Fifty-eight (58), was the number of players that participated in the ECOWAS Open Blitz tournament in Abidjan. From ten (10) different federations, these players not only came in to Abidjan to support the Grand Chess Tour initiative on the African continent, but also to support their own as well.
And it was great fun to see GM Topalov’s manager, IM Danailov Silvio from Bulgaria, Magnus Carlsen’s dad, Henrik Carlsen, Freyd Laurent from France, and Alessandro Parodi from Italy all participating in the Blitz event that Africans are playing in, with none of them winning it. Goes to show that Africans are not necessarily far behind.
Round 1 recorded no major upsets, as the top guns recorded straight victories over their respective opponents and the only set of upsets were unrated players taking a hit at a couple of 1700+ players.
From the second round however, the state of mind of a few of the players tweaked, and they thought to themselves “I know I cannot defeat Magnus Carlsen at any point, but at least I should be able to have a chance with his Papa!”, and voila, Henrik Carlsen’s first loss of the tournament came at the hands of 1700+ Amewounou Komlan from Togo, who withstood the barrage coming from Monsieur Carlsen and dealt a fatal blow to the Champ’s dad. With Azumi underrating her opponent because of the rating difference between them, she soon realized that her opponent can also play like a grandmaster when she went down a piece, and the young man coolly converted.
The games started getting more interesting in the third round, when Nigeria’s AAA met IM Silvio on board 1. It was bound to be a fight, but the IM got the better of Abdulrahman and marched on with a perfect score into the next round. Meanwhile, the Nigerian IMs also got the better of their opponents, with IM Adu defeating the Italian Alessandro, IM Olape defeating the GCT tournament director, CM Graham and IM Balogun completing the rout for the IMs with a win over Onokpite Kennedy.
With over 120 rating points difference, Freyd Laurent took care of the Ivorienne top dog, FM Simplice Degondo, for an upset in the round, with the Nigerian Chess Federation president, Mr Lekan Adeyemi joining in the fun and coming out victorious in his first match of the day.
The 4th round saw the top dogs, IM Danailov Silvio, IM Adu Oladapo and IM Olape Bunmi, continue their strong perfect start to the event, as they dispatched IM Balogun Oluwafemi, CM Adesina Adeyinka and Frey Laurent, respectively.
For the upset of the round, AIM Ogbonnaya Obinna took CM Graham Jurgensen to the jungle where the way out is only suitable for one, and the AIM found the way out. The presidents of the Nigeria and Ghana Chess Federations also came out victorious in this round, to make a statement for the leaders, that they can still play the game as leaders.
Heading into the 5th round, it was a tussle at the top as well as a battle in the middle, as IM Adu defeated IM Silvio in an interesting match of the top 2, while IM Balogun overran IM Olape, to make IM Adu the sole leader after this round.
FM Simplice Degondo pounced on the opportunity to join the seconds and was not going to let that slip past him, as he comfortably defeated the Ghana chess president, Ameku Philip in his stride, while the president of the Nigeria chess president, Mr Lekan Adeyemi, continued his impressive performance, defeating CIV’s Franklin Kouya and the Ivorienne chess president picked up his first victory at the event.
Getting closer to the end of the event, IM Adu met with IM Olape for the umpteenth time in their careers and this time, it would be a draw, as both could not find a way to swindle or outmaneuver the other.
IM Danailov overcame the threats of Carlsen as he drove home the full point to join the seconds on the log, while IM Balogun and Abdulrahman were the only other victors who would join the seconds in their stride, with wins over CM Adeyinka and Alessandro respectively.
17 year old Okemakinde Toluwanimi, put a stop to the rise of his federation president, as he delivered a rounded performance against him to claim victory at the end of the match. Ameku Philip, on the other hand, got back to winning ways, defeating Ballebako Kokou Jacques. Both ladies from Nigeria picked up victories as the pushed for the best female prize ahead of their Ghanaian counterparts.
The 7th round was a very important round for the top guns, as well as the ladies and the juniors, because there were limited prizes available on offer and you need to be at the top of your game to claim anything going into the penultimate and final rounds.
Abdulrahman (Triple A) took the fight to IM Adu in this round and met a well prepared IM, who took all that was thrown at him and dealt a devastating blow to secure the full point and remain at least half a point ahead of the chasing pack.
IM Silvio kept the chase alive; the way Liverpool have been keeping their hopes of winning the English Premier League alive, with a very important win over the Nigerian French maestro, Onokpite Kennedy, with IM Balogun handing FM Degondo his second loss of the tournament with acute maneuvering.
The upset of the round, was a big victory from Nigeria’s Peace Samson, who ensured that CM Graham Jurgensen confessed after the round that he was well and truly beaten and could not use the fact that he lost an officer later in the game as an excuse for losing.
The penultimate round of any event is always the most interesting, because it lays the foundation for the end. IM Adu shared the spoils of the on board battle with IM Balogun as both could not find a way through to victory, while IM Olape summoned the spirit of the “Undertaker”, to overcome the forces of the Bulgarian IM Silvio and with Peace Samson and Okemakinde Toluwanimi on board 3 and 4 respectively, it was literally a walk in the park for the duo of CM Adesina Adeyinka and Abdulrahman (Triple A), going into the final round of the blitz tournament.
With IM Adu having played every other top gun at the event with no loss, he only had to overcome his kryptonite in Onokpite Kennedy, if he truly wanted to go home as the Champion of the blitz event, and he did that superbly well. Entering into a prepared line, Onokpite did not know what hit him, as he had always had the edge over the IM, but this time the story was different and IM Adu went home victorious, and earned himself the title of ECOWAS BLITZ KING with a whopping 8/9 points, half a point ahead of IM Olape Bunmi and IM Balogun Oluwafemi, who both won their last round games.
The final standings for the top 30 players at the event are seen below:
Final Ranking after 9 Rounds
|6||10||Abdulraheem Abdulrahman Akintoye||NGR||2057||6,0||0,0||6||48,5|
|7||15||Ameku Philip Elikem||GHA||1899||6,0||0,0||6||44,0|
|10||6||FM||Degondo Simplice Armel||CIV||2148||5,5||0,0||5||53,0|
|14||24||Letsara Nirina Harijaona||CIV||1702||5,5||0,0||5||41,5|
|19||33||Ajavon Ayayi Jean Le Clair||TOG||1514||5,0||0,0||5||40,0|
|20||31||Niamkey Elijah Pharell||CIV||1528||5,0||0,0||5||40,0|
|22||29||CM||Attah Elikem Kofi||GHA||1578||5,0||0,0||5||38,5|
|23||22||Amewounou Komlan Kouessan||TOG||1735||5,0||0,0||5||38,5|
|25||25||Foua Aroll Junior||CIV||1660||5,0||0,0||4||39,0|
|29||34||Kouassi Raoul Golly||CIV||1507||4,0||0,0||4||39,5|
The main event ends today, and even though GM Amin Bassem has made Africa proud with his performances thus far, it would speak volumes if he can rise above the last spot on the log by the end of today.