Viraj Shah and Elizabeth Cassidy are the 2020 Africa Schools Individual Chess champions after outplaying other African› youngsters in a one-week online continental championship hosted by Kenya online.
Shah, taking part in the Under-15 category, won gold after outshining seven other African opponents, losing only to South African Michael Oosthuizen and drawing with Algerian Beghriche Rami Tedjeddine.
“This is my very first time to win an international event and I feel very happy and proud to hold Kenya’s name in the first position for the African school chess championship,” a delighted Shah told People Sport.
Viraj started strongly, beating Brandon Fourie of South Africa in Round One before losing to Michael Oosthuizen (South African) in Round Two.
Stunned by Oosthuizen, Viraj took round three to seven like a wounded lion overpowering Dave Chief Quansah Acheampong of Ghana, fellow Kenyan Paul Jr Orlando, Ofile Masilo of Botswana, Chifundo Boshoma of South Africa and Abdeldjalil Bidi of Algeria to inch closer to the title.
Algerian Beghriche Rami Tedjeddine tried to derail his coronation by wrestling him to a draw in round eight but Viraj had saved his last for the best, beating Leonel Soares of Angola in round nine and final round to emerge African champion.
An emerging Africa’s champion in the Under-15 category, Viraj has received economy class air ticket sponsorship by the African Chess Confederationto participate in the 2021 World Individual Schools Chess Championships to be held in Halkidiki, Greece, between May 2-11, 2021.
“This victory means a lot to me since before this tournament, I have been representing Kenya but I have never been first.
I know that I will not only be representing Kenya but will be representing the whole of Africa, and this is a very big thing for me.
So, I am going to work even harder and prepare well for the world championship and try to keep Kenya’s name high,” added Viraj.
Meanwhile, Cassidy cruised to the continent’s top in the Under-9 Girls’ category after outsmarting other African opponents with Kajol Naidoo of South Africa finishing second as her fellow Kenyan youngster Fantalis Nduta came third to grab a bronze medal.
The event was organized by the Chess Kenya Federation under the auspices of the African Chess Confederation and was open to all Africans under the age of 17 years.
It attracted 105 players from across the continent, 57 boys and 48 girls. Kenya was to host the over-the-board event at Safaricom Academy but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was played online from December 14 – 21 via the Tornelo Chess Platform.