Yes GM Hesham Abderlrahman of Egypt was there. Some sources heard Egyptian GM and immediately though Africa’s number one, Bassem Amin was the one coming. Actually, Hesham was the only GM present as Sahaj Grover, who was also touted to appear didn’t make it. There were 2400 plus rated players that featured at this year’s record breaking Zambia open so the field was quite strong.
Surely Hesham will never forget how ‘inimical’ the Zambian chess scene must have been to him. Not even the second position could house him as the Zambians clenched the two best positions of this lucrative African tournament. Okay, perhaps we should go through this fabled international sport spectacle step by step to disinter its thrilling niceties to the readers.
So this 8 round jumbo show piece ran from the 10-12th August, 2018, in the country’s central and biggest city of Lusaka at the nationally illustrious Government Complex. Just its prelude to the public was ample demonstration of the momentousness and gusto that the new executive of chess governing body in Zambia (CFZ) had put in to ensure that the tournament was lip-smacking and historical. Mr Chanda Nsakanya, the Secretary General of CFZ (also the tournaments director of the tournament) was the front runner of this campaign to make the masses aware of the event. Makhosi Nyirenda (Khisho) all the way from Malawi equally came on the scene and numerously advertised the tournament in a variety of ways including the use of conundrums. In addition, Zambian mainstream media heavily reported on the tournament throughout its duration.
After more than a week of concentrated profile-raising, on the morning of 10th August, more than 250 chess players, administrators, the media fraternity, and chess buffs from at least five FIDE federations assembled at the government complex in one accord to witness the historical opening of what others are describing as the ‘best ever’ Zambia Open Championships. The Zambian Sports Minister, Honorable Moses Mawere, FIDE Acting President, Mr Makropolis, Zambian Minister of Health, Dr Chitalu Chilufya (also patron of CFZ and FIDE Deputy Aspiring Candidate) and the CFZ President, Mr Mukubulo Chilufya (plus his entire executive) were all in attendance.
Shortly after 15 Hours CAT, the three sectioned event was underway and as expected there would be sparks and curls of fate. In the open section, it was the unrated Zambian Chanda Kunda aka CK who would be the talk of the tournament after five rounds having won all his games. A general section of the Zambian chess community started referring to him as the ‘Black Horse’ in apparent reference to the fact that they didn’t pay attention to him but only did so after five rounds when they realized he was very close to triumphant ladder. Needless to state, it was not only CK who had a perfect score of 5/5 but also the defending Zambian Open Championship, IM Stanley Chumfwa. The name CK was echoed throughout the playing venue due to the fact that his winning streak was shocking in such a high profile international event and given the fact the he had a zero rating.
Well it seemed CK’s lucky had run out after the fifth round, as going in the sixth round, CK would meet his toughest opponent in IM Stanley Chumfwa. The Zambia derby would go in favor of IM Chumfwa who moved to the summit of the table to set a tongue waging clash with Egyptian GM Hesham who had 5.5 going in the seventh round. Inspired by the backing of local chess pundits, IM Chumfwa would put up a heroic display to draw with GM Hesham.
After this energy consuming clash with GM Hesham, IM Stanley Chumfwa knew that all was not over as he faced another uphill battle against the in-form Zambian FM Douglas Munenga who had just beaten IM Stanley’s young brother in round seven (to equally go in the last round with 6.5) to set up a much anticipated clash of the tournament. Both players were cautious, aware that any risk had the potential of consigning them away from the top three slots. And so like some pundits had projected, a draw was agreed between the players for them to each end on 7 points.
Meanwhile GM Hesham was not far away and a needed last round win against Sakala Peter earmarked him for a top position (he joined Stanly and Douglas on 7 points); only if the Buccholz tiebreaks would be sympathetic to him. But Alas! It was IM Stanley Chumfwa’s day as he walked down the stairs of government complex majestically, proudly wearing the gold medal. Douglas Munenga settled for Silver while GM Hesham will tell the Pharaohs that chess in Africa is no longer an ‘Arabic affair’ as he shows them his Bronze medal.
Meanwhile, WIM Lorita Mwango was too good for the ladies section as she was the only one who amassed 6.5 points after an equally intense 8 rounds to walk home gloriously.
But it was Mululu Linah who would be a surprise package of this section having had a zero rating but managing to secure the second slot with 6 points. On her way to the winning podium, Linah defeated such continental heavyweights like WGM Sabure Tuduetso (Botswana) and WCM Constance Mbatha.
Humphrey Lwambula won the third section of the event (Madalas) after amassing 7 points, only losing his last round encounter to Mwape Jerry.
And so, one weekend in August will never be forgotten in the minds of many chess pundits. This is weekend when many will remember Zambian CM Oscar Mwenya, mercilessly blasting Angolan IM David Silva’s Ruy Lopez position; a game many have described as the ‘game of the tournament’. Still, many will vividly recall an emotional win by Kabamba Mulwale over WGM Sabure that had to be settled by an arbiter. Even so, some will remember how Zambian zero rated Chanda Kunda was climbing the ladder to the top unnoticed only to be pulled back by IM Stanley Chumfwa. And it will never be forgotten how Zambian Chilekwa Mwape put up a gallant fight after the first five rounds to amass 4/5 only to be stopped at this figure.
In total the open section had 150 participants, ladies section had 35 and the madalas had 25 participants. Meanwhile, many chess pundits across the country have given praise to CFZ for the successful hosting of the tournament. Many have taken to social media to thank CFZ and offer words of encouragement to the new executive.