Meet Chess Olympian Saif Kanani

Saif Kanani has the best Kenyan performance at a Chess Olympiad with a score of 9½/12. He achieved it playing on board 1 for Kenya at the 1980 Chess Olympiad in Valletta, Malta. Kanani had 8 wins and 3 draws and only lost his final game against William Hook of the British Virgin Islands. Had Kanani won that game he would have taken the gold medal from Hook. After the loss, he had to settle for silver. Not bad after missing the first two games as a result of losing his passport on the way to Malta!

Kanani’s status as one of Kenya’s best-known players is solidified by two historic events. At the 1986 Chess Olympiad in Dubai, he held former world champion Boris Spassky to a draw. In 1984 the British Virgin Islands issued a commemorative stamp:

It shows the critical position in Saif Kanani’s last round game at the 1980 Chess Olympiad. It’s unfair that a great player like Kanani is best known for a loss and a draw. Hopefully, we can feature one of his great wins as we now take a look at his famous loss.

The move 2…c5 in a sharp opening like the Trompowsky suggests that Kanani was playing for a win. Sadly he missed the best continuation in a few critical positions until late in the game. This reminds us to keep looking for the best move even when we are down a piece. It’s also interesting to note that black’s queen came out early and made a total of 8 moves. This reminds us that chess rules are there to be broken.

That’s all for today. Stay on top of COVID-19 by following the WHO Guidelines and keep moving your queen in the Trompowsky to become the next Saif Kanani!

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