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Uganda Chess: A History of Success

by Rose Agwang
2 minutes read

The history of Uganda Chess dates back to the 1960s when the brainy game was first played with intent in the country.

Uganda Chess dominion over neighbours

The game has since grown immensely, and as far as the East African region is concerned, Uganda remains the leading talent producer.

With over 300 FIDE recognized players, Uganda has maintained it’s position in the region, and continues to produce titled players that have gone on to challenge titled players from top chess nations.

One may ask; who is a titled player and what is a chess title? Well, a chess title is a gong standardized by FIDE- an international chess governing body- and bestowed upon players based on their performance and rank.

These titles are accorded for life, and they come in four forms, with the Grandmaster being the most luminous followed by the International Master, Fide Master and lastly the Candidate Master.

Uganda is yet to hatch a GM, however, it harbours the other three forms. Emmanuel Musasizi became the latest Ugandan to earn a title that came in form of a Candidate Master, making him the 25th titled Ugandan.

A dive into the not so recent past

In this article, we bring you these players and when they earned their respective laurels.

With just over 140 players currently actively playing the brainy game in the country, only 15 are titled. However, the total number produced by the country reads 25.

Joachim Okoth and Willy Zabasajja (both deceased) were the first two players to qualify for such honour owing to their notable display at the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila, Philippines.

However due to their delay in applying for the titles, Steven Kawuma and his young brother Moses Kawuma took the acclaim when they got bestowed the FM titles in 2008, becoming the first titled Ugandans.

Their younger brother Patrick Kawuma followed suit two years later when he earned the Candidate Master title in 2010. He however, upgraded to an FM in 2015.

Elijah Emojong then joined these siblings, first attaining the FM title in 2011 before becoming the first International Master in the country when he earned it in 2012.

Raphael Buti, Andrew Naimanye and Harold Wanyama all earned their Fide Masters in 2012. Wanyama attained his after a remarkable display at the Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey where he won seven out of the ten games he played while on board three.

Ivy Amoko and Phionah Mutesi were the first female Ugandans to be titled, this happening in 2012. Like Wanyama, Amoko obtained the Woman Candidate Master title at the Istanbul Olympiad, but later in 2015, elevated her status to a Woman Fide Master(WFM).

She, on board two garnered 5.5 points in Istanbul, winning five of her ten games while drawing one.

Goretti Angolikin, Christine Namaganda, Grace Kigeni laid hold of their WFM titles in 2015 so did Daniel Baagaade and Haruna Nsubuga (CM). Nsubuga however, upgraded to an FM in 2016.

In 2017 Maria Nakanyike became the youngest Ugandan to be titled. She attained her WCM at the age of 11. Till date, the now 17-year-old remains the youngest Ugandan with a title.

A dive into the recent past

Gloria Nansubuga (WFM) and Shakira Ampaire (WCM) saw theirs arrive in 2018 while Emmanuel Egesa‘s CM and Walter Okas‘ FM came in 2022.

Farouk Fauza Kizza and Emmanuel Musasizi are the latest title holders in the country. Kizza obtained his early this year while Musasizi got his last month.

Uganda currently harbours two IMs, ten FMs (5 active), four CMs (3 active), five WFMs (3 active) and three WCMs (2 active).

Uganda’s highest ranked female player, Peninah Nakabo however, is untitled. With her 1819, Nakabo remains the only Ugandan female player with a rating above 1800, but remains untitled.

Photo Credit: Uganda Chess Federation

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