Murara family dominate team for Chess Olympiad 2018


Layola Umuhoza, 14, playing chess with her father Maxence Murara. All qualified for the 2018 Chess Olympiad. S. Ngendahimana.

It was a one family affair after Candidate Master (CM) Maxence Murara, his son, Ian Murara Urwintwari, 15, and daughter Layola Umuhoza, 14, on Sunday booked places on the national team set to carry Rwanda’s flag at the Chess Olympiad 2018.

The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament where teams from all over the world compete and the latest event will be held in Batumi, the second-largest city of Georgia, from September 23 to October 7.

Over the past two consecutive weekends, father and coach, Murara, displayed a ruthless determination to succeed and eventually emerged second and his son finished fourth in the open section of the qualifiers where competition for the five places was very stiff.

In the women section, Murara’s daughter battled to third place in a contest clearly dominated by two other teenagers Joselyne Uwase and Sandrine Uwase (reigning national women champion), both 15, from a slum in the Gikondo neighborhood of Kigali.

“I am so happy. My family and friends are also happy for us. We prepared well; put in a lot of effort. The kids are ecstatic. What also makes me a proud father is that they are young and are going to gain a lot from a world stage chess event,” a jubilant Murara told Times Sport on Monday.

He added that, “Having a kid of 15 in the open section in an international tournament is big for Rwanda; the experience he will gain is for the future best interest of our country’s team.”

If travel logistics are set in good time, the country will send two teams – in the open section and the women section – to the Olympiad, each comprising five players.

While Murara has been to eight Chess Olympiads, it will be Umuhoza’s second time at the big stage and Urwintwari’s first.

Four years ago, Umuhoza, Christella Rugabira, Marie-Faustine Shimwa, Monique Uwinkesha and Aline Niyonsaba represented Rwanda at the 41st World Chess Olympiad 2014 in Tromsø, Norway.

In the open team, the top five players are Joseph Nzabanita, Candidate Master (CM) Maxence Murara, Fidele Mutabazi, Ian Murara Urwintwari and Alain Niyibizi (reserve), respectively, while the women are Joselyne Uwase, Sandrine Uwase, Layola Umuhoza Murara, Odile Kayitesi and Christelle Uwamahoro, (reserve).

Murara is also happy that the national team now, more than ever before, has a “good number of young players, and especially girls” – Joselyne Uwase, Sandrine Uwase (reigning national champion), both 15, and Christelle Uwamahoro, 14, who will gain much needed big stage experience and inspire others.