Ghana hopes to go to Dresden too

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Ghana's chess team hopes to go to DresdenMany chess players will look up in surprise when they see Dutchman Kees Hoogendijk play for the Ghanaian National team at the next Chess Olympiad. The chess enthusiast from Meppel, The Netherlands who resides in the African country for a couple of months each year, managed to qualify for the national team that will play in Dresden.

It isn't logical at all for a Dutch amateur player to enter an event in which the large majority of players is professional, earning their daily livelihood with the game. It's even more illogical when a Dutchman is competing for an African federation.

The Dutch general public is getting used to Chinese table tennis players defending the Dutch national colours and athletes of African descend playing football or running marathons for Holland. But a Dutchman competing for an African country at the highest level is not too common yet. Nevertheless, Hoogendijk (53) will defend Ghanaian honours with down-to-earth Dutch attitude, strengthening the national team.

chess NC Accra may2008



Because of his private educational development project in Ghana (www.smartkidsweb.nl), Hoogendijk spends about three months a year in this country. He started his search for African chess players on Ghanaian soil about five years ago. Only after three years he had some success in finding a group of players and he was warmheartedly welcomed in their midst.

Hoogendijk recently became a member of the Ghanaian Chess Federation and he himself advised the Ghanaian federation to resume their international activities in order for them to delegate a team and be represented at the Chess Olympiad which will be held 12-25 November 2008 in Dresden, Germany. During a couple of tournaments he fought for qualification, thus securing his spot in the Ghanaian delegation. "Twice I came second and one of those tournaments turned out to be the National Championship, but I only discovered that some time later on the internet."

Kees in the ghanian national championship

Hoogendijk in the Ghanian national championship



"The national championship main sponsor was Johnny Walker. Everybody could drink whiskey for free from 10 a.m!", Hoogendijk recalls amused. "Most players didn't, though." His fine results in these tournament caused "Cornelis Willem Hoogendijk" to take his place at the chess board in Dresden, together with Eddie Thompson, Robert Sackey, John Hasford and Francis Anquandah.

So, with some Dutch influence Ghana will be participating in the Olympiad for the first time since 1986.

Hasford (left) on his way to the title

Hasford (left) on his way to the title



Vishy, Vladi and Kees The chances that Hoogendijk will be playing a true top class player, like Kramnik or Anand*, are slim, practically 0%. Because of the way the drawing of lots is conducted and the fact that Ghana is, despite Hoogendijk's presence, not one of the contenders for the title, Ghana will not play a top nation in the first round. Or any other round.

"Like in most chess tournaments the top half plays the bottom half in the first round. About 160 teams will enter the Olympiad. So team 1 against team 81, team 2 against 82 and so on. The organisation has placed Ghana as team no. 151. So in the first round Ghana will play a team around spot 71. Kyrgyzstan, Singapore or Palestine might be our opponents in round one. We will very likely lose. The second round match will also be a very though one. Only in round three we might get real chances to score some points. So probably the strongest opponent we'll meet will be in our first round encounter and will be a middle class team."

kees plays chess in accra may2008



"For my team mates as well as me, it will mainly be a very nice trip and an unforgettable chess adventure," Hoogendijk admits. "For some of them it will be their first time abroad. I am trying to bring my team mates over to my hometown Meppel a few days before the tournament kicks off. I'll try to organize some activities, for instance a workshop by a professional coach."

Hoogendijk has been a club member for 29 years now. "Chess for children hardly existed in the sixties. I only joined a club after my studies," Hoogendijk reminiscences. He is a four-time champion of the Meppel Chess Club, but his last title has been 15 years now. His former pupils now surpass him in playing strength. "Yes, by a wide margin. It's fantastic to play chess with my best former pupils now. Alas, for the first time in 27 years, I ended up in our second team."

Game analysis

Game analysis



"We are looking for sponsorship," the Meppel player indicates. "All expenses in Dresden are taken care of by the organization and the Ghanaian Sports Council, but the five tickets from Ghana to The Netherlands or Germany still need to be financed. So, our participation is not secure yet. I am trying very hard to find a sponsor, and so are my teammates in Ghana. "I am Dutch, but I will feel extremely proud when I can sit at the chess board wearing Ghanaian colours. And of course I hope to make many Ghanaians feel proud too."

* Viswanathan Anand will not be playing in Dresden, which wasn't known yet at the time of writing




Story based on an interview in the newspaper Meppeler Courant of Friday, October 10th 2008, by Kay Scholten. Translation: Andr?ɬ© Klomp.

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