In honour of International Chess Day, I have decided to profile Ghana’s highest-rated chess head and 2019 National Chess Champion John Kojo Hasford. I hope you enjoy the journey through his life.
The best, the greatest, the finest, those are some of the thoughts running through your minds as you read the title, thinking “I am about to be introduced to the best chess head to ever grace the Ghanaian scene,” and you may be right, the individual I am about to introduce to you should have his name in the hat for the greatest the country has ever seen.
Let me introduce you to 2020 National Chess Champion, FIDE Master (FM) John Kojo Hasford, the individual I have dubbed the ‘King of Ghana Chess’ because like the king on a chessboard he seems unassuming at the first only to become the key piece at the end of the match.
The 54-year-old Kwashieman-born chess head has been a regular fixture at various Ghana Chess Association (GCA) sanctioned competitions since being introduced to the association, and he spoke to TalksAfrica’s Leroy Hawkson about being introduced to the game during his late teens.
“My daddy was a very accommodating person, he would welcome anybody particularly those of our age group, they will come around and we will be playing games. We started with draughts (checkers), and then we moved on to cards, and then we moved on to table tennis and it was like every game that came into the area everybody wanted to be the best.”
“So one of the friends after seeing us play draughts and cards then brought a chess set around, he was fortunate because his elder brother was a seaman who had travelled to Russia and when coming down came with the set, that was the first time we saw a chess set so when he brought it around, all the young men started learning it and playing it and so I also took it up.”
After having his first taste of chess FM Hasford’s interest in the game steadily grew, but his playing partners waned as interest in chess around his community seemed to dissipate with only his elder brother Emmanuel Hasford as a playing partner. He was then introduced to the National Chess Championships.
“Those were the days, when Frederick Asmah, Michael Campbell, Anquandah [Eric Francis Anquandah] was still there at that time but he was not an IM (International Master) and then we had Grace Addo and all those national players.” FM Hasford said reminiscing about the time
“The very first time we heard there was a competition like the Chess National Championship going on at the Korle-Bu Medical School, my brother and I said well let’s go and watch. So we went there and fortunately, Anquandah was my senior when I was at St. Augustine’s College, so I saw him and I was like ‘Wow.’ I knew he plays draughts, so I was quite interested and then after his game, I approached him and my brother and I spoke to him and he gave us some tips as to what we should do to become better.”
FM Hasford would go on to compete semi-professionally over the years claiming victories in several tournaments around the country, the most notable being his numerous victories at the National Chess Championships, the most recent coming at the 2020 edition of the championship held at the Accra Sports Stadium between 20th – 23rd February 2020.
Recently, John Hasford has been left out of Ghana’s team for the maiden edition of the FIDE Online Olympiad due to challenges he faced registering for the competition.
by Leroy Hawkson|TalksAfrica.com