With forty-eight (48) male and forty-two (42) female participants at the ongoing #AfricanGames chess section, it was time for the individual rapid tournament at the Grand Mogador Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco, and it was a fiercely contested first day of the individual event.
The games started like a pack of cards pouring out of the deck, as the top players quickly amassed points within the day and preparations saw major guys dropping off the top for other prepared players to occupy.
The final round of the day was greeted by the leader of the Morocco nation, General Ahmed Nasser, who made the ceremonial first move for both the male and the female top boards and added huge color and glory to the chess event alongside the FIDE president, Mr Arkady Dvorkovic. There were no surprises in the first round, as all the higher rated players converted full points to their advantage as the kicked the lower rated players to the curbs of the round and showed why they were higher rated.
Round 2 had some scares, some upsets and some upsetting draws, some of which were suffered by a few top guns who would have expected a rollover from the lower rated players.
Even though IM Adu Oladapo gave a scare in the middle game of his game against GM Adly Ahmed, the GM was unfazed by the tactics of the Nigerian and calmly collected the full point with precision piece play. While his countryman playing on board 2, forced IM Aderito Pedro from Angola to resign after only thirty-three (33) moves of strong consequences.
The upsets kicked in when FM Harold Wanyama (2237) kept IM Arab Adlane (2434) at bay in a tightly contested match. Uganda had not been allowed to participate in the team event, which meant that both Harold and Arthur were fresh without the headaches of the team event, and he showed this in the opening through to the middle game against the Algerian.
After holding the advantage for so long, one missed opportunity after another and the advantage diminished, until the game ended in an eventual draw was agreed.
This was followed by another intense endgame battle of the knights that ended in a stalemate, between Tunisia’s IM Tissir Mohamed (2427) and FM Elarabi Abobker (2241) of Lybia. It was an interesting bout between the two players and both players showed exceptional vision to achieve the result.
Mali’s top player, FM Traore Bakary also forced IM Zaibi Amir of Tunisia to a stalemate in an even pawn ending. While young and fast developing Namibia prospect, FM Dante Beukes also secured a vital win over his Mauritania opponent. Florent Kourakoumba of Central African Republic secured his first and only point of the tournament in this round, against Sang Ricky of Kenya in an inspired game. As Mekonnen Abraham of Eritrea also secured an all-important win against CM Ansumana Kamara (1923) of Sierra Leone with a solid checkmate.
Egyptians continued their dominance of the open section as they did in the team event and the third round was no different, as both GM Adly Ahmed and GM Bassem Amin picked up vital wins over GM Bellahcene Bilel and IM Boudriga Mohamed respectively.
But it was both IM Arthur Ssegwanyi and FM Harold Wanyama of Uganda that turned up the heat on their higher rated opponents brilliantly to secure full points against GM Hamdouchi Hicham and IM Makoto Rodwell respectively, to kick off the upsets for the round.
It was not going to end there, as IM Andrew Kayonde also picked up a valuable win against the KID opening of IM Tissir Mohamed, which kept him at pace with the leaders of the round.
One of the big upsets was against another Zambian, IM Chumfwa Stanley (2311), at the hands of Mali’s top player FM Traore Bakare (2169), who picked up a draw in the previous round and capped it off with wild victory over the Zambian.
Cameroon’s IM Amba Oyon Marius (1909) also claimed the scalp of Nigeria’s FM Osunfuyi Abimbola, in what was a massacre of a game. A game that informs all top players that others have not come here to joke around, they also plan to win games.
In the 4th round, the higher rated players left nothing to chance on the top boards, as they claimed their victories with grit and hard work on board.
The first of the upsets came as far as board 10, where Malawi’s top gun, FM Mwale Joseph (2039), quickly claimed a full knight from Lybia’s top gun FM Elarabi Abobker (2241). Even though he had this officer, he was still made to work hard for the win, which eventually came at the end of the day, thanks to some superb piece play.
This was soon followed by IM Amba Oyon Marius’s silencing of Zimbabwe’s IM Makoto Rodwell, which is the biggest upset of the day, that showed understanding of positional play and super coordination of pieces. Even though he was an exchange down through a brilliant sacrifice, his knight, queen and rook got the job done in a game that could have easily ended in a draw.
Another important upset was from Cote d’Ivoire’s Kouya Tyeoulou (1726), who was able to look beyond the rating and title of young FM Beukes Dante of Namibia, but played the board to achieve a very important victory for the west African underdogs. With unrated veteran Abdoulaye Coulibaly also claiming a huge moral boosting win over Sao Tome and Principe’s Espirito Santo in an impressive sacrificial game, which is definitely a contender for game of the round.
Heading into the final round of the day, only the Egyptians were on perfect score and they had to face off to see who would go ahead of the other, but they could only share the points, as both players know their lines having probably played thousands of games over the decades of playing together.
On board 2 however, it was a different story, as FM Harold Wanyama continued his super performance at the event with a brilliant win over GM Hamdouchi Hicham, in what was a classic example of underrating your opponent and his pieces. Even though the grandmaster had a flurry of pawns, it was the passed pawn created by the sacrifice of others that won the game for the Ugandan maestro.
It was a wild game, filled with sacrifices and counter sacrifices, hanging piece after the other that could probably not be taken, in the game between IM Andrew Kayonde (2312) and GM Bellahcene Bilel (2473), which had the Zambian coming out tops at the end in “Tal like” fashion. IM Aderito Pedro was also able to compounded IM Arthur Ssegwanyi’s woes in an interesting queen play endgame for the books, where the latter lost his second game on the bounce.
Finding the right plan is almost always difficult, when one is looking at a rating with almost 400 points gap, because you feel that whatever you play should work, and this is what happened in the game between Malawi’s FM Mphungu Gerrard (2069) and towering Tunisia’s IM Tissir Mohamed (2427), where the latter trapped his own queen and found a way to get a rook and bishop for her. This was undone though, by the sheer doggedness of the Malawian and his ability to unearth what has been bound. It took over a hundred (100+) moves, but he got the job done and he would definitely not be underrated again.
With the round 6 pairing out, it would be interesting to see what happens on the top boards as well as those playing catch up from the back.
Would Harold continue his stunning performance? Would the Zambian flag be flown on the medals table at the end of the day? Or would we have the same set of guys still dominate the field again?
Have your say in the comments section below.