have to come up with a solution," said Kionga.

With the 2020 competition having aborted just after the first round, Kionga said the key topic in the discussions is the teams' registration fee, should the competition resume virtually.

"When the league was suspended last year, some teams (corporate clubs) had paid the Sh100,000 registration fee in full. We have to agree on how we will deal with the matter because if the leagues resume online, the registration fee will obviously be less," he said.

Other gray areas include; whether to have both the KNPCL, and KNCSL resume, how to deal with cheating which is rampant in virtual tournaments, how to ensure there is strong internet during the matches and the availability of enough gadgets, like computers.

They are also discussing whether to have an online tournament involving clubs that will agree to compete in virtual leagues, as a curtain-raiser to the games.

Since most Kenyan chess players are now conversant with online chess, due to Covid-19 pandemic that stopped face-to-face games, Kionga believes that a virtual league will be as competitive as the one held over the board.

"Since Covid-19 struck, there have been so many online tournaments, which Kenyan players have taken part in. It will not be a challenge to them competing virtually," he said.

KCB Chess Club have dominated Kenya's chess, as they boast six titles since 2003. Their last victory was in 2019, where they won the league unbeaten.

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