Conquering both classwork and chess
What you need to know:
- Chess is his extracurricular activity of choice. The game, often perceived to be mind-based, enthralls him.
- Hawi was introduced to it in school when he was aged 10 and from that moment, he fell in love with it.
- His goal is to participate in as many tournaments as possible so that he can be knighted as a grand master.
Barry Hawi Kaloki, 15, is already filling up a cabinet with medals. The trophies, he says, are coming soon. Hawi is a Year 10 student at Brookside Preparatory and a top performer academically. Additionally, he is a young master in the game of chess.
In March this year, Hawi was awarded the outstanding Pearson Learner Award. The award is given to learners in international schools worldwide who have achieved excellent results in the Pearson exams both in primary and secondary school level. He got the highest marks in mathematics and science in Kenya in the lower secondary exams.
The qualifying exams were done last year, but he began preparing two years prior. He was determined to excel, and apart from the class studies, he did a lot of private reading. He had a study plan which incorporated two five-hour study blocks, and was tutored by a teacher at home.
“I didn’t expect to be the best. In fact, when my father notified me, I thought it was a prank,” he said.
In February this year, at the World Scholars Cup, an event held annually to inspire future leaders, Hawi bagged nine medals and emerged top in various subjects including social studies, debate and writing.
These achievements earned Hawi the rare honor of sitting among international judges and also be a panelist as a student judge. Hawi together with his classmates at Brookside Preparatory qualified for the global round of the World Scholars Cup which is set to be held in Doha in June 2023.
Prior to the Scholar’s Cup competition, Hawi says he prepared by practicing with his sister. He also attended rehearsals with the school’s Debate Club and sought guidance from teachers. He credits his sister, Zuri for helping him achieve so much.
“Zuri is in Year Eight and we usually complement each other in studying. We have the same interests in debating and playing chess. She is my biggest cheerleader,” she says.
As his star continues to rise, Hawi dreams of becoming an Astrophysicist. He enjoys the sciences, especially physics and biology subjects. Mathematics also interests him.
“I really love working out math questions to find answers,” he says.
Chess is his extracurricular activity of choice. The game, often perceived to be mind-based, enthralls him. He was introduced to it in school when he was aged 10 and from that moment, he fell in love with it. His goal is to participate in as many tournaments as possible so that he can be knighted as a grand master.
In 2021, he felt ready to participate in his first major tournament, but an opportunity only came last year.
He participated in the Kenya National Youth Chess championships in Mombasa last year and was ranked 25th out of 120 players in the Under-16 category.
In September 2022, after preparing well for the tournament, Hawi played in the Africa Schools National Qualifiers in Eldoret, and finished eighth out of over 200 contestants.
He remained consistent despite the average results, and when the Kenya National Youth and Cadet Chess Championship were held early this year, he placed second overall.
Hawi is ranked by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), and is excited about the upcoming Kenya Chess Open set for April 6, 2023, which he is currently preparing for.
“I read books about chess and I watch classical games played by experienced chess players,” he remarks.
His role model is American chess grandmaster Sam Shankland, who motivates him because of the fact that he began scooping honors from a young age.
“I have friends like Robert Mcligeyo, Kenyan’s youngest highly rated chess player by FIDE who is on course to be a grandmaster. He is a pacesetter for me.
“Naturaly, I am quite competitive, and I possess a great deal of self-drive. I strive to excel in whatever I do,” says Hawi when asked what the secret to his current unique performance in chess and studies is. He acknowledges his parents who, he says, play a pivotal role in helping him attain the feats.
“My mum and dad support me in everything I do, and they take a keen interest to ensure I succeed. They are so important since whenever there’s an event to attend, they keep reminding me and provide all the necessary resources. My teachers are also incredible. They play their part in imparting knowledge in me, and also supporting my extra-curricular activities.
Hawi advises fellow students to be steadfast and to work hard in whatever they put their mind on, be it in studies or extracurricular activities. He says achieving success in something after putting in hard work is the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
“Some students are more talented or intelligent than others but what sets one apart is the will to be diligent and dedicated,” he notes.