It was a shaky but stable start to the maiden edition of the AOICC 2021. However, it was an interesting kick-off to the event, nonetheless. With 140 registered participants from all around Africa, not all managed to show up for their first games.
All and any participants with network trouble were given an opportunity to reconnect and continue their games, as long as they still have time on their clocks. The event organizers showed leniency and patience with users who were still getting used to the platform. Pairings were confirmed a minute before the tournament commenced!
Just as a side note, if you are not a player do not log in to the Zoom call. That avenue is reserved for players and officials alone, it is not for spectating. You can follow the action by selecting the relevant sections and player games from the Tornelo platform.
As expected in the Open section, the big gunners duly disposed of their first round opponents. They showed why higher ratings are synonymous with higher chess strength. This was in spite of some ambitious opponents who put up some spirited resistance.
Top seeds and favorites GM Bassem Amin, GM Ahmed Adly, GM Bilel Bellahcene, IM Fy Rakotomaharo and IM Andrew Kayonde, all won their opening games as expected. Although the latter almost did not play his game, when network issues caused him to join in with about 5 minutues and 41 seconds left on his clock!
AK47, as he is notoriously known by fans, showed up and converted in spectacular fashion. His opponent’s stomach was unable to deal with the sacrificial gift Bishop he gobbled up on h7 and soon enough complications arose and he had to vomit out all advantage and continued his game as a single man as his queen got taken to the great beyond (off the board).
For those who imbibe at bars, a Gorilla Fart is an alcoholic drink made by taking the pour mat, which the bartender has been pouring drinks from all night, and pouring all those spills into a glass.
In Kenyan circles it means something quite different. Mehul Gohil, Kenya’s national champion, who is well known by his followers for his Facebook rants (known as Gorilla Farts) celebrated his ‘win’ (a BYE) against GM Mohamed Haddouche with a characteristic tongue-in-cheek ‘fart’.
Round 2 has some mouthwatering match-ups scheduled, with Botswana’s IM Providence Oatlhotse facing the tricky GM Ahmed Adly – definitely a must see.
The Women’s section had top seed, Egyptian WGM Shahenda Wafa, who is the favorite to win this section, grind out a win against WCM Chelsea Sitoe. The underrated duo of Lesotho nationals, Naleli McPherson and WCM Maboloko Leboela, who were very active during the pandemic lockdown with organizing online blitz events unsurprisingly won their games as underdogs. It will be interesting to see where they end up by the finals standings, but it’s not going to be an easy battle, if they wish to finish tops.
Kenyan WCM Lucy Wanjiru is paired against the brilliant WGM Shahenda Wafa in the second round. Round 2 will be explosive, I dare predict.
In the Seniors category, over 50 entrants were not so many and their section will be played out in a round robin format. I expect South Africa’s FM Charles De Villiers to easily take this one, although chess is never that predictable, we will have to wait, watch and see how it all pans out.
The U20 Open section is peppered with underrated youths, ready to prove their mettle against any and all opposition. In this section, I expect a lot of upsets and more fighting chess. Top seeds FM Lamine Brahami, CM Amaro Lutuima and South African junior talent Banele Mhango all got off to a good first round by collecting the full points from their opponents. Ali Elier of Libya (2037) was humbled by the underrated up and coming Egyptian talent David George Samir (1514) in a poorly executed Smith-Morra gambit.
Edward Potgieter (1229) of South Africa also did well in time trouble and won his game on time against Botswana’s Desire Machinya (1698), by offering him a rook he can never take with seconds on the clock, and in a time scrambled endgame.
The upcoming Round 2 match-ups are made even more interesting by the addition of CM Keith Khumalo, a South African young talent, who received recognition as one to watch, from none other than GM Hikaru Nakamura. This happened when the super grandmaster visited the country. Keith joins in the second round after missing the first round, but I expect him to leave a memorable performance.
It was a more peaceful affair with the U20 girls, where a lot of the games ended in draws. Botswana, Angola, Algeria and Egypt, along with others, all brought their formidable, titled, young, talented girls to the fight. A fight for supremacy against some very good opposition. Someone should help Malawian siblings Dakshesh Dutt and Lakshita Dutt to edit their names properly on the platform. Only their initials are showing.
It will be a tough battle on the top boards and there are no clear favorites in my opinion. There are some underrated junior girls in this list and I am looking forward to seeing them show up!
How can I follow this event?
The Africa Online Individual Chess Tournament is a 9 round swiss 25|10 online event and runs from February 01-06, 2021. It holds the closing ceremony on February 07, 2021. All rounds start at 16:00 EAT daily on the first day, and thereafter there will be 2 rounds at 16:00 EAT, and at 19:00 EAT respectively. *Unlike previous OTB editions the Africa Individuals 2021 online maiden edition is not a rated event and therefore no norms or titles can be earned from it. You can follow the games using the following link.