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Behold, here is your junior chess maestro – Krishi Shah

By Gibo Zachary
Thursday, August 6th, 2020
Krishi Shah during a past chess tournament. LEFT: Krishi after a swimming competition in school. Photo/PD/GIBO ZACHARY
In summary

Krishi Shah is one of the finest chess talents Kenya has ever produced. At the age of 13, Krishi earned the third highest title in the world of chess, a Woman FIDE Master (WFM) badge.

However, what most people don’t know is that Krishi, who has won numerous titles nationally and continentally, is as equally talented in a number of other sporting disciplines.

Besides being an African chess champion and a multiple national league champion with KCB Chess Club, the 16 year-old is also a talented swimmer, tennis, hockey and netball player. You can also add canvas painter, writer and violinist to her resume.

“As a student at Premier Academy, I actively grasp every opportunity that comes my way.

I love playing tennis, and in school I was chosen to be a tennis coach for the younger years.

I have also won medals in swimming galas in school and I am part of the school sports teams playing netball and hockey.

In my free time, I enjoy painting on canvas and I also write articles for magazines.

As a graded violinist, I have been an orchestral member playing in school concerts,” Krishi  introduces herself to us.

Though excellence in everything sport came naturally to her, chess is Krishi’s game. 

Biggest support

Her first experience with the game started when she was five years old after watcching her elder sister play.

“I started playing chess at the age of five. I once saw my sister playing with her coach and immediately I was eager to join the classes.

Thereafter, my mum enrolled me into my first chess tournament where I won second prize even though I was playing against children who were older than me !

After playing one tournament and winning, I was so engrossed in the game that I used to run home from school and race to my chess board,” said Krishi.

“Chess became my passion and soon enough, a major part of my life. My parents constantly encouraged me to play the sport and were my biggest supporters throughout my journey.” 

But nothing happens without challenges and for Krishi, at the beginning, there were times when she lost games, she could feel so disheartened but later she came to realise that every loss gave her room for improvement.

“Now, I analyse critically all my lost games and highlight my mistakes and ensure that I do not make them again.

I take each and every game as a learning curve and instead rise 10 times better in the next game,” she said.

Krishi’s incredible chess talent saw her called to play for Kenya for the first time at the age of eight and her debut was a huge success as she won silver medal in the 2011 African Youth Chess Championships held in Lusaka, Zambia, a feat that earned her first major international title, a Woman Candidate Master (WCM) at her first international tournament.

Two years later, Krishi’s rise in the international scene saw her earn her FIDE Master title, Woman FIDE Master (WFM), the third highest title in the world of chess, only at the age of 13.

She achieved this after winning gold for Kenya in the African Schools Individual Chess Championships 2016 in Zambia.

“I was unbeaten in the tournament as I amassed 8.5/9 points to win gold with a round to spare.

It was huge for me and the achievement involved utmost training and hard work as I allocated time to practice while managing time for my academics as well,” she reminisces.

First grandmaster

Now a solid and dependable player for the national team, Krishi nowadays spends three to fours hours a day practicing chess online and training tactics in order to boost her game play. 

“I am extremely grateful to my coach and role model, Joseph Methu. He has helped me become a stronger chess player and constantly offers his endless support, encouraging me to participate in high rated senior  tournaments and boosting my self-confidence.

I admire the qualities of the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, a grandmaster from Norway.” 

To hone her skills, Krishi joined KCB Chess Club in 2014 when she was 10, becoming the youngest member of the club and, despite her tender age, helped the bankers to win the Kenya National Chess Premier League title.

“I haven’t lost any game in the last four years whilst playing in the Chess League and have won every individual prize of Best Junior Female,” said Krishi who has earned the moniker KCB Cub.

“At national level, I have been the national champion for my age category for many years. I have played in senior tournaments having won many ladies prizes over the years..” 

In addition to these achievements, Krishi is the 2017 Zone 4.2 Youth Under-16 Chess Championships Team Gold and Individual Board prize gold medalist.

This is an achievement earned Krishi’s team a fully sponsored trip to Ahmedabad, India, to take part in the World Youth U16 Olympiad.

“2018 was another good year for me as I won the second edition of East African Oshwal Awards- Best Sports Female Personality of the Year Under-18 category and I am extremely  delighted and grateful to be able to play chess for my community, country and continent,” blissful Krishi appreciated.

Krishi who was the best performing Kenyan player in the ongoing FIDE online Olympiad, is targeting to become the first Kenyan to become a grandmaster, the highest and lifetime title in chess competitions.