Dr Ben Karenzi, the former commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital, and Sandrine Uwase, a 15-year old girl from Gikondo, a Kigali suburb, were crowned 2017 male and female National Chess Champions, respectively, on Sunday.
They were crowned at the end of a championship tournament played over two consecutive weekends at University of Rwanda’s Gikondo campus (former SFB).
Rwanda Chess Federation (Ferwade) president Kevin Ganza who officiated throughout told Times Sport that it is “a good comeback for Dr Karenzi”, who has been away for long due to work.
“He is now back and determined to win, as he likes to put it. Back when he was active, he was a good player and he has proved it once again. He really deserves the title. He ran over opponents with ease,” Ganza said.
Karenzi’s journey to winning the converted title fist saw him dispatch Asad Ndangiza before being trounced by CM Godfrey Kabera. On day two, Dr Karenzi beat Eugene Mugema Kagabo and later his own son, Kevin Gisa Karenzi, a budding star in his own right.
The last four rounds last weekend were the most decisive. In round five, Karenzi was unstoppable against CM Maxence Murara. CM Godfrey Kabera, who was by then leading, suffered a shock defeat against Ben Tom Zimurinda and things changed at the top of the table. He then defeated Zimurinda in round six and consolidated his advantage in the open section.
After conquering Joseph Nzabanita in round seven, Dr Karenzi drew with Valentin Rukimbira in the final round and thus won the contest with a total 6.5 points out of eight games. Besides the title and a trophy, the doctor also bagged 159 precious rating points that will see his standard FIDE rating considerably pick up.
In the ladies’ section, besides outgoing national champion Marie Faustine Shimwa and Aline Niyonsaba, both adult university students, there were also two teenagers, Sandrine Uwase, 15, and Joselyne Uwase, 14, dark horses playing in the championships for the first time.
The four ladies played three rounds in a Swiss format on Saturday and Sunday and [Sandrine] Uwase simply overwhelmed opponents, one at a time.
She won all her matches – including her encounter with Shimwa on Saturday to run away with the title and a trophy.
Ganza also poured praise on the teenager who is now the ladies’ national champion, a feat likely to inspire other young girls in her impoverished slum neighborhood of Gikondo, and beyond.
“Sandrine proved to be talented ever since she started featuring in competitions. Being under 18, and a girl, has never deterred her. She is never scared to challenge men and older players, in general. Those who monitored her chess journey would have, without doubt, bet on her being champion, and she has made it,” Ganza said of Uwase.
Dr Karenzi and the teenager ousted Alain Patience Niyibizi and Shimwa, the 2015 male and female national champions respectively. The 2016 event was marred by poor organisation and the duo retained the titles without firing a shot.