Kenya’s junior chess champion scores A in KCSE

Peniel Weru, 17, who is a former Starehe Boy’s Centre student and also an international chess player, displays some of the trophies he has won in regional and international chess tournaments. Weru scored A of 84 points in last year's KCSE. [PHOTO: JOB WERU/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: Master Peniel Weru who won the National Junior Championships scored A in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

Peniel, the reigning champion and former student at Starehe Boys Centre, garnered 83 points in the examinations, despite juggling between academics and the game, which he started playing 12 years ago.

The victory also comes at a time when the 17-year-old is preparing to participate in his final junior championship in Greece before he graduates to the adult category.

“I am happy I made it. It was my vision to perform well as I did in chess. I will be travelling to Greece later in the year to represent Kenya in my final year of junior championships,” said Peniel.

He added: “For more than ten years, I have juggled between academics and chess. I do school work on weekdays, and play chess on weekends.”

Peniel attributed the success to his parents and teachers at Brookfield Academy, where he sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Starehe Boys Centre, whom he said inspired and encouraged him to work hard.

In KCPE, he scored 418 marks out of the possible 500 mark, which saw him join Starehe Boys Centre.

Peniel, who aspires to be a neuro-surgeon started playing chess, which is known as a game of the mind - when he was five years old.

So far, he has scooped 35 trophies, ten medals and dozens of certificates locally and internationally. He holds one international title, eight national titles and ten regional ones.

“I scooped my first trophy at the age of five, and my dream is to be grand master of the game in the world,” he told The Standard on Saturday during an interview at their Mathaithi home near Karatina town, Nyeri County.

The teenager has travelled to many countries, where he took part in various national and international tournaments.

“I have visited more than five countries across the world because of this game. I am happy I have been able to achieve a lot from chess, which I learnt from my father Watson Weru, who has encouraged me all through,” he said.

He travelled out of the country for the first time when he was just seven years old. “I went to Serbia where I participated in the tournament’s under-eight, category and I emerged a winner,” he said.

Among other international destinations he has visited to play chess and won, include Georgia in 2006, Turkey in 2007, Vietnam in 2008 and Slovenia in 2012.

The father, is his mentor and trainer and has taken up promotion of the sport, where he trains youths in various learning institutions in the Mt Kenya region. He is also the regional co-ordinator of the sport.

Mr Weru, who is a businessman in Karatina town, said he is proud of his son despite the hurdles he faced in raising cash to ensure he participates in various tournaments.

“I have had challenges at times raising the required funds to enable him travel from their Karatina home to various local and international destinations for tournaments. Despite facing financial challenges, I was able to travel, thanks to the help of relatives, friends and well wishers. After Form Four, I will continue playing this game until the time I achieve my lifetime dream of becoming a chess grandmaster,” Peniel said.

Weru said chess assisted him in making correct moves in his books and stationery business, which he has seen grow from scratch some 15 years ago.