The Egyptian Pharoahs proved that they are second to none in Africa in the game of chess. They played and won in some scintillating games against some of the higher rated nations than them with their talisman and African champion, Bassem Amin finishing undefeated on board one. The Egyptians finished first in Africa ahead of a surprise second placed Zimbabwe team which was led by International Master Rodwell Makoto.
Starting out as 110th seeded team from a total of 185 teams from 183 nations that participated at the Olympiad in Batumi, the team finished at a highly respectable 59th place overall and second on the African continent in the open section.
Makoto played on board one for ten of the eleven games and lost only two and drawing one against GM Yusnel Bacallao, who hails from Cuba – land of the chess god Capablanca.
His total points were 7.5 out of the ten games he played. His performance rating was around 2500+ which shows just how well he played.
Emerald Mushore who played eight of his games on board two and one game on board one notably earned himself a Candidate Master title after finishing with 4.5 out of the 9 games which he played.
Zhemba Jemusse who played on board three and two respectively finished with 3.5 points out of the 9 games he played. He won two, drew three and lost four.
Spencer Masango who played on boards three and four won three games lost four and drew three games.
Elisha Thabo played six games, among these games he faltered by losing his first two games. He, however, managed to improve from his third game and he won three games and drew one. His total tally was 3.5 out of 6 games. His efforts earned him a Candidate Master Title in the process becoming the second player in the team to be titled after Emerald Mushore.
In the end the whole open team which took part in the Batumi chess Olympiad became titled after starting initially with three titled players in Makoto, Masango and Jemusse.
Few would have thought that the Zimbabwe chess team would finish so highly placed in Africa after they started with a 4-0 white wash against the Argentines. The team woke up from the slumber in round two and defeated Nauru by 3.5-0.5. IM Makoto, Mushore Emerald and CM Masango all won their games, while Zhemba Jemusse drew his game.
Mexico and Zimbabwe drew their game. In this fixture IM Makoto won the decider, while CMs Masango and CM Zhemba Jemusse drew their games. Mushore lost and this left the result at two apiece. Zimbabwe also had another draw against Morocco with Makoto winning in a pulsating game which left the onlookers commenting very positively about the young International Master after he saved the team from the jaws of a probable defeat.
It was, however, the round six shock from Nigeria that left Zimbabweans everywhere shell-shocked after Makoto misplayed against FIDE Master Bomo in a drawn position. He played his pawn to f5 blocking his rook and Bomo simply pushed his e3 pawn trapping the rook and winning the game. Zhemba Jemusse won a pulsating game against FM Anwoli of Nigeria while the other game was a draw. The overall result for the game was 2.5-1.5 in favour of Nigeria.
In round seven Zimbabwe was paired against Sudan and Makoto was rested in that fixture. Mushore moved up to board one, Zhemba played on board two and Spencer Masango and Elisha Thabo played on boards three and four respectively. Team Zimbabwe won the game 3.5-0.5. Mushore, Masango and Thabo won their games while Zhemba had to force a draw by perpetual check and that was enough to seal the team’s 3.5-0.5 win.
In that round, Spencer Masango had a win which reminded players about the famous author Mark Dvoretsky where he won a pulsating end game by forcing his opponent into zugzwang.
In round eight Zimbabwe suffered defeat against Cuba. Makoto was the only player who drew against the Grand Master from the team and saved the team from a white wash. In round nine the team was paired against ICCD and the overall result was 2.5-1.5 in favour of Zimbabwe. IM Makoto won against GM Yehuda Gruenfeld on board one while Mushore won on board two against Varezhkin Victor. On board three Masango Spencer lost to Martin Lewis. On board four Elisha Thabo saved the team by his important draw against Jankunas Thomas. This was a leap from the ashes as the team had lost its previous encounter against Cuba.
Round ten saw Zimbabwe defeat Jordan 3.5-0.5. Makoto, Zhemba and Thabo won their games while Masango drew his game. Elisha Thabo was the giant slayer as he defeated IM Khader Sami in a very tense game in which he produced a novelty and he won the game eventually.
Round eleven was very important for the team to remain among the best African chess playing nations by earning a second spot. The team played some scintillating games against the Dominican Republic and they won 2.5-1.5. IM Makoto defeated FM Abreu Carlos Paul on board one, while Zhemba lost to Manuel Jose Dominguez on board two. FM Guzman Christopher drew against CM Spencer Masango while Elisha Thabo won an important game against Camacho David Daniel to ensure an overall result of 2.5-1.5. Zimbabwe had 13 points form the over points.
They won five games, drew three and lost three. In Africa as a whole Zimbabwe clinched a second spot after Egypt while, South Africa came third. Nigeria came fourth after missing the first round because they had to swim to the venue as some said in jest. The Nigerian team played really well, all things considered.
Egypt won the category B, gold medal with 15 points, while Zimbabwe won a bronze medal in the category C. In this category Ecuador won gold followed by Japan who had the same points as those for Zimbabwe but came third on tie-break rules. Botswana came third in category D, Afghanistan won gold followed by Barbados. In the category E, South Sudan won the gold medal with ten points followed by Liberia and Haiti who both had 9 points.
The winners for the Batumi Chess Olympiads 2018 are China. They won in both sections, the Open section as well as the women’s section. This was a historic win for team China who have risen above the defending Champions in the open section, USA, who had a truce with them in the penultimate round.