Interview With African Chess Confederation President
Mr. Lewis Ncube. Interview conducted By Akinov Blog By Correspondence
Question: Here is a big one , we all know you sir , as the African Chess Confederation President that is the number one chess figure in Africa but we would like to know a bit more about you sir
Answer: I was born in the Zambian capital Lusaka on February 22, 1958. I come from a large family of eight girls and two boys. We lost our first born sister in 1997 and I now have one brother and seven sisters.
I did my initial primary school education at Kamwala L.E.A. School is Lusaka before proceeding to Kaonga Primary School in Mazabuka in the Southern Province of Zambia.
After completing my primary education at Kaonga, I proceeded to Hillcrest Secondary Technical School in the Zambian tourist capital, Livingstone.
It was at Hillcrest where I learnt how to play chess and won various regional and national titles.
Whilst at Hillcrest I represented the country in the school national team against a Malawian schools national team.
At the time we started playing school chess Zambia was not yet a member of the World Chess Federation, FIDE. Zambia joined the FIDE family in 1975.After completing my secondary school education and doing military training as part of my national service, I proceeded to the United Kingdom for my A-levels on an academic scholarship obtained under a mining industry education sponsorship scheme.
I did my “A” Level education at Gloucester City College of Technology in the West Midlands county of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom from 1977 to 1979.
After successfully completing my “A” Level studies I proceeded to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology to study for my Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering.During my Chemical Engineering Degree studies I chose electives that skewed my qualification towards specialisation in Petroleum Production and Mineral Processing.
I have been privileged to have worked in industry entities covering both areas of my specialization.
I also hold Post Graduate qualifications in petroleum fuels, lubricants and liquefied petroleum gas systems.
During my studies in the United Kingdom I occasionally took part in weekend chess tournaments some of which were part of the Benedictine Circuit.However due to the nature of the Chemical Engineering course, I had to give priority to my studies and did not play as much chess as I would have loved.Upon my return to Zambia in 1983 I worked for the Mining Industry under the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines in the Copperbelt town of Chingola as a Process Engineer before embarking on a career in the Petroleum Sector.
I started off as a Lubricants Engineer before rising to the position of Marketing and Distribution Manager of the Zambian subsidiary of the Italian ENI group, Agip Zambia Limited.
I currently run an energy and commodity trading partnership and also work as an energy consultant.
In a brief this is who I am!
Question: Since your Election in August 2014 what were the immediate Challenges that came your way as President of African Chess Confederation consisting of all member federations?
Answer: The African Continental elections that ushered my team into office were the most divisive I have ever witnessed since my entry into chess administration.The immediate challenge my team faced was to try and heal the rifts that occurred in Tromso and the lead up to the elections.
As we complete the sixth month of our term in office, some of the rifts are still there and will take time to heal.
On our part, my team and I have endeavored to ensure that every African Federation is allowed to participate in activities of the African Chess Confederation irrespective of their political views or affiliation.We as the Board of the African Chess Confederation have been entrusted with the responsibility of running the Continent’s chess affairs on behalf of ALL the stakeholders.
Some Federation officials have sought to continue the Tromso battles as we try to take Africa forward and this has obviously deepened the challenges. However, I can assure you that we are up to the task and we will take every opportunity to ensure that no players or officials seeking to play an active part in the development of African chess are unduly victimized.
Question: What is the current number of member federations under The African Chess Confederation?
Answer: Of the 54 African nations that are members of the United Nations, 43 are members of the African Chess Confederation and in turn the World Chess Federation, FIDE.We are working towards getting ALL the 54 African nations to be members of the African Chess Confederation within our first term of office.This is a massive challenge as some targeted countries are situated in areas involved in various conflicts.
Question: How have you been able to so far bring all members together to work towards your campaign theme of “Building Chess for Africa” bearing in mind the difference opinion, allegiance and political differences?
Answer: Despite the differences that arose in the run up to the Tromso elections, I have known most of the federation members for a long time. I am also aware that a lot of the federation representatives are responsible enough to realize that the sport of chess is much bigger than each and any of us. In this regard I am convinced that despite the differences of opinion the majority of our colleagues will put their national chess interests above any political consideration.
In order to effectively manage the affairs of chess on the Continent, the ACC Board has created the following Continental commissions; Women's Commission, Events and Publicity Commission, Chess in Schools Commission, Technical Commission, Development Commission and the Social Projects and Disabled Commission.
These Commissions will act as advisory bodies to the ACC Board and their membership composition has been balanced to ensure that contributions are taken from across the entire chess fraternity on the African continent.
Question: In your election Campaign one of the vision components you emphasized is the introduction of structured chess in schools programmes in both primary and secondary educational institutions. How do you intend to carry this plan out in Africa under this dispensation within the next four years?
Answer: The drive to introduce structured chess in schools programmes is a major long term vision of our team.
At the moment quite a few African countries have chess as an optional sporting activity in the form of school chess clubs. This is a commendable achievement for those countries where this option is available.
In order to fully harness the benefits of chess as an education tool, the incorporation of chess in the school curriculum will provide for a meaningful approach which will give chess a double edged penetration strategy as we seek to have our royal game as one of the foremost sporting activities of our time.As ACC we have already had discussions with Ministry of Education officials from six countries which are prepared to explore the possibility of embedding chess as part of their education curriculum.We have also had preliminary discussions with Grandmaster Smbat Lputian and his colleagues at the Chess Academy of Armenia on preparing the necessary resource material suitably adapted for Africa.
All the necessary materials should be ready by the end of this year and Africa will host a Chess in Schools Conference towards the end of the year.Additionally we have also had preliminary discussions with the Education Division of the Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union and are in the process of preparing a concept paper as we seek wider support for our initiatives.
Ultimately we seek to make chess a fundamental part of our Continent’s education system.
Question: Within a short period after you became the ACC president , a number chess events took place across Africa , the Zonals and most especially the African Individual Chess Championship 2014 which was arguably the most competitive in recent years , what should we be expecting in year 2015?
Answer: In 2015 the ACC board has set out a significant increase in tournament activity and capacity building initiatives.
The African Individual Championships are now an annual event and with the recent amendment to the regulations, this means that there is an opportunity for an “over the board” Grandmaster title to be awarded every year.The 2015 African Individual Championships will also be a qualifying event for the 2015 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan. The top two players in the Open Section will qualify for the 2015 World Cup.
The 2015 Zonal Individual Championships will also be qualifying events for the 2015 World Cup where winners of the Open Sections will provide the additional four qualifiers championships to make up the total SIX African representatives at the 2015 World Cup.The first African Schools Championships and the first African Amateur Championships will also take place in 2015 in Tanzania and Mozambique respectively.
The ACC Board has also introduced the first Zonal Youth Under 16 Team Championships whose winners will receive travel grants to the 2015 World Youth Under 16 Olympiad.The dates for these Zonal Youth Under 16 Team Championships are currently being finalized and these events will be added to the ACC calendar in the coming week.The African Youth and African Junior Championships will continue to be an integral part of the
ACC tournament calendar.
The ACC Board is also finalizing arrangements for the first African Senior Championships to be arranged in 2015. This will also be an annual event from where the top three placed players will have personal rights to participate in the following year’s World Senior Championships.
All in all I believe that both our tournament and capacity building calendars will provide our African federations with increased opportunities for chess development.
Our approach to managing all these events will be dynamic and we are open to further suggestions from our ACC member federations.
Question: The Next African Individuals is scheduled to held in Egypt between the 1st and 13th Day of May 2015 as Daaim Shabazz of Chess Drum Blog rightly pointed out, the 2013 African Individual chess Championship held in Tunisia had a stronger field comprising three Grand Masters. The 2015 no doubt might even be stronger considering the Host federation’s pedigree. Could you please clarify the rules as regards the award of the Grand Master title?
Answer: As you have pointed out, the hosting Federation’s pedigree will no doubt make for a stronger field in the 2015 African Individual.This will also be in addition to the ease of travel for other strong players from the other countries within the North African region.
The added incentive of this event being a qualifier for the 2015 World Cup in Baku will provide the added spice.Once again, the winner in the Open Section will be automatically awarded the Grandmaster title if they do not have it yet whilst the winner in the Women’s Section will similarly be awarded the Woman Grandmaster title.
Question: Could you please tell us about the inaugural 2015-2016 African Chess Confederation Grand Prix Circuit?
Answer ;The 2015-2016 African Chess Confederation Grand Prix Circuit will comprise the four 2014 Zonal Champions and the top three placed players in the 2014 African Individual Championships.
Each of the six host cities will nominate one player in each section and the ACC President will nominate three payers in each section.This will bring a total of 16 players in each section.
Each of the players will be required to take part in four of the six legs of the circuit with the winner in the Open Section qualifying for the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi.The winner in the Women’s Section will qualify for the 2017 Women’s World Championships.
Full details and regulations will be released by the end of February 2015.
Question: With the African individuals 2015 coming so soon after the 2014 edition under the new format and scheduling, will the African Grand prix involve the winners of the 2015 edition of the African Individuals as well?
Answer: As the winners of the 2015 African Individuals will qualify for the 2015 World Cup, they will not be involved in the 2015-2016 ACC Grand Prix Circuit.
The ACC Board however aims to harmonise the Grand Prix Circuit and the African Individuals after evaluating and assessing both these events at the end of 2016.
Question: In 2014 Zone 4.4 made up of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Togo was held in Cameroun and was the only major event that could be described as a flop as most of the Federations were not represented, what are we expecting from the Next zone 4.4 tournament Scheduled to take place in Togo in March 2015?
Answer: It depends on what you designate as a “flop”. Taking into account the organization, prize fund and the hosting venue I believe that the tournament was a reasonable success. The fact that most of the Federation in the zone did not pitch up does not detract from the success of the event.
The fact that notification and hosting arrangements were well handled means that the real winners are those that made it to the event.The award of the International Master title to Francis Anquandah vindicates his decision to participate in the event and is an honour to the chess fraternity in Ghana.
The ACC and its hosting partners will eandevour to create the necessary conditions and atmosphere for high level competition. The choice of participation is really up to the individual federations and players. As for the 2015 Zone 4.4 Individual Championships I believe that the fact that this is a qualifying event for the 2015 World Cup should increase the participation level.
Questions: Chess Players are looking forward to playing Chess at the ALL AFRICAN GAMES 2015 but in view of the fact that the host Nation does not have a Chess team, what are the Chances that Chess will be included at the event??
Answer: The ACC Board is in advanced discussions with the hosts regarding the format of the chess sport code at the 2015 All African Games to be held in Congo Brazzaville.
Indications are that the games will feature chess in a format to be agreed upon in the coming weeks.
We will be in a position to clearly state how chess will be featured in the next fortnight.
Question: What other African events and chess activities should we be expecting in 2015?
Answer: As previously indicated, the new events will be the Continental Youth Under 16 Team Championships, the Continental Individual Schools Championships and the Continental Amateur Championships. These new events are confirmed and hosting Federations are already working towards giving Africa the required organizational FIDE standards.We are yet to confirm the hosts for the Continental Seniors Championships.
The flagship youth events in the form of the African Youth Championships and the African Junior Championships are also well catered for with Zambia and Seychelles respectively hosting.
Question: You are going to be in office for the next four years. What programs do you have to ensure that African chess players achieve and maintain world-class standard and consistent performance?
Answer: In addition to the indicated tournaments and the Grand Prix Circuit, the ACC Board is working on a sponsored partnership agreement with the European Chess Union where promising players will have opportunities to play on the European Circuit for continuous periods ranging from three months to nine months depending on their needs and performance.The selection of the players to be awarded with these opportunities will be done in conjunction with the Zonal and Federation Presidents.
Additionally, the Board is also lobbying for an increase in the number of places reserved for the African continent in both the World Cup and the Women’s World Championships.
Continuously being represented at global events and increasing the number of high level tournaments on the African Continent will make for sustained high competitive playing opportunities for African players.
Question: What message do you have for the entire chess players in Africa?
Answer: The first message I have for chess players in Africa is that if you want to reach the top you have to work very hard at your game.
This message sounds simple but can also be overlooked.
Working hard means a dedicating yourself to improving the complete aspect of “you” as a chess player. This will range from preparation, attitude and actual tournament/ game playing.
Sometimes one may believe that having the talent gives you the right to get to the top and if it does not happen it is someone else’s fault.You only have to look at our new African chess hero Grandmaster Kenny Solomon to understand the rewards of working hard.Kenny has really worked hard at his game and this showed during the 2014 African Individual Championships.
The ACC Board under my leadership will work towards ensuring that the necessary opportunities for talented chess players to reach global heights are made available.Additionally, the established chess players must work towards becoming good role models for upcoming young chess players.They must also help the youngsters attain the demanding high levels of achievement.As one would say, “do not take the ladder with you as you rise”. Make sure that the ladder is firmly in place for others to follow you.
Question: What message do you have for all the member Chess federations in Africa?
Answer: To member federations of the ACC I would like to say thank you for giving me and my team the opportunity to “Build Chess for Africa”.
This is an enormous challenge which we relish and we will not let you down.
We will work with EVERY African federation for chess development irrespective of your political views.
Let us work together to make Africa proud.
AKINOV- Thank you very much for giving us audience sir. We wish you a successful tenure as president.