Africans at The World Chess Olympiad, Chennai 2022

The Chess Olympiad has always been the crown jewel of all chess tournaments. Not just because it hosts over one hundred and fifty (150) countries, but also because it is the period where most of the major regulations, elections, decisions, leaderships are formed.

Chameleons at the venue!

Chennai, a city in Tamil Nadu, the heartbeat of India’s Chess Industry, and home to some of the precious wildlife creatures, plays host to both the players (competing for medals and honors) and the delegates (competing for leadership roles in various levels).

The People of Chennai were happy to receive the world! Image Credit: Fide

The first round of the Chennai Chess Olympiad had virtually all the higher rated countries picking up maximum match points. While there were some very important upsets in the round, the results were never in doubt.

Round 1

The most talked about upset in the first round, was USA’s GM Levon Aronian draw with Angola’s IM David Silva (who only needed to march his king to attain the needed supremacy). The Angolan IM was pleased with his play (as he should), and was not willing to jeopardize his solid advantage be rejecting the draw offer from the one-time World Number 2.

International Master David Silva of Angola! Image Credit: Fide

Round 2

In the second round of the tournament, a number of the African countries that won in the first round lost to their higher rated opponents. However, Zambia took the bull by the horn when facing off against Denmark, and their plan worked out perfectly.

The Zambians making hard work look soft! Image Credit: Fide

Although, the Danes were much higher rated than the Zambezi boys, the Zambians only needed a win on the last board to claim the match point, after securing a draw in the top three boards.

This victory ranks high on the underrated victory list, as well as makes a statement that counters GM Jacob Aargard’s notion that other parts of the world do not matter in the grand scheme of chess.

In his own words, he said “I do not believe that we have to overly estimate the moral importance of Zambia….., and their non-caring, when seen from the chess world. Reality is that chess is a European sport, which has become big among Indians and Chinese too….”.

Grandmaster Jacob Aargard

One thing is sure, GM Aargard now knows that Zambia cares about chess, and their moral importance is not overly estimated. If anything, the Zambians, among various African nations, are grossly underestimated, and Europe now knows that you don’t mess with the African continent.

Round 3

In this round, it was the top players of the Ghana Chess Association that produced a scintillating performance against the higher rated opponents from El Salvador. The National Champion, along with the longest serving member of the Ghana Olympiad team, Adu-Poku Kwabena and FM Hasford John Kojo respectively took out their opponents in style, to secure an all important draw against the Salvadorians.

FIDE Master Hasford John Kojo

Round 4:

In what was a battle for supremacy in African chess, the “King” of the North (Egypt) faced off against the “King” of the South (Zambia). The battle was so fierce, that one could literarily feel it in the looks of the players, as well as their administrators. Egypt has always had the bragging rights, however, the Zambezi boys came well prepared for the match and showed immense composure to clinch an all-important victory over the Pharaohs opposing them..

Zambezi King in action! Image Credit: Fide

Round 5

This round presented a rare opportunity for the Kenyan female team to face off against their higher rated Nigerian counterparts, and what a match it was. After Nigeria had gone 2-1 up against their East African counterparts, it was up to WFM Sasha Mongeli (1672) to ensure that the team tied the score, while a draw/win for Emmanuella Enomah (1902) would secure a vital victory for the team.

WFM Sasha Mongeli in action! Image Credit: Fide

With the battle at a tipping point, Sasha missed an important 77. Qh3+! which would have led to some interesting finishing. However, after missing that move and heading towards a draw by three-fold repetition, Emmanuella gifted Sasha the winning position, and Sasha did not disappoint in the delivery.

Round 6

Although the team lost, FM Barrish Daniel’s win over Africa’s second highest rated player GM Adly Ahmed is our pick for the round. With the Pharaoh employing the tricky King’s Indian Attack, Barrish took charge of the center early and held onto it, while not giving the flanks away. After Adly castled kingside, Barrish stormed the kingside, and showed great courage to blow open the game.

Fide Master Barrish Daniel! Image Credit: Dr Lyndon Bouah

A few moves later, a tactic only grandmasters should see presented itself to Adly (29. Nxg4!!). Although he must have considered it, he chose not to play it, and his choice for continuation led to a worse endgame for the grandmaster. Combined with a number of bad moves, Barrish became a conqueror against Adly.

Top 10 African Standings after Round 6!

The Congress:

The Fide Congress in Chennai! Image Credit: Fide

On the 1st day of August, the Fide Congress kicked off with the Planning and Development Commission (PDC) meeting at the Leela Hotel. Africa was ably represented by some of the members in the commission, as well as those affiliated with the commission (every available leader/delegate). The commission discussed the events of the past four (4) years, along with what could be done better.

The Planning and Development Commission (PDC) at work! Image Credit: Fide

This was followed by the Education Commission, and a few other commissions meeting on day 2 of the congress. Presentations were made by Africans on the commission, highlighting what has been achieved in some African countries thus far, as well as the needs to achieve greater results going forward.

Members of the Education Commission in sections! Image Credit: Fide

Furthermore, each zone had their meetings to determine how to move the zones forward, and achieve more for their respective zones. They discussed the candidates for zonal, continental, and Fide leaderships respectively. Although they could not form a general consensus on some of the issues discussed, the meeting was an important indicator for what is to come.

Today, while the players are taking a break from play, commission meetings will continue, and elections will begin in a few commissions.

Other Commissions wrapping up their meeting and sharing ideas! Image Credit: Fide

The most important (to the players) of the commission meetings will be the Athletes Commission, which players will have to meet and eventually vote for their representatives, who will oversee their affairs as part of the incoming Fide team.

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