Nzabanita, Uwase are 2018 National Chess Champions

Rwanda Chess Federation (FERWADE) president Kevin Ganza said Uwase proved she has great potential and will be encouraged to start competing in stronger tournaments.

Joseph Nzabanita and Sandrine Uwase are 2018 national male and female chess champions respectively after their individual triumphs in the National Chess Championships which ended Sunday evening at IPRC-Kigali.

Nzabanita, a senior maths and statistics lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, took over from Dr Ben Karenzi, former commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital, while Uwase, 16, defied the odds to win all her seven matches to retain her title.

“It feels great to be a champion. It feels like, for some point in time, you were the best at something. Mostly I play chess for amusement and I really enjoy the game. Now that I am the champion when I started playing competitive chess only two years ago, it is a tremendous achievement,” Nzabanita told Times Sport.

“I hope I can inspire the youth. Actually, the future of chess in Rwanda relies heavily on the younger generation. To this point I thank FERWADE for working hard to promote chess in youth.”

Former champion, Dr Ben Karenzi, was sixth, with 4.5 points after winning four games and drawing one.

The new male champion bagged 6.5 points in the eight-round open section, followed by Valentin Rukimbira (5.5) and Florent Niyongira (5.0). Former champion, Karenzi, was sixth, with 4.5 points after winning four games and drawing one.

Karenzi, and Sandrine Uwase, 16, were crowned 2017 male and female National Chess Champions, respectively, last December.

READ ALSO: National Chess Championships: Will Karenzi and Uwase retain titles?

CM Alexis Ruzigura, who has been champion several times in the past, said: “Joseph has been putting in effort in the last one year. He is a deserving winner. He earlier found time to travel to Uganda for a strong tournament and got hit.

“He polished his game and it does not surprise me he qualified for the Olympiad team and has eventually been able to win. Congratulations to him. He should be an example to the younger ones who want to improve their game.”

Joseph Nzabanita and Sandrine Uwase are 2018 national male and female chess champions respectively after their individual triumphs in the National Chess Championships which ended Sunday evening at IPRC-Kigali.  

She has great potential

In the ladies section, Uwase started off – two weeks ago – by surprising everyone when she tamed her biggest challenger, Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Joselyne Uwase, 15. The latter battled on despite the defeat to end up second best, with six points, followed by Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Christelle Uwamahoro, 14, who won five games.

The youngster later told Times Sport that she is “very happy” and was now looking forward to celebrating Christmas with friends and family.

She said: “It feels so good to win it again. I did my best. There were not easy games but I was on the edge in each and every game as I was worried that one mistake would cost me the title. I am happy.”

Like most chess fans, Rwanda Chess Federation (FERWADE) president Kevin Ganza was surprised by the Uwase’s chess strength.

Joseph Nzabanita, a senior maths and statistics lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, bagged 6.5 points in the eight-round open section to become the best male player of the year.

Ganza said: “She surprised me as I wasn't expecting her to keep the title since has been at boarding school, with no access to chess compared to peer players.

“It is a sign that she has great potential and we shall encourage her to start competing in Open section only.”

Anna Ngarambe, 16, captain of the Lycée Notre Dame de Cîteaux (LNDC) chess club, who had vowed to battle for a top three finish was fourth following her defeat by WCM Uwamahoro, in round five.

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