The Kenyan men and women teams to the 40th edition of the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, which were selected late last month, have begun a seven week training session before traveling to Turkey for the global event.
The Kenya ladies chess team, coached by 7-time Olympian and veteran John Mukabi, made their debut to the world event in 2004 in Calvia Mallorca, Spain.
The men’s team is the same that represented Kenya in last year’s 10th All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique.
It comprised Olympiad debutants and the fast improving Mehul Gohil and Hinga Githinji, former Olympians Joseph Atwoli (one time Olympian), FIDE Master and 3-time Olympian Martin Gateri and veteran Benjamin Magana.
They will be trained by Kenya’s strongest player, American-born Peter Gilruth.
The ladies team comprises Woman Candidate Master Jane Wambugu, 2-time Olympian Gloria Jumba, the new kid on the block and reigning Kenya National Junior Girls under 10 years champion Sharanya Kishan, one-time Olympians Isabelle Asiema and Rehema Khimulu.
Isabelle was the previous youngest player to represent Kenya at the age of 12 at the 2006 Turin Olympiad in Italy. Gloria, Rehema and Isabelle were also in Maputo last year.
The impressive Sharanya who is 9 years old started playing chess at the age of 8 years from January 2010.
She represented Kenya in the Girls Under 8 years category at the World School Chess Championships 2010 in Greece securing 6 points from 11 games.
She again represented Kenya in the Girls Under 9 years category at the World School Chess Championships 2011 in Poland managing a score of 5.5 points from 9 matches.
Kishan also represented the country in the African Youth Chess Championships in Lusaka, Zambia finishing 2nd in the Girls Under 10 years category winning 8 out of her 9 matches.
This promises to be the best prepared teams ever for the world showcase.
Kenya has participated in the bi-enniel World Chess Olympiad since 1980 but missed out in the 1992 event in Manila, Philippines, the 1994 championship in Moscow, Russia and the 1996 event in Yerevan, Armenia due to financial constraints.
The team will head to Turkey later next month before the event kicks off 27th of next month.
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– GM Susan Polgar