Written By: Alfred Chimthere
The hunger for victory, coupled with chess clock tension, and the camaraderie of the chess battle, were a spectacle to behold as unheralded Ernest Matola stunned local chess gladiators in the Sempha Chess Tournament played on Saturday at Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe.
Entering the tournament as a rank outsider, Matola who proclaims himself as “Lilongwe Number One (1)” or “Mangochiman” in the chess circles, dispatched his opponents, in persons of: Amos Chigowo, Evance Ching’ombe, Clement Chakana, Zex Mwale, Stanford Chibambo, before claiming his biggest scalp in Candidate Master Chiletso Chipanga in the penultimate round to accumulate six (6) important points.
The only blight for him at the tournament was a Round Two (2) loss to Candidate Master Alfred Chimthere.
Victory vindicated his avowals before the tourney, that he “will use the prize money to drum up resources for his impending wedding” scheduled for June.
As a champion, he carted home a cool MK70,O00 cash, plus a trophy and a gold medal, all courtesy of Sempha Investments, a Malawian Construction company, based in Area 47 in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi.
Lightning struck twice for the Masters at this tournament, as another surprise package, Ken Forster, from Area 25, scooped the second position, after he also finished with six (6) points of the possible seven (7). He went away with MK40,000 cash and the silver medal.
Candidate Master Chiletso Chipanga, who is the reigning Africa Amateur Champion, grabbed a consolation for the titled players, after finishing third with five and a half (5.5) points. He received MK20,000 plus a bronze medal. The best lady player accolade was picked up by the delectable Martha Kapalamula, who pocketed MK10,000 and a medal. She is a student at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).
Speaking earlier on the eve of the tournament, Sempha Investments Managing Director, Charles Sempha Zimba, encouraged more Junior players and Ladies to participate in the mental game, if Malawi is to produce better players and citizens in future.
At the closing ceremony of the tournament, Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM) executive member, Mayeso Mphande who was the guest of honour, and Central Region Chess League (CRCL) Vice Chairman, Leonard Sharra, took turns to hail the sponsor Sempha Investments, whose Construction company is involved in Water, Building, Road and Irrigation Infrastructure.
Over fourty (40) players participated in the Sempha tournament, including Candidate Masters Chiletso Chipanga, Petros Mfune (the Malawian Razorblade), and Alfred Chimthere. Also, the highest titled player Fide Master Gerald Mphungu who was the defending champion of the Sempha Tournament, finished fourth on five and a half (5.5) points.
The format of the tournament was the Swiss Accelerated pairing system and the Bucholz tie-breaking system was employed to break ties at the end of the tournament, which had several ties. Seven (7) rounds were played, with each player having thirty (30) minutes on the clock, per player, per game.
The arbiter for the tournament was International Arbiter Gilton Mkumbwa and the results are forwarded to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) for the rapid chess rating to be effected on each players profile.
Matola becomes the second player in Malawi Chess history to win a major tournament in stunning fashion while his wedding bells are on the horizon. In 2009, Richard Chiona who was not favoured by chess pundits, grabbed the Presidential tournament in Mzuzu just a few weeks before his wedding.