Ben Magana, Kenya’s illustrious Candidate Master #AfricaChess

By the Chess Zealot.

Ben Magana, deep in thought. CREDIT - Paras Gudka
Ben Magana, deep in thought.

Meet Kenya’s number 2 savvy chess player,Candidate Master Ben Magana. Born in 1977,Ben’s chess journey brings to mind a sad tale of another savoir-faire Kenyan chess player and official,Owino Magana (now late). Many remember Owino for winning the 2003 Kenyan open chess championship. Owino Magana was the brother of CM Ben Magana and he is the one who first taught Ben the movements of the chess pieces at just age of ten.

Ben actually points out that his brother was his mentor and motivator throughout most of his chess career. However,despite learning to play chess at this ripe age,it would only be at University when Ben would take chess seriously,this was in 2000 when he was a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. In the same year (2000) after Ben started competitive chess,he displayed his dexterity by qualifying to represent Kenya at the Zonals in Egypt!

Initially he was a fanatic of e4 while of late he is been more of a universal player mostly employing 1.Nf3,1.d4 and 1.c4 depending on his mood when playing the white pieces, and playing the Marshall attack,Slav defense,Albin Counter Gambit and Benoni with the black pieces. His critics argue that Ben’s more Universal approach to chess is due to the fact that he only knows rudimentary chess opening and that the opening is not Ben’s forte. The three-time-Kenyan- national chess champion is best remembered on the continental chess scene for his superb game against GM Ahmed Adly of Egypt at the 2007 African individual championship in Namibia.His win over the 2007 World Junior Champion sent shock waves across Africa and other continents such as Europe and Asia that had profound respect and fear for GM Adly!

Ben attained the Candidate Master (CM) title five years later after his memorable win over Adly at the 2012 Istanbul Olympiads when he finished the tournament with 5/8. Please note that the FM title was a game away as he only had to win his last round encounter which he unfortunately lost,thus settling for the CM title. The 2015 Bungoma Chess Open Champion, was the joint first champion at the inagural Rwanda Open Chess Championship.

A five-time-Olympian,Ben is considered by many as the strongest Kenyan chess player; this includes none other than Mehul Gohil known for his nomenclature of chess players whom he divides into two groups,Gazelles (weak) and Lions (strong)! Realising that the task of improving chess in Kenya lies solely on the shoulders of the top and experienced players, Ben teamed up with another well respected chess official Brian Kidula at Terrain Chess Academy where the academy (managed by Brian Kidula) has trained and produced some of the brightest chess prospects in Kenya!

Despite such immense contribution to Kenyan Chess,Ben,now mostly known as ‘Magnum’ in the Kenyan chess cycles,is of serene character and seems not to be tempted by the social media caricature and cocky characteristic that has engulfed some chess players that seek to theoretically impose their chess self-image!

Bruce Mubayiwa

I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. I have been playing chess for over 25 years and love writing about the game. Our goal is simple, to get more people playing chess in Africa! The game of chess is not only absorbing but a great deal of fun.

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