Zambia should recall Simutowe – Shabazz
Edited by Oliver Shalala in Tromso, Norway | Updated: 19 Aug,2014 ,12:43:02

NATIONAL chess team member Chitumbo Mwali has attributed Zambia’s dwindling performance at the just-ended 41st World Chess Olympiad in Norway to Grand Master Amon Simutowe’s absence.

And Dr Daaim Shabazz, owner of The Chess Drum – an online magazine which highlights chess activities of the African Diaspora – says Simutowe needs to get back to the chess board to move forward the boundaries for black players.

Meanwhile, a Zambian chess official says the high cost of beer in Norway was a factor in the players not performing any worse than their final results.

“We need Amon Simutowe back in the Zambia national team. You saw that teams playing against Zambia didn’t play with fear because our line-up did not have its only Grand Master Amon Simutowe,” said Mwali, an International Master who played on board three at the Olympiad. “After pairings, the first thing we players do is check who you are playing next and if it’s a lower rated player, it helps with confidence. If opponents were to see we had a GM (grand master) in our line-up, they would be somewhat scared of us or at least they would respect us.”

And Dr Shabazz said Simutowe needed to get back to help Zambia at major events.

“Amon needs to get back to playing chess. There are very good black players and there is hardly any black grand master out there. Simutowe needs to get back and encourage black players around the world and also to help Zambia at major events like the Olympiads,” observed Dr Shabazz, who is also Associate Professor of Business at Florida University in the USA.

He bemoaned Africa’s performance in Norway, as well as the sudden death of Kurt Meier, a player from the Seychelles, who collapsed during the last round of the Olympiad. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. A moment of silence was observed at the closing and prize-giving ceremony.

“Africa had a dismal Olympiad. Meier’s death tainted this Olympiad but the results and the political fights painted Africa in worse light,” he added.

African teams did not do well in the final standing save for the isolated brilliant achievements of Egypt winning category gold medals for both the men’s and women’s teams and Egyptian Grand Master Bassem Amin scoring 8.5 points out of 11 on board one.

Zambia’s overall performance was worse than the last two olympiads when the men’s team finished in the top 50 and top 90 and 2nd and 3rd in Africa respectively. This year, they won five games, drew one and lost five but played much stronger opponents than in previous olympiads, and produced some great results against Kyrgystan, Norway and Ireland. A draw in the last round when Zambia lost to Maldova would have been enough to equal the country’s performance with that seen at the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. But this year’s result is better than the bad showing in the 2008 Olympiad in Turin, Italy when Zambia failed to win a single match despite Richmond Phiri producing a brilliant 61⁄2 / 7 (92.9 per cent) winning record and getting a board four medal.

As for the women’s team, this Olympiad was their best ever showing and they missed the category gold medal on the last day.

Meanwhile, there are chess players who disagree with those pushing for Simutowe’s return.

“We should just forget about him, move on and focus on tapping young talent. We are busy crying for our one and only grand master instead of tapping and grooming more future grand masters. We need to learn to project into the future,” said former CBU chess player Timothy Mapili Bwalya in a comment made on social media. “Let us take chess to all parts of the country and see how many grand masters Zambia will produce in the years to come. Let us not cry for one grand master who decided not to play for Zambia again. Simutowe is just the ‘Alpha’ but not ‘Omega’. We still have brilliant minds in Zambia fit to be grand masters. It is up to CFZ to wake up from its current deep sleep, identify them and groom them into champions [like China just did at the last Olympiads].”

And Lusaka Province Chess Association vice chairman Kiddy Makwaya added that Zambia could produce more grand masters.

“Zambia has the talent to produce more GMs but the funds to allow these players to play in more FIDE-rated tournaments at home and abroad are not there. There is need for government and corporate sponsorship in that regard,” proposed Makwaya.

Simutowe is Zambia’s first and only grand master, the first black chess grand master in Africa, the 3rd ever black grand master in history, the first from sub-Saharan Africa and Africa’s only sixth ever grand master. He stopped playing for Zambia after some disagreements with officials in the Chess Federation of Zambia. However, indications from the federation are that they were willing to discuss matters with Simutowe, who recently finished his university studies in the US, if he would agree to play for Zambia again.

And a Zambian chess official attended the 41st World Chess Olympiad in Tromso said high beer prices helped in pushing up the performance of the players at this year’s event.

“Bambi pali aba abaiche sometimes balanwa sana and it can affect their performances nga baya kubulaya. But kuno it has been a blessing in disguise pantu ubwalwa nabudula sana elo teti bwakwanishe ukulanwa chilya bushiku,” said the official who opted anonymity.

An average glass of beer in Norway costs the equivalent of K70 (i.e. Kr 70, since Kr1 is almost equal to K1ZMW)

And a 300ml coca cola which costs between K2 and K6 in Lusaka is sold at between K30 and K50 in Tromso.

Switzerland and Norway are the world’s most expensive economies, followed by Bermuda, Australia and Denmark, according to a new ranking, the International Comparison Program (ICP), released by the World Bank in April 2014.

The Zambian teams were well sponsored with players getting their allowances on time and in amounts as promised by the Chess Federation of Zambia. This was despite the association not receiving any support from the Zambian government and Zambian companies.


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