“World Cup, we have been there but now we need to move an inch forward”. Amidst the heart-beats OF the African players at the Chess World Cup one can almost hear this slogan. The 2019 Chess World Cup kick-started yesterday in Khanty Mansisky, Russsia with Africa’s representatives making sure their presence is felt by collectively achieving 3 draws out of the 5 games played, giving a bit of hope for a first ever world cup round 2 break-through for some of the players of Africa.*
The first to give hope to Africa was Zone 4.4 representative GM Bellacene Biel (2540) from Algeria who managed to shake Super GM Hikaru Nakamura(2745) to a draw after just 38 moves. Playing a dry line of the Catalan, the game was always 50-50 , with Nakamura (with White pieces) trying his best to keep his position active here and there, even employing a pawn gambit in the opening phase of the game. But a draw was just a fair result for the rigid endgame position. As per the format of the tournament, he and the others will play against the same opponents for game 2 of round one, and the one with a better aggregate will scrape through to round 2..
In the other games of good hope, Africa’s highest rated player GM Dr Amin Bassem(2699) signed a peace treaty with Iranian talent GM Tabatabaei M.amin (2642). Contested in a quiet line of the Italian game that transposed to other lines, the game turned out to be a positional arms race, but after move 23. Qg4, we expected to see something, as Baseem was said to be harboring a hidden move of mass destruction. But after playing a few more moves, when the Queens were traded off the board, it turned out the Queen sally was for peaceful purposes.
As it stands, Amin ought to win the next game with Black pieces to proceed to round 2. Otherwise another draw will only drag him into a tricky tie breaker as it was in the last world cup.
Unfortunate was debutant “The Malagasy Radar”, IM Rokotomahoro Antanaina(2428) the King of Zone 4.3, who sailed through the stormy waters of the Caro Kann with the “Shark”, himself, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyerov of Azerbaijan with a towering 2767 Elo rating glittering to his name. The game was always 50-50 until the “Shark” managed to plant his Rook in the Malagasy radar’s 8th rank . Indeed it turned out that, by playing this , he cut the jugular vein that led Rokotomahoro’s position to bleed to death. As it stands tomorrow the radar has to win at all cost with Black pieces, just to come back into contention.
In another game of good tidings, experienced Egyptian grandmaster, Esssam Elgindy managed to pluck a draw from Super Grandmaster Levon Aronian. Great news for Africa, as it was actually Levon Aronian that was gasping for his life in this street fight. Elgindy, who is one of the respected names in Africa chess was up by 2 pawns in the dangerous Queen, Rook, Pawn endgame. Aronian was lucky to have walked away with a draw as he was arguably vurnerable at numerous points.
People were keen to see how another debutant, Zone 4.1 Champion , IM Daniel Anwuli(2284) of Nigeria would fair against the ruthless GM Vachier -Lagrave Maxime of France(2774) . Though the Nigerian collapsed in the technical Rook Pawn ending that followed, people commended him for putting up a gallant fight. Tomorrow he will be wielding the Black pieces, and hope to equalize to drag the game into the tie breaks.
Another Africa chess general, Africa Champion GM Ahmed Adley(2636), taking Black pieces also gave a decent account of himself against GM Ivan Cheparinov (2670) only to, after some “apply constant pressure chess”, be forced to play (48)…N*a6, giving away his sacred Knight for the dangerous passed pawn in the endgame. In the very end, he found himself in a situation where his King and Bishop were supposed to, if at all possible, save a draw against Knight, Bishop and Pawn-it proved to be too big a task to the 2019 Africa Champion rated 2670.
Tommorow, with white pieces he has to score at all cost to liven things up.
The FIDE World cup will go on up to 4th October. With the absence of the world’s highest rated player, world champion, Magnus Carlsen and his number 2 Fabiano Caruana, Chinese cyborg Ding Liren is the highest rated player at this year’s World Cup.
All rounds will be starting at 3 PM local time.
In last World Cup 2 years ago, Grandmaster Levon Aronian won while Africa were denied to enter into round 2 after Africas highest rated player GM Dr Amin Baseem was eliminated in the tie breakers.
*Edit: Africa has gone to the second round in a world cup before. GM and Dr. Amin Bassem achieved the feat in 2015 by beating GM Ivan Saric 2-0.