Selikem Yao Amoako …a chess Candidate Master at 11

The first and only Ghanaian titled chess player, Philip Selikem Yao Amoako, has already surpassed milestones some professionals at his age and older could not, but only dream of.

At 11, he holds a silver medal from the 2021 African YouthChess Championship which was held in Ghana and appears to have improved on his skills and confidence with every tournament he competes in.

From a British upbringing, to controversially beating some notable names in the industry like Ghana’s youngest and best (as of2020) chess player, Dave Chief Quansah, the President of the Ghana Chess Association (GCA), Mr. Philip Elikem Ameku and successfully attaining the Candidate Master title; here is what readers need to know about the boy who is to change perception about the sport of chess.

Profile

Philip Selikem Yao Amoako was born on April 22, 2010, in England to Mr. Dennis Amoako, a businessman and Dr EmefaTakyi-Amoako, the Executive Director of Institutional Development at the CatholicInstitute of Business and Technology.

They hail from the Volta Region.

He is the last of five children.

Though all the siblings were involved in chess, only Selikem plays at the professional stage.

Selikem was introduced to chess at the age of five in school (Theorose International School at TantraHills) and kept practicing on his own; consistently for three years with the computer.

According to him, his consistent practice was because he lost to his friends at school on several occasions.

His desire did not wane after those defeats.”It rather increased because the urge to train harder to defeat them got stronger. It also fuelled my passion and love for the game.”

“There was a chess competition in my school and though it was just for fun, we aspire to win. And, because I was losing many times,I became very determined to beat my friends in the school chess competition. Those championships got me going and sustained my interest in chess,” Selikem told the times Sports.

Achievements

The prodigy holds the record for being Ghana’s youngest titled chess player.

He achieved this feat in 2021when he claimed silver at the 2021Africa Youth Chess Championship with 7.5 points.

The victory afforded him the opportunity to claim the title of Candidate Master (CM).

He also participated in the 2019Africa Junior Chess Championships held in Accra.

Selikem was adjudged the best player for the U-10 division after securing four points at the event.

Even though he was not able to beat his higher rated opponents, he gave them a match they would not easily forget.

Selikem was subsequently invited to the London Chess Classics to make the ceremonial move in the Maxime Vachier-Lagrave versus Magnus Carlsen match. Selikem, in 2021, was awarded the Best Chess Player of the year award at the 46th Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG)awards.

He is a versatile sportsman, who has won medals also in football and athletics. He also plays tennis but is yet to win a medal in it.

Selikem, has been described by his opponents and a Grandmaster, Maurice Ashley, as a creative player, someone who creates his own style of play.

Selikem had this to say when he was asked if he ever foresaw himself obtaining these achievements;”To be honest at the age of five when I kept on playing chess for three years, I never knew there was a competition for chess. I just thought it was a game like how you play football outside; I played for fun.”

This chess prodigy has the potential to break the record of becoming the youngest grandmaster in the world with support and good financial backing.

Advocacy

He has taken up the mantle,to lead the crusade to get chess incorporated in the school curriculum and has called on the Ghana Education Service(GES) to take that into consideration.” I will urge the GES to consider the introduction of chess in our curriculum because it really improves your ability in your school work, mental capacity, teaches self-discipline and time management,”he explained.

The prodigy says support from the Ghana Chess Association (GCA)and the government was,however,low.

According to him, he needs a lot of financial support to play internationally and therefore, appealed to philanthropists and the government to invest more in the sport and sponsor him on his quest to put Ghana on the map as far as chess was concerned.

Chess

Chess is a board game played between two players. It is sometimes called Western chess, or international chess to distinguish it from related games such as Xiangqi.

The current form of the game emerged in Southern Europe during the second half of the15thcentury after evolving from a similar, much older game of Indian origin.

The game was brought to Ghanain 1970 by a group of diplomats and friends who later formedtheAccra Chess Club which was a subset of the Attoh-Quarshie Sporting Club at Swalaba.

It became recognised as a national sport by the then National Sports Council in 1975 under the leadership of Ambassador Joseph AmohAsmah.

Several clubs sprang up across the country to constitute the Ghana Chess Federation (GCF).

They include the Dansoman Chess Club, Mamprobi Chess Club, Circle Chess Club, University of Ghana Medical School Chess Club and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Chess Club.

Ghana took part in her first ever Olympiad in 1986 hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.

Today, chess is one of the world’s most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide.

BY JESSEL LARTEY THERSON-COFIE & CONNIELOVE MAWUTORNYO DZODZEGBE

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