Kim Bhari – A Kenyan Chess Stalwart

A few weeks back, Kenya witnessed a Chess bonanza – the Nairobi Gymkhana Millionaire Chess Open. Kim Bhari, a prominent Kenyan organizer, handled a couple of aspects of this breakthrough event, which was graced by GM Maurice Ashley himself. In this interview, Kim speaks about this amazing tournament, a few upcoming Kenyan talents, Chess activities in Kenya, and his unique, creative hobby!

(Source: Kim Bhari)

Shubham Kumthekar
: Hello Kim! The Nairobi Edition of the Millionaire Chess came to a conclusion a few weeks ago. Can you tell us something about the event? How did it go?

KB: The event was a resounding success with over 190 players taking part. Kenyan chess players were delighted to have GM Maurice Ashley in Nairobi. His commentary thrilled the huge crowd that was following the games.

SK: Speaking about Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, how huge was Grandmaster Maurice Ashley’s support and his presence at the event? 🙂

KB: Chess players were delighted by his presence. But what’s more important is what he did outside of Millionaire Chess. GM Ashley visited Sports Outreach Programme which is located within one of the disadvantaged areas in Nairobi. Here, he interacted with many young chess players and inspired them as well.

Maurice Ashley interacting with Kenyan school kids. (Source: Kim Bhari)

: An event like this involves a lot of behind the scenes work. How did the team hit upon having an event of this stature and how did the timeline unfold?

KB: The event was run by Nairobi Gymkhana Club and Waridi Chess Ventures. The main sponsor was Kasparov Chess Foundation but a number of other sponsors also came onboard including East African Contractors, Isinya Feeds, Filmline, Masai (K) Ltd and AMS Properties, Terrian Chess Academy and Kenya Chess Masala.

I was involved in the event only with respect to getting the registration portal and carrying the live transmission of the top 5 boards.

Two remarkable organisers! (Source: Kim Bhari)

 CM Wachira Wachania of Kenya emerged as the winner of the first edition of this unique event. Please tell us something about the champion 🙂

KB: CM Wachira Wachania is a 38-year-old player and has represented Kenya in the 2006 Turin Olympiad where he scored 50% and obtained the CM title. He is a businessman and a father of two boys.

Wachira Wachania scored a perfect 5/5 to emerge victorious at the Nairobi Gymkhana Millionaire Chess Open. Here, he is seen receiving the prize from GM Maurice Ashley and Mr Arun Jain, Chairman of Nairobi Gymkhana. (Source: Kim Bhari)

: Who are some of the brightest young talents from Kenya?

KB: Riya Shah, who is 16 years old, will be representing Kenya at her 2nd Olympiad in Baku. She is the current Kenyan Women’s National Champion.

The other youngsters are Timothy Mbabu (13) & Sumit Deshpande (15), both of whom are rising rapidly.

Riya Shah Kenya
WFM Riya Shah, rated 1551, is the current Kenyan Women’s National Champion. (Source: Nairobi Chess Club – Facebook)

: How popular is chess in Kenya?

KB: It is still not as popular as I would like it to be. There are various reasons for this. Nairobi Chess Club was formed in 1958 and it remained the only organization until 1976 when the Kenya Chess Association was registered.

Chess is a fringe sport and has only recently started to get some government attention.

: You’ve been an active player yourself, having represented Kenya at the 1998 Elista Olympiad. How far has Kenyan Chess and African Chess come in all these years?

KB: I was the Vice Chairman of the Kenya Chess Association and left in 1999, only resuming getting involved in chess in 2007. Kenyan chess is now growing rapidly over the past 3 to 4 years.  The main reasons have been the new chess officials, who have been much more supportive of the many chess organizers promoting the game in various regions.

Some of the names that come to mind are Weru Watson in Nyeri who regularly hosts events with over 300 kids, Andrew Owili who organizes the Kisumu Open, Humphrey Nyongesa who organizes the Bungoma Open, Erick Oyugi of Sports Outreach and Daystar University.  Other organisations include Terrian Chess Academy and Nairobi Chess Academy, with both of them being accredited by FIDE.

Besides, over the past 10 years, the Kenyan Government has been supportive of chess by providing funding for teams to travel to various events.

Another reason for the rapid growth of Kenyan Chess has been the advent of Facebook and Twitter. These social platforms have done wonders in terms of publicity and promotion.

logo KCM
The official logo of Kenya Chess Masala, Kim Bhari’s brainchild. Through the Kenya Chess Masala website and its Facebook and Twitter pages, Kim has done wonders with respect to bringing Kenyan Chess to the fore. (Source:

There has also been great support from the Kasparov Chess Foundation in terms of Kasparov’s visit to Nairobi in July 2014, GM Nigel Short’s visit in 2015 and the donation of 5,000 chess sets.

FIDE has also been very helpful in the recent past, as we had GM Georg Mohr who conducted a Trainers’ Seminar where over 20 Kenyans obtained certification. Kenya has also received a subsidy of over Euro 7,000 to facilitate the team’s travel to the 2016 Baku Olympiad.

SK: You’ve been involved in Kenyan chess administration and organization for well over 20 years now. Can you tell us something about being ‘behind the curtains’? 

KB: I was a Committee Member of the Kenya Chess Association from 1994 to 1996 and then Vice Chairman until 1999. I just seemed to be lucky in those days in attracting sponsors. I managed to get Hindu Council of Kenya, Delphis Bank (now M Oriental Bank), International Casino as sponsors for various events during that period.

I was voted out of office in 1999 (KCA) and concentrated on my business and MBA exams. I returned to chess administration in 2007 and decided to run all the activities via Nairobi Chess Club which has continued till date. I have been Chairman of the Nairobi Chess Club since 1993.

Nairobi championship
Kim with the prize winners of the recently concluded 58th Nairobi Chess Club Championship. (Source: Kim Bhari – Facebook)

I have found it much easier to get things done at club level as the pressure is less and it is much easier to organize.

We organised the first internet match in Kenya wherein ‘Kenya Simbas’ played the famous ‘Wageningen Chess Club’ of Holland. We also organised GM Dimitri Reinderman to visit Nairobi in 2011 and the “Battle for Migingo” between Uganda and Kenya, which was held twice.  

SK: What, according to you, are the prerequisites of a good tournament?

KB: Planning, planning, planning!  The other key points are good time-keeping and making sure that players who register on the day of the event play from round 2. This was a problem from many years ago and it is only now that players realise that some organisers will take entries on the day of the event but the players will start in round 2. 

Honesty is another important point. If you promise a cash prize of “x” then you must pay “x” and not something else.

Willing to fund the event from your pocket at all times. There have been many events where the financial planning goes wrong when the number of players are not what you budgeted for and then the event makes a loss.

Transparency – At the end of every chess tournament I put up a summary of the income & expenditure for all to see what happened on the financial side.  I have seen that potential sponsors like this disclosure.

Marketing – This is another vital aspect which must start at least 6-8 weeks before the event. I use Facebook and Twitter to do this for all my events.

SK: Last but not the least, with the Chess Olympiad round the corner, what do you think about Kenya’s chances?

KB: There has a lot of political wrangling which will affect the results. One of our key players CM Ben Magana has pulled out of the team due to personal reasons and this will affect the team.


SK: Your favourite cuisine(s).

KB: Indian & Greek.

SK: Three must-visit places in Kenya.

KB: South Coast, Mombasa (beautiful beaches), Masai Mara (during the migration) and Samburu Game Reserve.

SK: Other games or sports that you follow.

KB: Hockey.

SK: Hobbies!

KB: Trying to improve my cartooning skills!

1915877_145328703827_2080482_n (1)
Kim Bhari, the cartoonist, at work 🙂 (Source: Kim Bhari – Facebook)

SK: Chess playing or chess organizing? 🙂

KB: I enjoy both!

Abhijeet Gupta: “If I don’t see Chess for one day I feel like I have wasted my day”

We caught up with Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta for an interview just after he won the Commonwealth Chess Championship, which was held at Sri Lanka, Aug 2016. A renowned personality and a passionate Chess player, Bhaiyyu as he is called in Chess circles, opens up about Chess, life and more.

We are thankful to him for giving us his time and for sharing his experiences with us. Read on.

Victorious moment of winning the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2016. Photo Courtesy: Ruwan Gunaratne’s Facebook


Rucha Pujari: First of all, Congratulations Abhijeet on your recent Commonwealth victory, how do you feel?

Abhijeet Gupta: Thank you so much! I feel nice and it feels nice generally to win tournaments. But it is not like I am on the top of the world but it feels nice as I managed to come back from a disastrous start.

RP: You were the defending Champion, how confident were you when you started in Waskaduwa and how did you approach your games?

AG: I think until round four I was quite confident, but a draw with Aakanksha and I started doubting myself because I thought like one more draw and it won’t be enough as I then have to score 5 out of 5. As the tie break was number of wins, 7.5 with three draws wouldn’t be good enough. So there was some pressure after this point, but also I felt some sort of relief because I knew I have to win all the games, there was not much choice.

RP: You have been a very consistent player, can you share with us some of your secrets to success?

AG: To be honest, I don’t consider myself as consistent. (laughs) Because seriously, I have my ups and downs. If you look at my rating graph it is not straight line, I gain and I also lose some at times. You can’t call someone who loses some 20 points in one tournament, consistent. You can call someone consistent who may be gaining less, but gaining all the time. That’s what I think.

Very Focused. Source: Abhijeet’s Facebook

RP: How do you train regularly? How much importance do you give to physical fitness?

AG: I think fitness is important. If we talk about Sri Lanka, I used to spend time swimming, playing table tennis, going to morning walks on the beach. I feel if you are doing all these exercises, any sort of physical activity, automatically your brain also relaxes.

When I am at home, usually I like to get up early, start working by 10-10.30. Take a break at lunch, then again work till 5-6, workout for an hour.

Generally I try to put in as much work as I can, even if I can’t follow a routine. I see that I put 5-6 hours of work in a day on Chess.

I normally work on my own, I have a permanent coach, you must be knowing Vishal. Sometimes we work together, he helps me once in a while.

RP: How is your relationship with Vishal Sareen?

AG: He is more like a brother to me than coach. You can say our relationship has changed over the years, first he was a coach when I was very young. I started with him when I was fifteen. It’s been like more than eleven years now, and now we are at such a stage that I can talk with him about various things in life.

RP: Coming to the topic of Indian Chess, what are the changes that you observed personally in the last ten years?

AG: The good thing that I have seen about Indian Chess is that, first of all we have many Grandmasters now. Then we have many young players, who have a lot of potential. So, it is nice to see that of course. Ten years ago this was different, now we have many upcoming players who can become GM’s and WGM’s, so it is a nice change.

RP: You have travelled a lot and played in many tournaments. Based on your international experience, what will be three things you would like to suggest to make Chess in India better?

AG: First of all we don’t have this concept of stars. I mean in any Sport you have a star and by that you attract all sort of money, players, you know. In Indian Chess I think we believe in mass. It is a good thing that we have many players who are strong, but it is also true that apart from Anand and Harikrishna no player has been able to cross the 2700 barrier.

It brings me to the next point. The reason behind that is that we don’t play enough against very strong opposition, we do play once in a while. But to develop, you have to play against them consistently. For that we should have more elite level tournaments or leagues.

In a way it also helps the whole Chess community because now we have one Anand right, if this plan goes on Harikrishna will become a more renowned personality in India. And see, any Sport gets popular because of one guy. In any field if you see, people follow that way. In Chess we only have Anand right now. If we get more personalities like that I am sure more sponsors will come, more players will come, more kids will take up Chess and all those things.

Then we should have at least one tournament, maybe like National Championships which should attract all big players.

RP: Moving on to the next question, which are some of the Chess books that you like and that have helped you to make progress?

AG: I really liked My System by Nimzowitsch, but that was 10-15 years ago. The last time I read it I was around 2400. It’s a book that you will like as a beginner, and there is something new to learn every time you come back to it.

Recently I read this Gelfand’s Positional Decision making in Chess and it left a deep impression on me. I finished it in one sitting, when I was travelling to some tournament. Also I liked Learn from the Legends by Marin.

RP: You have an amazing fighting spirit. How do you motivate yourself to keep giving your best?

AG: It is actually the other way around. Normally when I lose a game, it obviously affects me. But I have this attitude that it is not the end of the world. This thing, I think improves with experience. My attitude is that this is just a game.

Always positive and taking one thing at a time. Source: Abhijeet’s Facebook

RP: How do you handle defeats and such situations?

AG: Umm, let us talk about this particular tournament. When I drew with Aakanksha, I got really upset as I was even White, just out of mind and I was just not myself. I didn’t do much about it then, played table tennis, went for a swim, slept early. And yeah next day although it was not a very nice game I managed to win. Last three games I feel that I did not play so bad. First part was terrible, I was lucky to score 5/6. But last three games you can say that, I didn’t make any mistakes at least.

RP: So talking about your fighting spirit, do you think it comes naturally to you or it is something you have built up over years?

AG: I think I have built up over the years. For me every game is a new game, it doesn’t matter what has happened. When I won the Commonwealth, or generally if you could see from my facial expressions, I won’t be like too happy or all those things. Life goes on. I don’t get into pressure so much, even when I have to win the last game or all those things.

RP: Which was your most memorable moment of your career?

AG: Winning the World Juniors was definitely one of them. Also winning the Indian Championship meant a lot to me. And this year winning the Reykjavik Open also felt good, as there were many strong players and I crashed the field. So I will go for these three, in that order.

Apart from the tournaments, winning the Arjuna Award was very memorable for me.

RP: You have achieved a lot of milestones in your career. Looking ahead, what is your next personal goal?

AG: I would like to cross 2700 because I was close a couple of times like 2660-70. And somehow, okay you called me consistent but I feel I am not as consistent as I want to be. So this consistency part, I would like to be more consistent (laughs). Also I want to break in top 100. I am putting efforts, let’s see.

Crossing 2700 and breaking into top 100 are Abhijeet’s next goals.

RP: What would be your message for upcoming players?

AG: Enjoy the game, you have to be passionate. You have to be passionate about playing Chess or anything you do in life. If you ask me, I am like if I don’t see Chess for one day I feel like I have wasted my day. So you have to find something in life you can’t live without and if Chess is that one thing, I am sure you will do well. And never lose hope, I have seen many people losing a game or playing bad in one tournament, they will lose hope and want to quit Chess. It has happened to me as well. But I am sure if you are passionate, if you love something you will definitely come back and it will actually make you stronger, as a person and as a player.



RP: Which according to you, is the best Chess game played so far?

AG: One of the recent game I saw is Carlsen – Kramnik, it was a blitz game I think, anti – Berlin where Carslen takes his king out.

(Edit: The game Carslen-Kramnik, Your Next Move GCT 2016)

RP: Besides Chess, what are your hobbies?

AG: Sports, I am a biggest sports enthusiast. Music, so mostly these two. And yes I do like to read too.

RP: Which Olympics Sports are you following keenly?

AG: Literally everything, like A to Z. I like to follow all sports, but it is also about the stars. I like to see Phelps swimming, Bolt running, such particular stars. I like to see Neymar playing for Brazil. And I also really like to watch our Indian players compete.

RP: Have you tried Pokemon Go?

AG: No, actually in my city it is not that active, we don’t have that many Pokemons. And on IOS you still can’t play officially you know. So yeah, I haven’t played yet but I have heard about the game and people playing it. I would love to try, but I simply can’t do right now (laughs).

RP: Movies which you can go back to again and again are…?

AG: Oh, Departed. Then Dark Knight, Chak De.

RP: Carlsen or Karjakin?

AG: Carlsen, any day.

RP: Okay and lastly, what do you liked to be called Abhijeet or Bhaiyyu?

AG: What’s there in name? As long as people are calling me, I don’t mind. (laughs)



Vidit Gujrathi: “Whenever I lost to Dad, it angered me to learn more!”

A couple of weeks back, Grandmaster Vidit Santosh Gujrathi won the Lake Sevan Tournament, a category 16 event with talented young Grandmasters competing, for the second time in his career. An affable person that he is, Vidit readily agreed for an interview with us and went on to talk about his victory, the Indian Chess Team, his first steps into the Chess world, and much more!


Shubham Kumthekar
: Hello Vidit! Hearty congratulations on winning the Lake Sevan tournament for the second time. How good does it feel?

Vidit Gujrathi: It feels great to win such a strong tournament. It had been a long time since I won an individual tournament, which made this win even more special.

SK: This tournament is traditionally characterized by a field of young and upcoming strong Grandmasters, which leads to meaty play more often than not. How do you approach a closed event like this, where every player is willing to fight it out?

VG: It is definitely more fun! I had some plan before the tournament, but as it always happens, you never completely follow it. During the drawing of lots, I understood that I will play 5 blacks and 4 whites, so it meant that I had to try and put pressure in every game.

SK: Which one of your games from Lake Sevan did you like the most? Can you tell us something about it?

VG: From a purely objective point of view, I was happy with my technique against Onischuk as it was my first win after a few draws. But, the game against Sevian from the penultimate round will definitely be the most memorable as it was a tough game that lasted 5.5 hours. A championship game which lasts this long, is for sure very stressful and nerve-racking 🙂

After a series of draws from Round 2 to 5, Vidit won a crucial game against Vladimir Onischuk in Round 6.
After a series of draws from Round 2 to 5, Vidit won a crucial game against Vladimir Onischuk in Round 6. (Source:

SK: Your results at the Lake Sevan tournaments have been noteworthy – an impressive victory in 2014, a respectable third place in 2015 and another victory this year. What is it that you like about the event or brings the best out of you?

VG: I always thought my chess playing style is more suited to Closed tournaments than Open events. Also, somehow I am more motivated to play when I play a strong GM every round.

SK: Now, let’s move to this picture! How did you end up here? 🙂

(Source: Lennart Ootes Twitter)

VG: I was seconding Anish for the Paris and Leuven legs of the Grand Chess Tour. (Editor: We did not probe Vidit more about his work with Anish due to the sensitivity of the topic.)

SK: You have been a key member of the Indian Chess team for quite some time now. The current team seems to be on a roll, with a historic Bronze at Olympiad 2014 and a memorable Gold at the recent Asian Nations Cup under its belt. What check-boxes are you guys ticking right?

VG: I think we, as a team, have developed a strong bond which helps us in team tournaments. We all, in the team, are good friends and get along very well. Also, our coach GM R B Ramesh always keeps us in good spirits.

The victorious Indian Team at the Asian Nations Cup 2016. (Source:
The victorious Indian Chess Team at the Asian Nations Cup 2016. (Source:

: Let’s backtrack. You hail from Nashik, a city not really known for producing titled players. How did your journey into the chess world begin and what challenges did you have to tackle?

VG: I started playing chess when I was about 7 years old. My dad taught me chess and whenever I lost to him, it angered me to learn more! There were a lot of challenges, but now it feels good that I got past them.

SK: You come across as a superbly prepared player. What is your approach to chess preparation?

VG: I feel I have improved my overall chess strength in the last few months. It is hard to exactly point out how I prepare, but recently I have been doing it in a more disciplined way.

SK: What, according to you, is the biggest achievement of your career so far?

VG: Winning two strong Category 16 tournaments. (Editor- Lake Sevan 2014 and Lake Sevan 2016)

Vidit had triumphed at the 2014 edition of Lake Sevan in convincing fashion. (Source:
Vidit had triumphed at the 2014 edition of Lake Sevan in convincing fashion. (Source:

: India is experiencing a ‘chess boom’ of sorts. However, what areas, in your opinion, need to be developed or improved upon?

VG: I think there have to be more opportunities. Few years ago, there used to be a lot of closed tournaments, which have completely stopped now. Closed tournaments really help in improving the game and I feel there is an urgent need for more such opportunities in India.


SK: Three things that you are generally found doing apart from Chess.

VG: Watch American TV shows, something related to technology, and as my friends say, I am with my phone.

SK: Your favourite cuisine.

VG: Italian

SK: If you could be an anime character for a day, who would you like to be?

VG: Tough question, I don’t like Anime anymore.

SK: If not a chess player, then …        

VG: Something like a detective!

SK: The most influential movie quote you have ever come across.

VG: It’s from Rocky.  “It ain’t about how hard you hit, but about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward!”