When the action of the first day was disturbed by technical glitches, haters of chess mocked: “Ahaa! Let’s see if really nobody can stop chess” . But the glitches were quickly rectified, action was resumed and, after 9 torrid rounds played over the weekend of 16th to 18th October 2020, the Angolan team emerged Champion of the Zone 4.5 Online Team Chess Championship in a style that can hardly be replicated.

Angola de Champs

As the Angolan flag flapped the highest at the end of the event, a breeze of peace hovered through Southern Africa . It was a good consolation gift for the Angolan team which was still mourning the passing on of their top player International Master Pedro Aderito who succumbed to natural causes a few weeks ago.

However, the event which turned out to be a spectacle, had a rough start on the first day due to technical glitches. It appears, being their first online engagement, the organisers had a gross oversight by choosing ‘Microsoft’ over the well conversant ‘Zoom’ as the tournament’s monitoring platform . But when the glitches were rectified, like a springboard, it was fire on the board all the way to the last day-save for a few anomalies.

As the Angolans showed off their imaginary gold medals on social media, one could see the fatigue and tension on their faces. They did not get their gold on a Silver platter. South Africa led by their board 1 player IM Watu Kobese ran neck and neck with them to the last minute. The 2 heavyweight teams tied at 16 points at the summit of the event to be separated by the individual board scores.

How they stood

In the 6th round thriller between the tournament Super powers ( Angola and South Africa), which was meant to be the most significant judge of the top spot , the Angolan scored through IM David Silva on board 2 , WIM Caxita Esperance board 4 ,WFM Junior Ednasia board 6 , while WCM Paula Jemima drew on board 9. But that was not enough to subdue the South Africans who scored through IM Watu Kobese on board 1 , Jaccob Mnguni on board 3, Ndunankazi Nobhule board 6, CM Keith Khumalo board 7,Devon Smit board 8, Davida Strong board 10 , and WCM Marais Nina drew on board 9 to convincingly win the match 6.5 to 3.5

But as everybody was thinking that the South Africans were winning the event , they stumbled into Botswana in round 7 who mercilessly beat them 6 -4, to be at par with the Angolans once more.

Even at individual board level the Angolans did pretty fine as 4 of their player clinched gold on their respective boards: IM David Silva Clinched gold on board 2, WCM Jemima Paulo won the board 9 award , WIM Caxita Esperanca won the board 5 award , and WFM Junior Ednasia won the board 6 award.

Exremely lethal!!….WIM Caxita Esperanca won board 5 gold

South Africa who also accumulated 16 points were second with 2 of their players winning gold on their respective boards. International Master Watu Kobese was exemplary to the younger players by clinching gold on the tough board one and little girl Davida Strong won an impressive gold on board 10 after winning all her 8 games. The 2 teams were separated by the individual board scores. South Africa accumulated 63 points, while the Angolans were only half a point safe , they had 63.5 points!

Davida strong …had a perfect score on board 8

Third placed Botswana achieved 13 points and had their dread locked player CM Elias Thabo win gold on board 7. He had such an impressive run, he even beat the formidable CM Keith Khumalo of South Africa who is said to be in top form.

Zambia which did not perform according to expectations ended up on 4th position, also with 13 points . But their board score of 51.5 points couldn’t match Botswana’s overwhelming board score of 56.5 points. But despite the decimal performance (for a team of their caliber) , the Zambian team made themselves present in the gold medal awards through their board 8 player Mwape Mwewa and board 5 player WCM Constance Mbatha.

The warriors of Zimbabwe who were, before the tournament , touted to be injected with the spirit of the Chimurenga wars achieved 13 points on position 5 , and had WCM Kudzanai Charinda achieve gold on board 6, Cyril Chigodo on board 3, and little girl Refiloe Chidodo on board 9
Fast improving Lesotho ended on position 6 with 9 points . Though they didn’t produce any gold medalists , their players like CM Klaas Tokelo put up a remarkable performance , achieving an aggregate board score of 38 as a team. Indeed promising us that great things will soon come from the Sotho Kingdom

Namibia who had problems in assembling their team ended on 7th position with 9 points , thanks to the inspiration of CM Charles Eichab who had an impressive score of 6 out of 8 on board 3.

Malawi took the penultimate position after scoring 8 points. Their board one player , CM Petro Razorblade Mfune(2025 Elo) produced the upset of the tournament when he beat South African International Master Watu Kobese (2340 Elo) in the last round. Also another Special mention for Malawi , they featured the youngest female player of the tournament in Rachael Jailosi (9 years old)

An artist’s impression of the game between IM Watu Kobese and CM Razorblade Petros Mfune of Malawi

Eswatini was the last with 2 points .But according to one of their top players Persivaal Skhanyiso , internet was not in top notch that side.

The event’s dream team…best for each board

The event was an initiative of the World Chess governing body in order to combat Covid induced passivity in the chess zones. The top 4 winners got $270,$270, $125,$125 respectively , using the Hort prize distribution system that is used when teams tie on points.

The total number of participants was 121 including 4 International Masters, 4 Women International Masters, 5 Fide Masters, 6 Women Fide Masters and 13 Candidate Masters.

IM Watu Kobese ….proved his tank is still full

Rated 2340 Elo , South Africa’s International Master Watu Kobese was the highest rated player of the tournament, while Zambia’s WIM Lorita Mwango rated 1874 Elo was the highest rated lady.

The Zone 4.5 chess domain comprises of the following Southern African Countries: Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana. Only Mozambique was absent in this event.

Joe Mahomole of South Africa is the President of Zone 4.5. He is supported by the following committee structures: Arbiters Committee led by Simbirashe Mururimi of Zimbabwe, Chess in Education chaired by Eric Takawara of RSA, Development committee chaired by Fremantle Kuhanga of Namibia, Events and Publicity Committee chaired by Makhosi Nyirenda of Malawi, Players’ commission led by Mona Phetelo from Lesotho, Social and Disabled committee chaired by Japhtha Brian from Namibia, Technical and Online committee chaired by Chanda Nsakanya of Zambia, Trainers committee led by Nitzborn Max from South Africa, Women in chess led by WGM Boikhutso Mudongo from Botswana.

The tournaments director Charles Masaiti commended the teams for putting up a gallant fight and apologized for the technical glitches on behalf of the technical team

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