NAIROBI, Kenya- It has taken Steve Ouma a whopping two decades to emerge as the Kenya National Chess League (KNCL) Most Valuable Player.
Ouma was declared the country’s finest following the conclusion of KNCL in Nairobi on Sunday due to his terrific form that saw him smash records to win all his fixtures with a hundred percent record.
“I have never been sharper than this, ending all my matches unbeaten,” the national team player said.
Ouma’s top class performance propelled his club, Equity Bank, to win the league unbeaten. Equity also pride themselves as 2017 Kenya Inter-Banks champions.
Ouma’s amazing run could not have come about without making new year resolutions he pledged in January.
“I realised I have maintained the same kind of play for the last 21 years. So, I asked myself what kind of change I could introduce to improve.
“I did a lot of theory alone; reading relevant books like the Chess Encyclopaedia and engaging with two sparring partners for my practice sessions,” Ouma told SportPesa News.
“The secret I have learnt in this trade is always start with your end game in mind then build on your middle contests. Never put emphasis on your opening play,” he advised.
The award has inspired Ouma with great focus to work hard and improve on his local and global ratings.
Locally, Ouma, 41, will be gunning for the national title in the Kenya Open to be held at the Kenya Comfort Hotel this weekend.
Globally, the father of two would love to earn the Grand Master which is the top most ranking in chess, it allows a player to take part in the World Cup.
“I have strategized to engage in regional contests next year where I stand a chance to earn the International Masters which is a gateway to contesting Grand Master championships,” he said.
Ouma has represented Kenya in three prestigious tournaments including the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria and the Chess Olympiad in Russia (2010) and Norway (2014).
“The Norway contest is still etched in my memory because I was not only the country’s best but I returned home with the coveted Fide Master rank,” Ouma reminisced.
Ouma started his chess career in 1996 and had his first stint in the league with Makongeni Chess Club which he represented between 1998-2004. He then joined National Bank of Kenya in 2004 until 2012.
He played for Eastlands Chess Club in 2013 before signing a two-year contract with Kenya Commercial Bank in 2014.
His linking up with Equity Bank in 2017 was a big blow to KCB who they dethroned from the title.
Steve Ouma’s Achievements in Chess
2011: Kenya National Chess League champions-National Bank of Kenya
2014: Kenya National Chess League champions-Kenya Commercial Bank
2014: Earns Fide Master ranking at Chess Olympiad in Norway
2015: Kenya National Chess League champions-Kenya Commercial Bank
2017: Kenya National Chess League champions-Equity Bank
2017: Kenya National Chess League’s Most Valuable Player