Ahead of the Zone 4.2 African Individual Chess Championships that take center stage this weekend at Central Hotel, Jimma in Ethiopia, Woman Fide Master [WFM] Ivy Clare Amoko is afloat and has vowed to upset the African giants- the Egyptians.
Amoko, seeded No.1 in East Africa heads into the annual event that commences on Saturday, March 25 with only one mission – topple the Egyptians and write her name in the history books.
While the North Africans have made it a custom to triumph at the Zonal Championships and other continental tournaments, no female Ugandan has ever claimed continental bragging rights. The closest they came to was in 2015 when Amoko came third, and now the rated 1833 feels time is now for Ugandans to enjoy success.
In an interview with Kawowo Sports, Amoko, a professional lawyer said: “I’m preparing like I do for any big tournament. Polishing my openings, paying a lot of attention on endgame study and sharpening my tactical awareness.
“I’ve a week to go and so much can change in a week so i intend to maximize the little time left. There is no reason why someone outside Egypt can’t win the Zonals, I mean Arthur has already shown us that.
“I know I have what it takes to make it. I just have to find that switch and believe in myself.”
The 30-year-old last took part in a continental event in 2015 when Uganda hosted the Zonal Championships. It is now two years since she engaged a foreign opponent in a competitive game, but despite her absence from continental affairs, the Olympian is far from bothered.
“I was off the chess scene quite a bit in 2015 and 2016 because I was in Nairobi at school but I did participate in the Zonals we hosted in 2015 and blew off an opportunity for a 2nd place and instead came 3rd. However, being out of the chess scene doesn’t necessarily mean I have been out of touch with the game. I have no worries about that.”
As she embarks on her journey of realizing her dream – attaining the Woman International Master [WIM] title which will only mean winning the event, Amoko’s assertiveness is without a doubt unquestionable.
Many will ask, where does she draw her confidence and inspiration from?
“I draw this from belief in God and the amazing support I get from my family. When you a have a family that gives you overwhelming support and is overly confident in your abilities, you tend to work harder because you never want to disappoint people who believe in you and go out of their way to constantly support you financially, spiritually and morally.”
Amoko aside, Uganda [if finances allow] will be represented by nine other players including Fide Masters Patrick Kawuma and Haruna Nsubuga, Thomas Katairo, Allan Mathias Ssonko and Joshua Katumba in the Open Category and Shakira Ampaire, Esther Penninah Nannozi, Kevin Benitah Naddya and Safinah Mugide in the Women section
Asked to rate Uganda’s chances at the event, the former women’s national champion feels rather confident the country will be ‘decently’ represented.
She said: “The players who qualified are very good players. You have Haruna Nsubuga and Patrick Kawuma who honestly should be among the best at the tournament in terms of rating. Among the ladies, aside from myself with some experience, Shakira [Ampaire] and Penninah Nannozi may not have as much experience but they have really grown in their chess careers and they have the recipes for some great upsets in Jimma. I believe we will represent the country decently.”