05 March 2009

Chess in Africa - Early FIDE Initiatives

My previous post in this series -- Chess in Africa - African Zonals -- mentioned the establishment of the FIDE's zone 12, the 'African zone', in the 1970s. By a happy coincidence, I have at hand Informants (INF) from the 1970s, many of which included an appendix covering FIDE affairs. That gave me a chance to look at early FIDE initiatives on chess in Africa.

FIDE's Jubilee Celebration in Penang: The Bureau discussed certain steps for promoting chess in those countries where this game is insufficiently developed. A financial fund for this purpose is planned. The President of FIDE announced that at the beginning of 1975 he will make a tour of African countries. Other grandmasters are also scheduled to tour other parts of the world. • INF-18 (1974-H2) p.294

The President of FIDE at the time was Max Euwe and his report appeared in the next Informant.

'Chess in Africa' by Max Euwe: My African tour at the beginning of this year had quite a different character than previous visits to other continents. The reason is obvious. To a certain extent chess is already developed in other continents, while in Africa one has to start from the bottom, from scratch. However, before continuing, let me first state that when speaking about Africa in this article, I have in mind the central part of the continent. So I exclude South Africa, Rhodesia, and the northern part of Africa. • INF-19 (1975-H1) p.278

Euwe's full report was around 1500 words long. Reacting to Euwe's ground breaking trip, FIDE established a new group.

FIDE Central Committee Meeting (Oosterbeek, 27-30 September 1975); Assistance to Chess - Developing Countries: A standing FIDE Commission has been established for helping chess -- developing countries. The commssion approved the creation of an Information Exchange located at [...]. The Central Committee proclaimed 1977 as the International Chess Promotion Year for Chess-Developing Countries. • INF-20 (1975-H2) p.287

Euwe's initiative coincided with a knotty political problem.

The Decisions of the FIDE Congress in Haifa (46th Congress, 6-9 November 1976): The previous FIDE Congress in Nice in 1974 had decided "to exclude the chess federations of Rhodesia and South Africa temporarily from official FIDE competitions until the situation has cleared in such a way that there is no discrimination in chess any more". [...] With a large majority and to the sound of applause, the General Assembly approved the request for South Africa's reinstatement in FIDE.


The Commission for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries has drawn up a programme for further work and appealed to the developed federations to support the Commission with funds. The Commission appealed to the developing countries to communicate to the Commission their needs. • INF-22 (1976-H2) p.317

That last paragraph is an early reference to CACDEC, now known as the Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries.

A new FIDE zone 12 was created, the African Zone, with the following member federations: Algeria, Gambia, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Seychelles, Tunisia, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia. • INF-26 (1978-H2) p.294

The first African zonal took place at Tripoli, Libya, in 1981. A long report (in French) on the event, plus comments, is at Premier Zonal Africain ou l'Histoire d'un Titre de MI.

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