HARARE – Zimbabwe junior Leeroy Mpala was crowned African Amateur Chess champion after claiming gold at the African Amateur Chess championship in Windhoek, Namibia on Sunday.
The 17-year-old Kwekwe-based chess protégée is now set to represent the continent at the World Amateur Chess Championship in April.
Zimbabwe Chess Federation vice president Clive Mphambela said Mpala’s achievement was a big milestone for the player, federation and the country.
“It’s a big personal achievement for the young man and also for the country. It reflects the fact that Zimbabwe chess is coming of age,” Mphambela told the Daily News.
“The triumph on the African stage comes just two months after Zimbabwe men team’s outstanding performance at the World Chess Olympiad in October.”
Players like Mpala and many others from the gold mining town have benefitted largely from the existence of chess initiatives such as the Willenita School of Chess founded in 2015 by Wilfred Leeroy Sithole and wife Enita.
The school has an enrolment of kids aged between four and 18 years with bases at Kwekwe High School and Mbizo Youth Centre.
Mpala won the second prize at the Midlands Open Tournament during Willenita’s formative months.
“We are pushing hard for grassroots development and setting up provincial structures. Our belief is that the bigger the pyramid base the taller the pyramid and also the more talent you can harvest,” Mphambela added.