The first day of action had some very interesting bouts, some of which ended in an interesting draw, while others ran riot on their opponents.
With the round 1 pairing made available to the general public at only about an hour to the match, it was sad to find out that the games of the biggest continental tournament were not live on any of the websites available, which met a lot of criticisms from fans of the players and chess lovers as well.
This however, does not diminish the battles that ensued in Tunisia, on a day where men stood to be counted on the battle field of the mind. With forty four (44) confirmed participants available from eighteen different African Nations, it was going to be a fitting battle for the crown of the champion.
Board 1 saw the relentless Prince Daniel Mulenga take the fight to the Doctor who operates on the chess board, GM Amin Bassem, and even though he only arrived a few hours on the day, he gave it all he’s got, which turned out to not be enough for a draw, with the good Doctor showing why he is the only 2700+ player on the continent, to secure a win on the board.
On board 2, was the Nigerian FM Abdulrahman Abdulraheem Akintoye (AAA), who’s chess met with an unusual style against the former World Junior Chess Champion GM Ahmed Adly. GM Adly showed the class he is made of as he made the FM AAA rue missed opportunities and clamp down on him like a tiger holding down his prey, until he gave up and resigned.
Board 3 had the versatile Moroccan attacker, GM Hamdouchi Hicham take out his opposing IM in a special endgame maneuver, which the IM did not see coming. The fight was clear, and the strategic advantage going into the ending was a pointer to what the tournament would be about going forward.
With board 4 having the young and talented GM Bellahcene Bilel of Algeria, who was victorious at the zonal championship with a perfect 9/9 score, take out his Tunisian opponent in a game filled with tactical attacks and sturdy defenses, which saw the Algerian stalwart come out on top after the dusts settled.
Board 5 saw IM Arab Adlane kick off his quest for the Grandmaster title with an impressive victory over Tunisia’s FM Douissa Oussama, who overrated his position and got punished severely for it.
Boards 6 to 8 saw very interesting bouts and fighting draws, as Angola’s young star IM David Silva matched the youngest African GM Fawzy Adham, blow for blow, and strength for strength, which made both players settle for draw. While IM Oussedik Mahfoud and GM El Gindy Essam were pushed to their limits by Babaria Yaccine of Tunisia and FM Oragwu Chukwunonso respectively, as the two (2) players secured some very impressive and important draws in the first round of the tournament.
IM Fy Rakotomaharo was too strong for his opponent, as he rushed into the opponent’s position, invaded and triumphed in such a manner as to make sure there was no recovery tactics, which ultimately ensured his opponent resigned.
CM Musatwe Simutowe picked up a valuable lesson at the Zambia Open, which he put to play at the first round of the Africa Individual Chess Championship, to secure a valuable draw against GM Hesham Abdelrahman of Egypt, who was also in Zambia.
One of the biggest shockers for the day was Ethiopian FM Mesfin Leykun, who picked up a very important draw against IM Andrew Kayonde in an open game where the IM was unable to secure any major advantages and had to settle for the draw at the end of the round.
But the biggest upset on the day was the loss of IM Makoto Rodwell to Tunisia’s untitled (ELO 2100+ rated) Jmila Omar, who was literally underrated and dealt a massive blow to one of the tournament favorites, who would now have to work his way back to the top from the back end of the table.
The remaining games of the round ended with the higher rated players ensuring victories over their respective opponents either by serious fight to the endgame or by interesting tactical meanderings, which put the lower rated player on the back foot and eventually securing the all important victories.
With the first round of the tournament played with such grit and determination, it is only a matter of time before we see more upsets on the table.
The major clashes have started to occur as the round 2 pairings are made available on the chess-results server, and you would see a number of interesting matchups in this round, which includes:
FM Munenga Douglas vs GM Hamdouchi Hicham
IM Adu Oladapo vs IM Arab Adlane
IM Anwuli Daniel vs IM Fy Rakotomaharo
GM Solomon Kenny vs FM Klaasen Calvin John
Mulenga Prince Daniel vs Sasha Winston-Onyiah
The Female Section:
With eleven countries being represented in the female section of the championship, round 1 would have definitely been one of the easiest rounds for the ladies, as all the higher rated players secured important victories, some faster than others.
Nigeria’s Ofowino Toritsemuwa was one of the first to tidy up her opponent with a straight tactical shot, which her opponent could not recover from and had to just quietly resign. WFM Lorita Mwango was another such case, as she strolled over her opponent in brilliant fashion to show the strength with which she won the female section of the Zambia Open in June.
WGM Wafa Shahenda had to dig deep however, to defeat her WFM opponent, Miladi Amen of Tunisia, considering the game was one of the last to end on day 1.
With the round 2 pairings out, there are 3 interesting games to look out for, which are:
WFM Mwango Lorita vs WIM Meizoud Amina
WIM Sabrina Latreche vs WIM February Jesse
Ofowino Toritsemuwa vs WIM Moaataz Ayah
These ladies have something to prove to themselves and it is not just about being local champions in their respective countries, but also the chase for the WGM title, which the Wafa’s of Egypt had ensured eluded them over the years.
Where would the upset come from in the second round of the championship?
Have your say in the comments section below.