International Chess Federation
Friday, 22 Mar 2024 10:28
FIDE torch relay reaches Africa


After it set off from India, the Chess Torch relay – which will travel the world celebrating the first centenary of FIDE – has reached the African continent

Accompanied by FIDE officials, including Tshepiso Lopang, the President of the African Chess Confederation and Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Deputy Chair of FIDE's Management Board, the torch arrived in Ghana's capital, Accra. 

In Ghana, the inaugural leg of the celebration featured Reizniece-Ozola's simultaneous chess game exhibition and enlightening lecture at the Senior Correctional Centre, which, despite the suggestion from its name, actually holds juveniles (under the age of 18) convicted of criminal or civil offences. The lecture was part of the "Chess for Freedom" project launched in 2021 and which has since then gained global attention and support.

FIDE delegation also visited the final rounds of the African Individual Chess Championships 2024. 9-round Swiss events stretched from March 13-20 and were won by Bassem Amin (Egypt) and Jesse Nikki February (South Africa). 

A "Little Princess" girls' chess tournament featured by the FIDE Commission for Women in Chess and a teachers training course by the FIDE Commission for Chess in Education was held.

Reizniece-Ozola, together with the President of the Ghana Chess Association, Philip Elikem Ameku, met with senior chess, sports, and government officials of Ghana, including the Board Chairman of Ghana's National Sports Authority, Seth Panwum, and ⁠the Vice President of the Ghana Olympic Committee, Mawuko Afadzinu.

Highlighting the transformative power of chess in education, Seth Panwum remarked, "We want to develop the best versions of our young ones, and we see that chess in education can play a great role in it. Athletic, smart people are the future."

Mawko Afadzinu, the Vice President of Ghana Olympic Committee emphasized the importance of the African Games where chess was featured as one of the sports. This year Ghana played host to the 13th edition of the African Games and the GOC has promised to provide full support to the Ghana Chess Federation's attempt to host the African School Chess Championship 2024 in the premises of the games.

Expressing gratitude for Ghana's hospitality, Reizniece-Ozola asserted: "The inclusion of chess in the African Games is a testament to its growing prominence. Our aspiration for Olympic recognition remains steadfast, and commencing the African leg of the Chess Torch relay in Ghana is a momentous step toward realizing our vision."

As the evening settled, the torch flame rose at the center of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in downtown Accra, which honors the legacy of the first president of Ghana. The park also has a chess connection – as it was there where the first chess club in Accra started.

With the sounds of trumpets and drums, the Chess Torch was placed in an open-top car and embarked on a procession to the Independence Arch, where chess fans and onlookers enjoyed an evening of music and chess.

The festivities culminated at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, where African chess champions, Egyptian Grandmaster Bassem Amin and Women International Master from South Africa Jesse February, ceremoniously passed the torch to Tshepiso Lopang, President of the African Chess Confederation, who ignited the cauldron, symbolizing the enduring flame of chess in Africa.

With the chess flame reaching Africa, the "Mother Continent", the relay continues, moving to Europe. On April 07 the torch ceremony will be held in Bern, Switzerland. Celebrations will be held on Bundesplatz, the social heart of the city and will also feature simultaneous exhibition games with top chess players, presentation of a postal stamp dedicated to the 100th anniversary of FIDE and Gala Dinner with FIDE100 awards.

Photos: Niki Riga