As the players and officials arrived Cote D’Ivoire, they felt this was going to be another tournament that would come and go, another tournament they would just play for the prizes and leave without much enthusiasm, another tournament in a 5* Hotel for them to tell how they swam, how they ate Ivorian’s delicacies in a buffet setting every morning, afternoon and night.
Little did they know that Cote D’Ivoire had other plans for them. Little did they know that they would form bonds that would take virtually a lifetime to break. Little did they know that they would not eat dinner at the same place twice in a row. Little did they understand the captivating plans Dr Essoh Essis and his ever faithful Privat & Charles had in store for them.
But as they slowly and enjoyably found out, so also, we bring to your viewing through Africa Chess Media. This is the eating, the drama, the gaping view, the art gallery, the cultural dance, the gala night and last but not least, the awesome Minichess presentation by the Ivorian kids.
The 24th day of July was the arrival day, and everyone arrived on the day except for GM Mohamed Amine Haddouche, who had to come all the way from Saudi Arabia, where he currently teaches the game on a contractual agreement, and he arrived early game day at 4:30am.
Lunch was had at a local restaurant, where the players got to taste a bit of the growing up of Dr Essoh Essis and where he ate lunch during his early working days, as well as getting a taste of the Ivorian ginger drink. While the very first dinner was a form of introduction dinner, which had everyone introduce themselves in a knight of the round table setting. The players were welcomed by president Essoh Essis and were assured that they would have an exciting time in the business district of Cote D’Ivoire, called Abidjan.
Wednesday, the 25th of July, was the first day of hostilities, as the pleasantries ended for most, when they had a torrid first day and refused to join for dinner. Breakfast and lunch were had at the 5* Hotel Tiama, whose daily buffets were always on point and dinner was to be at another location in the Abidjan district.
After the games, we left the hotel to enjoy dinner at Restaurant “Débarcadère” (meaning landing stage), located in the municipality of Treichville, at the edge of the lagoon duck, which develops the lagoon transport economic capital. They specialize in grilled meat and seafood, with which the players were not disappointed. It is also good to note that the débarcadère Restaurant sits only a few meters from the National “Palais De La Culture”, a major theater and performance hall in Abidjan.
On Thursday, the 26th of July, the players woke up to a quiet morning, but fired up for the afternoon games, which was fiercely contested.
On our way to having dinner, it was a special evening, as there was an artwork/painting exhibition taking place and the players/officials were wowed with paintings that was up, and in the joy mood that everyone was in, there was singing together with the locals, pictures with legendary Ivorian painters, and the players had lots of fun. Dinner was then served at Restaurant “331”, located in the common (upper class) of COCODY Center. We had some Ivorian specialties, with freshly grilled fish a constant in the whole equation.
Friday the 27th day of July kick-started with the Minichess Ivorian kids display, which had about 20 kids dancing and producing a scintillating drama presentation for the players and officials, who were seated and blown away by the presentations on display.
After this, the players had some rest and continued to play their final three (3) rapid rounds of the tournament, where GM Slim Belkhodja got his first win of the tournament. Later that night, a few of the players chose to enjoy the cool breeze of the night on our way to dinner, as they chose to sit in the open booth of the Vice President’s truck, and they certainly did enjoy the ride (which was obviously cautious), as we headed to Restaurant “L’AUBERGE”, in the Deux-Plateaux neighborhood of the Northern part of COCODY community, who served both African and European specialties.
After dinner, President Essoh Essis treated virtually every country present to a song in the Piano-Bar style “jamming” session, singing a popular song for each player and official in attendance at the dinner and some of the players and officials joining in the fun.
As we drew close to the end of the tournament, Saturday, the 28th of July ushered in fast paced blitz, where GM Kenny Solomon won games he probably would have lost and bullied his way to second place on the table, just behind the ever resolute GM Amin Bassem, and IM Andrew Kayonde proved doubters of his blitz prowess wrong, as he held his own to put himself in contention at the end of the day.
On this night, we had a Family-style dinner at the residence of FIDEC Vice President Lorng Charles Mathurin, to reinforce the bond of friendship among players, officials and organizers, without which chess would not succeed at any front. And Lord…. can his wife cook for Africa! She blessed us with sumptuous meals that could only be afforded at top chef restaurants in Paris (if you think I am lying, go visit Cote D’Ivoire and have dinner in his house).
On the final day of the tournament, Sunday, the 29th of July, the tournament kicked off earlier than usual, in order for the tournament to finish early and we can prepare for the night never to be forgotten. GM Amin Bassem lost his first game and GM Slim Belkhodja pipped both IM Arthur Ssegwanyi and IM Adu Oladapo to 8th place (after having started virtually all the days of the tournament at the bottom).
But the story of the day was not just about the trophy, which was a brilliantly sculpted head of Queen Nefertiti, but the gala night that was to follow, which the players have never seen on the continent.
The gala night had the introduction of the players, the introduction of the officials, the introduction of special guest and then headed to playing the National Anthem of every player represented at the event. After this, there was drum performance, which ushered in the dancers, and these guys are so good, that after their performance, GM Kenny Solomon had to ask how he could join them (pun intended).
And after the dance had ended, there was an opening for anyone who would like to sing a song, to which Dr Essoh Essis kicked off, Mr Lekan Adeyemi joined in, and then the players and a few others joined too.
Then came the moment of presenting the trophy to the champion, which had the Cote D’Ivoire Chess Federation president give his speech and where GM Dr Amin Bassem gave his speech, mentioning the fact that this is the best tournament he had participated in on the continent of Africa.
On the departure day for most, the 30th day of July served as a day for the beach, where those that were still in Abidjan relax and a new camera guy was found in GM Kenny Solomon, who gave the brilliant Alina L’Ami a rest and took over the camera, even if it was a few minutes, it was restful for Alina (smiles).
Later that Monday evening, everyone said their goodbyes and hoped to see ourselves at the Batumi Chess Olympiad in Georgia later in September.
Thank you for following our story. We had FUN!