International Master Robert Gwaze now Coaching in Namibia

Robert Gwaze the youngest International Master to come from Zimbabwe started playing chess at a tender age playing for the Glen Norah Gunners, a club which was founded in Glenn Norah which is one of the ghettos.

This became a home of chess after the rise of the club and players who were young some who included the likes of Tinashe Tafira, Spencer Masango, Anorld Huruva, Bismack Bhobhojani and John Chibvuri. He did his primary education in Glen Norah before moving to Mount Pleasant for his form one. He never went up to Ordinary Level at Mt. Pleasant, he moved to Prince Edward High School which offered him a scholarship for chess. He came from the dusty streets of Glen Norah to become a young senior National Champion in 1997 when he was 15 years old and Africa’s best in 1998 when he became Africa Junior Champion. The tournament which was held in Kenya produced a fine performance from the player as he broke the record and became the country’s youngest International Master when he was in Form three at Prince Edward School.

Gwaze went on to claim so many local accolades which include the Grand Prix series, National Championships for both the junior level and senior level. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of International Master Kudzai Mamombe who is a product of Richard Knottenbelt the famous Mathematics teacher who is now retired. John Mangwengwende, Shiver Mapira and the late Charles Kuwaza are some of the former teammates who travelled with Gwaze for the Chess Olympiads. The current crop of players who were part of his team are International Master Rodwell Makoto, International Master Farai Mandizha who is now based in the United States of America.

Robert Gwaze won the Zonal Chess Championships twice to represent Africa at the World Cup. This was in 2007 and in 2011, in Windhoek, Namibia and Gaborone, Botswana respectively. He once faced Grand Master Alexi Shirov in his world cup match where he lost in the first round. In the first meeting he was knocked in the first round as well as the second one though he recorded a famous draw against one of the Grand Masters. He then faced Super- Grand Master Ruslan Panomariov of Russia in 2011 and he lost in round one again. His tactical prowess was of par excellence. He always oozed with confidence over the checkered board as he faced his opponents. However there has been a lot of questions from the people about his prowess comparing him with current crop of players, though one tends to categorically state that he was a cut above the rest. His cabinet is full of trophies he won a Gold medal at the Chess Olympiads in 2002 in Bled, Slovenia and won it ahead of the former World Champion Garry Kasparov of Russia who is now retired and running his foundation known as the Kasparov Chess Foundation. He won the tournament with a perfect score of 9/9 games a rare feature and a record which will take some time to beat. All Africa games he won a silver medal and a gold medal respectively in Morocco and Mozambique respectively making him the most decorated chess player in the history of Zimbabwe so far. He also won the CUCCA tournament in 2010 which also had some Grand Masters in Angola and that was not a mean achievement. He was ahead of the Grand Masters Galego Luis and Kornev Oleg. Another tournament which he won was the South Africa Open of 2010. In 2012 he also won the Capablanca Open prestige section.

Besides playing chess Gwaze also coached in Zimbabwe at Hartman House and St. Georges College before leaving for South Africa enroute to Namibia where he is currently based and coaching there. Players, Coaches as well as fans all agree to the assertion that Gwaze was a player of his own class. He made chess so simple even during his school days. However there is a lot of wailing by the fans who think that Gwaze left an indelible mark in the chess fraternity before achieving the highest honor bestowed to a great chess player that of Grand Master status.

At the moment Gwaze is based in Namibia where is doing some coaching at some private schools. At one time he also coached Fide Master Dante Beukes.  He does his coaching online as well as over the board. “Do you have a lichess account? He stated, I know you were strong as a chess player and wanted to play one or two games with you on lichess.” The writer responded, “I am on lichess but not very active because of the problems of internet connection.” The new normal has also led to some creativity and imagination in the coaching of chess as there were some hindrances because of Covid-19. Before settling in Namibia he was in Cape Town, South Africa where he worked with Lyndon Bower, he developed the curriculum for chess for the Province and was instrumental in that regard. This is when he started having passion for writing. I caught up with him and discussed a bit he was shy to reveal the actual project but there is something that he is working on. “I am going to publish a book soon, but no advertising is supposed to be done on budget R300.”He played for a chess club in Namibia and eventually stopped to concentrate on his Coaching career. There was also a hint of wanting to publish some chess related articles and books. We await the breaking of the ice since he is supposed to give the finer details of the project which he wants to embark on and the writer will come back to the chess fraternity with some juicy news soon. One can say that we can still tape more from his chess experience as Zimbabwe in developing the chess talent that we have and certainly we can go far. On a lighter note am proposing a comeback match featuring International Master Robert Gwaze and International Master Rodwell Makoto on lichess 10 games date to be announced when sponsors avail sponsorship.

Gwaze stopped active chess in around 2013 and many chess fans were left in awe just like what Bobby Fischer did. He left people wanting to have and enjoy more of his chess and one wonders really what prompted him to do so. One can say maybe the much elusive Grand Master title which according to some tournaments latter after he stopped players like Grand Master Kenny Solomon got after winning the zonal. Gwaze won two of those competitions in 2007 and 2010 but the Grand Master title never came to Zimbabwe as it did to South Africa and Zambia respectively. I am  talking about someone who was feared by the current Egyptian Champions Grand Masters Baseem and Adly. People are still eagerly waiting to see the return of International Master Robert Gwaze whose chess exploits left an indelible mark on the chess scene in Zimbabwe with records which are very difficult to break. A courageous person is needed to take him out of retirement in Windhoek, Namibia where the chess sensation has found a new home and is earning a living through chess coaching than playing as he was popularly known to the chess fraternity.

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