What a first day rush at the Africa Games Chess events! No player left day one of the rapid event with a perfect score and that is one huge plus for Africa Chess, which shows that the players are stepping up and giving a fight rather than taking the blows as they come.
With a number of teams still acclimatizing themselves with the beauty and ambience, as well as the organizational prowess accrued by FIDE for the event, nine (9) teams claimed full game points of (4-0) from their respective opponents, as the first round kicked off, with only Malawi holding off Nigeria to a 1-3 loss, as the female players showed tactical awareness to secure victory for the Nigerians.
Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Zambia, Angola, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya, all secured comfortable 4-0 victories over their respective opponents as the games began, and it was a fight from the get go.
Round 2 was only able to produce one perfect win as Sao Tome and Principe handed Central African Republic another 4-0 thumping to lift their spirit from the earlier drubbing they got from Angola. However, the winners faced themselves and the top board produced the first test for GM Amin Bassem, who was unable to find a way past the young Angolan IM David Silva, as both players agreed to a hard fought draw, which gave Angola their only point against the Egyptian chess lords. Egypt eventually won on the remaining three (3) boards and claimed an emphatic 3.5-0.5 win over their opponents.
It was a battle of wits on board 2, as young IM Zaibi Amir of Tunisia claimed the scalp of GM Hamdouchi Hicham on board 1, a feat he would have loved to achieve at the Africa Individual Chess Championship in Tunisia, but could not because he did not meet any grandmaster. IM Tissir of Morocco returned the favor on board 2 by defeating IM Boudriga and the ladies also shared the spoils as the two (2) teams played out to a stalemate 2-2.
Kenya on the other hand, started the round like a house on fire, with two quick victories for their female players, as they overran their Zambian opponents, but the men showed they were equal to the task by equalizing for the team in a match that ended 2-2.
With the ladies turning on the shine for Botswana, the team got a very important 2.5-1.5 victory over their Nigerian counterparts in a keenly contested match, where the self made IM Providence’s draw against veteran Nigerian IM Adu Oladapo proved the difference for the match point.
The upset of the round has to be Ethiopia’s 3-1 victory over Malawi, where both the ladies and the top player missed their way and were duly handed loses to inform them that you do not underrate any player at a competitive tournament, especially one of this magnitude.
Namibia, Cameroon and Mauritius also secured victories over their respective opponents as the round got to a close.
Egypt continued their dominance as they swept aside Algeria, who are one of their major contenders for gold at the event, but not without GM Bellahcene Bilel claiming half a point from the seemingly perfect run of GM Adly Ahmed in a forced draw by the Algerian, even though he had an extra piece in a very unclear position. This earned the Pharaohs a 3.5-0.5 victory over their rivals.
Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria and Eritrea all claimed hard fought 2.5-1.5 victories over their respective opponents, chief od which was the 100+ moves draw between Angola’s IM David Silva and Nigeria’s FM Osunfuyi Abimbola, where Silva had a knight, rook and king against Abimbola’s rook and king, but could not find a way to break down the resilience of the Nigerian.
The battle of superiority between Zambia and Zimbabwe would continue, as both teams played out an interesting 2-2 draw, with the top board players for both male and female losing out and the other two (2) making up for the losses. It would be very interesting to see challenge matches between these two giant nations of the southern hemisphere and a host of others in the near future to finally determine who is KING.
Malawi got their first victory of the day in style, as they join Egypt and Namibia in walloping their respective opponents with a solid 3.5-0.5 to come back into the tournament.
But it was Cameroon that stole the show, being the only country with a perfect score in the round after handing Sao Tome and Principe a 4-0 drubbing. It was unexpected, but smooth victories they were.
Morocco put up a stern challenge in the 4th round, but it was not enough to deter Egypt from what has become a norm victory at the event, only being able to steal half a point from GM Adly Ahmed, as the others fell to the sword of the Egyptians. This led to another 3.5-0.5 victory for Egypt against yet another huge contender.
Algeria and Zimbabwe followed in the same path, as they dispatched Nigeria and Cameroon by the same margin to keep their hopes of a medal table alive. It was a sturdy finish for GM Bellahcene against IM Adu Oladapo in what was a game to forget for the Nigerian, after getting his opponent’s queen for his two (2) rooks, coordinating his pieces became a tough job, which eventually led to a cramped queen and a lost one for just a rook and a pawn. He resigned before that happened though.
IM Providence and FM Mwale led the charge for both Botswana and Malawi, as the teams produced a superb performance to defeat Kenya and Sao Tome and Principe respectively, by a two (2) point margin in a 3-1 finish for both teams.
IM Zaibi Amir continued his fine performance at the tournament, as he led Tunisia to a vital 2.5-1.5 victory over Zambia with a victory on board 1 against IM Chumfwa Stanley. Angola and Mauritius also towed the path of leaving it tight with a 2.5-1.5 victory over their respective oppositions in what was a fight to the finish.
The final round for the day being the 5th round, saw Egypt cap an impressive display with yet another 3.5-0.5 victory over the last of the Northern contenders in Tunisia. The question on everyone’s lips now is “Who Will Stop The Pharaohs?”, the final four (4) games of the Rapid events will tell.
Angola also followed Egypt in showing strength, as they defeated Zambia with the same score line of 3.5-0.5, to cap a disappointing day for the Zambians that were expected to push the Egyptians all the way.
Mushore’s victory was the differential as Zimbabwe shocked Morocco with a narrow 2.5-1.5 victory for the former. It was a battle of tactical ideas and who had the bigger grit to follow through with his plans, in the game between Mushore and IM Tissir, but it was the Zimbabwean that stood tall at the end of the game.
Even though Botswana lost 1.5-2.5 to Algeria in this round, IM Providence produced a strong contender for #GameOfTheTournament in his match against GM Bellahcene Bilel. Transiting from the dance of the knight to the dance of the queen and eventually forcing the grandmaster to resign, was nothing short of inspirational and a definite joy to behold. This shows that Africa has a lot to offer the world if we could only get the necessary support for trainings and top tournaments.
The male players were the differentials for Mali as they stole a narrow 2.5-1.5 victory over Mauritius, thanks to the draw on board three (3) by Tenin Diakite and the victories on the top two (2) boards.
It was Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe that ended the round and the day on the highest note though, as the both handed 4-0 defeats on both Namibia and Cape Verde respectively.
With today being the final day for the rapid event, and four (4) games to be played, it would be interesting to see if anyone can stop the Egyptian stride, create another masterpiece or burst into the top 3 positions. Calculations for the board medals would be ongoing right now with coaches and administrators, but the room for manipulations is quite limited at this time.
Give us your opinion on the countries that would make the top three (3) positions at the end of the rapid event in the comments section below.