Checkmate: The rise of chess in Rwanda

Rwanda Chess Federation (FERWADE) president Kevin Ganza has said he is contented that in spite of challenges, the two-player strategy board game is on the rise in the country.

This came shortly after participants from eight federations; Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Burundi, India, England, and Nigeria took part in the 2018 Genocide Memorial Chess Tournament (GMCT) which concluded Sunday night in Kigali.


The GMCT is an annual tournament organized to remember the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in Rwanda, and it is one of the most attractive events on the Rwanda chess calendar.


Ganza said: “I was impressed by the numbers; we had wished this year's GMCT to attract 100 players but practically, it was not easy. But it almost hit that number as we saw 90 players in the playing hall.”


He was especially happy to see more local schools participating given that in the 2017 edition, only Riviera High School had participated. This time, however, students from Kagarama Secondary School, Lycée Notre Dame de Citeaux (LNDC), SOS Hermann Gmeiner Technical High School, GS Kimisange and Riviera High School took part.

“We are confident that the next GMCT will attract even more players, local and foreign. Schools’ participation is commendable and it is wonderful to see youngsters and schools getting interest in the game.

“The numbers keeps growing and we look forward to bring more schools on board. This year's schools’ participation gives a picture of what the youth championship as well as international events will look like. The future is surely bright; we only need to strategize in order to get sponsors as well interested in the game.”

Chess activity in 2017 was low largely due to the fact that in December 2016, the Ministry of Sports and Culture suspended nine national sports federations including FERWADE for operating without legal status. But the federation resumed operating legally last September after the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) issued them with a certificate.

Among others, early this year, the federation organized the country’s maiden inter-schools chess tournament at Green Hills Academy in Kigali, with students from seven schools battling it out for chess supremacy. The hosts won the event.

Mathias Ssonko of Uganda is the 2018 GMCT champion after recording an outstanding total of 6.5/7 to record a narrow victory over compatriot FM Harold Wanyama who finished in second place with 6/7, in the rated international section.

The six-round open section was won by Ivan Mugisha, also from Uganda, on 5.5 points ahead of Samuel Were, also from Uganda.

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