Togo, a French-speaking West African nation, could also be called the palm nation, judging by the amount of palm trees in its villages and beaches.
Togo shares borders Benin Republic, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The name Togo has its translation from the “Ewe Language”, which means “Behind the River”.
As we reported two (2) years ago, Togo Chess Federation was created in 2003 when three (3) clubs put heads together to popularize the game of chess in Lome, which led to the formation of the federation.
The Togo National Rapid & Blitz Chess Championships kicked off just over a week ago, with the arrival of the Togo Minister of Sports, Doctor Lieutenant-Colonel Lidi Bessi-Kama at the Hot Chicken Restaurant, Lome, a place for delicious grills, burgers, pizza, and other delicacies.
She welcomed everyone to the event and proclaimed her support for the Togo Chess Federation. The federation president went on to welcome the participants, and appreciated the sponsors.
Meanwhile, FIDE presidential candidate, Noel Enyonam Fumey thanked everyone for coming out for the championship, appreciated the journalists, as well as the chief arbiter, FA Solarays John.
At the close of the Opening ceremony, the Honourable Minister made the first move of the tournament where the classical male and female champions where seated. This marked the official kickoff of the championship.
The Rapid Championship:
Having the top three (3) finishers of the classical national championships participating (Ballebako, Nukunu, and Thierry), as well as the old guards of the Togo Chess Federation, it was always going to be a serious battle for the rapid and blitz crowns.
Following the first three rounds of intense battles, both Amewounou Komlan Kouessan and Amega-Dzaka Komi Nukunu remained on perfect scores 3/3 points, with Ballebako trailing by half a point.
Nukunu showed grit and understanding to out-maneuver Komlan in the 4th round. This made him the only player on perfect score heading into the fifth round.
In the penultimate round of the day, Nukunu faced off with the classical champion, who defeated him during the classical championship, to win the event on tiebreaks, having ended on same points (7.5/9 each).
Ballebako was half a point behind Nukunu, and he was hoping to leapfrog his opponent with a victory. However, with Ballebako haven been lucky with his previous victory, Nukunu ensured that the game was devoid of any form of luck, planning and executing on the chessboard, until Ballebako resigned.
With this win, it was certain that Nukunu was the player to beat in the tournament, and that was going to be an uphill task for the participants, owing to the preparedness of the young Togolese.
In the final round of the day, the 24-year old Nukunu had to face off against 19-year old Thierry, who happens to be another bright spark in the Togolese arsenal. It was a battle that lasted the time duration of the match, and although Thierry had chances, Nukunu stood tall at the end.
This ensured that Nukunu went into the second day and the final three rounds, a full point ahead of Komlan in second place.
On the second day, with three (3) rounds of rapid yet to be played, Neglo Yaovi Dodji told himself “I won’t lose in Rapid today, no matter what”, and what a day it was for him.
After the first day of action, it was as though Nukunu was a moving train, which nobody could stand before. However, Komlan kept pace with him and maintained the one (1) point difference between them.
In the penultimate round, Nukunu faced off against Yaovi, and the battle was fierce (with 3 points between them). Yaovi was determined not to lose, while Nukunu wanted to win with a perfect score. It was so intense, that both players missed possible moves leading to victory that they had to settle for a draw on the top board.
With the possibility of catching up, Komlan made unnecessary sacrifice on board two (2), and he was lucky to steal a draw in the game. National classical champion, Ballebako faced off against Thierry on board three (3), and a draw also ensued in a battle of the fittest.
While a draw was more than enough to secure the National Rapid Championship for Nukunu, he went ahead to claim the full point in the last round, ending the championship on 8.5/9 points. This happened while Komlan also secured second place still a point behind Nukunu on 7.5/9 points.
The National Classical Champion, Ballebako zoomed into third place, as Thierry fell in the final round to Yaovi, while Ballebako defeated Assagba Kodjo Mawuli in the final round. Haven been half a point behind, Ballebako leapfrogged Thierry in the final round of the tournament.
The Blitz Championship:
The blitz championship, which had a time control of five (5) minutes + three (3) seconds added from move 1, started a few minutes after the rapid championship ended.
After the first three (3) rounds, the trio of Amega-Dzaka Komi Nukunu, Botsoe Koffi, and Ajavon Ayayi Jean Le Claire claimed quick three (3) points, which put them a point ahead of the chasing pack.
The fourth round produced a remarkable win for Nukunu over Ajavon, who tried to hold his position, but it all came crashing down. Meanwhile, Koffi brilliantly dispatched off his opponent to set up a fifth round tussle with the rapid champion, Nukunu.
Koffi was feeling good, going into the match, and Koffi had the Rapid champion grappling for straws in the middlegame. At the end, when Nukunu resigned, Thierry was one of the most happy, seeing that he has a chance to move ahead finally (although Koffi was a point ahead).
The sixth round was going to be very important in determining how the championship will go. Unfortunately, Thierry had his wish (paired against Koffi), and he duly delivered, as he picked up the win against Koffi, and threw the championship open once again.
As this was happening, Nukunu dealt a huge blow on Komlan again, moving him to joint first, while Fide presidential candidate Fumey Enyonam Sewa (Noel) deprived Ajavon from joining the leaders in the round.
The seventh round presented an opportunity for the top players to consolidate their places at the top.
However, Ajavon dealt a blow to Thierry, as he blew the youngster out of the board, while chasing third place or a possible top place (should either of the top 2 slip). Noel also kept pace with the leaders with a victory over Komlan, which seemingly broke Komlan’s quest for the blitz championship.
Moving to the top board, in the penultimate round, Noel could not keep up with the firepower he has helped the young Nukunu to amass, which was more than enough to hold sway.
Nukunu kept his nerve to pick up the victory. Fortunately, Ajavon held Koffi to a draw. This draw put Nukunu ahead of Koffi with half a point, going into the final round.
Meanwhile, Thierry stood tall against Ballebako in their round 8 match and claimed an all important victory, which put him in contention for third place again, ahead of the others. All he needs to do in the final round is to avoid defeat or win outright.
The final round was a rush, as the leaders breezed past their competitors. With the final round victories, Nukunu received the championship crown for the blitz event yet again (with 8/9 points), while Botsoe Koffi, haven fallen off the trail, settled for second place (with 7.5/9 points), and Egbe Kossi Thierry climbed to third place owing to his final round victory (with 7/9 points).