Larry ‘King’ Kagambi Misses the Jackpot

Larry Kagambi won the first Kenya National Chess Championship in 1990. In 2015 he missed the opportunity to win the Kenya Millionaire Satellite Chess Festival. He lost his last game against the eventual winner and ended up in 2nd place with 6/8 points. The winner, Harold Wanyama from Uganda, earned himself a trip to Las Vegas to play in the Millionaire Chess Open Tournament.

Millionaire Chess was the brainchild of African-American Maurice Ashley, the first black person to win a chess grandmaster title. Wesley So (2014) and Hikaru Nakamura (2015) hit the jackpot of $100,000 by winning the first Open tournaments. The final edition in 2016 was won by Dariusz ƚwiercz, but he only got $30,000. Money must have been running out.

The Nairobi satellite tournament in 2015 attracted the best of Kenyan chess players and some strong players from Uganda. The prospect of winning a trip to Las Vegas with the chance to win a $100,000 jackpot had everyone excited. Kagambi surprised by winning his first 5 games against stronger-rated opponents. He lost game 6 and 8 against strong Ugandan players but reasserted himself as a great Kenyan chess player. Let’s review his game of round 2 against Ken Omolo.

The Grunfeld Defense is a popular opening against d4 for players seeking dynamic play, but the move g3 leads to more positional play in most variations. In this game however, Black’s use of the open lines and the superior activity of his pieces decided the game.

I bet Larry Kagambi could still jump a surprise in competitive chess, but he spends most of his time on building the next generation of Kenyan chess players. He is a FIDE certified instructor and runs a Chess in Schools program under Waridi Chess Ventures. Schools are currently closed but there’s probably not a better time for your kids to learn chess.

That’s all for today. Stay on top of COVID-19 by following the WHO Guidelines and keep playing those sharp lines in the Grunfeld to just miss a trip to Las Vegas like Larry Kagambi!

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