Ever since the first chess world Cup in the year  2000, we have seen  African chess players showcasing their skills at this  geographical  inclusive chess fiesta .But how have Southern Africa chess players faired at this event over the years, and which players have ever flown the Southern Africa chess flag at this event? For a start, take note, the Southern Africa chess Zone was first known as Zone 4.3 before it rebranded to Zone 4.5 in July 2019.

After missing out in the maiden  Chess  World Cup of 2000, Southern Africa were present at the  2002 chess World Cup that was held in Hyderabad,  India .The Africa Individual Chess Championship was used as the qualifying vehicle for this World Cup. At the actual world cup, players were put into groups, and the top 2 players from each group qualified for the next stage. Southern Africa was represented by the ever glowing Watu Kobese of RSA, who qualified as joint first at the 2001 Africa Individual Chess Championship.

The pioneeer— IM Watu Kobese

The ever glowing Kobese left a mark by drawing a game against Grandmaster Sergei Rublevesky and winning one against Grandmaster Alexander Yermolisky of USA rated 2399. In this Yermolisky game, which went down in history as  the first ever Southern Africa win at a chess  world cup, playing the Black pieces Watu Kobese articulated himself so well in the Slav defense to force the grandmaster to resign at move 36. Though he didn’t proceed to the next stage, people commended him for a gallant fight.

The pearl —IM Watu Kobese vs GM Alexander Yermolinsky

In 2005, in the event that took place in Khanty Mansisky, Russia, Southern Africa was represented by  Watu Kobese and Zambian Stanley Chumfwa who also qualified after doing well at the 2005 Africa Individual Chess Championship in Lusaka , Zambia . Chumfwa was ousted after losing  2-0 to French Grandmaster Bacarot Etienne , while Kobese lost 2-0 to Grandmaster Gelfund Boris of Israel .

IM Stanley Chumfwa

In the first game Zambian Stanley Chumfwa’s Bishop opening collapsed at move 32.

Stanely Chumfwa vs GM Bacarot Etienne

In 2007 , which is considered  a landmark  year in Southern Africa chess as our own son, Zimbabwean IM Robert  Gwaze became Africa champ ,Southern  Africa was represented by the red hot IM Robert Gwaze and Angolan IM Pedro Aderito(MHSRIP) . Gwaze saw red when he was ousted by Grandmaster Alexei Shirov while Pedro was ousted by Grandmaster  Vasilly Ivanchuck – each one of them going down 2-0.

go to the above  site to watch  IM Robert Gwaze vs GM Alexei Shirov

However , in 2009 Southern Africa didn’t have a representation at the World Cup.

In 2011 the Zone was represented by South Africa’s IM Henry Steel and IM Robert Gwaze .Gwaze lost to Ruslan Panomariov by 1.5 to .5 while Steel was shown the exit door by  grandmaster Vasily Ivanchuck.

In 2013, to ensure that each zone is represented at the chess fiesta, the World Cup qualifying format slightly changed –each zone was to send a representative. Zambian Gillian Bwalya won the slot for Zone 4.3 after winning the Zone 4.3 in South Africa. However, he was ousted by GM Vladmir Kramnik at the World Cup.

In 2013, sitting on the other end  of the board, Bwalya shocked the chess world when he met  Kramnik’s d4 with the Dutch defense. Some thought the Dutch wasn’t the best of defense shields to throw against a player of Kramnik’s caliber, while some thought it was simply ‘courage’.

In 2015 Southern Africa was represented by IM Richmond Phiri,  who won the zonal event that was held in Blantyre, Malawi. However, IM Richmond Phiri was butchered 2-0 by Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura at the World Cup.

In 2017, it was grandmaster Solomon Kenny who flew the Southern Africa flag after winning the Zone 4.3 Chess championship in Livingstone Zambia. In the zonal event, Kenny, who flew all the way from Italy chased his opponents right from the word go to convincingly win the event. But at the world chess fiesta, Kenny was ousted by Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana after being beaten 2-0.

GM Solomon Kenny –photo credits chess drum

In 2019, it was Madagascan Rakotomahoro who flew the Southern Africa flag after winning the Zone 4.5 Chess Championship in Madagascar. At the World Cup Rokotomahoro was ousted by grandmaster Shakryr Mamedyerov. An excerpt from Khisho’s article on Africa chess media reveals how tense and exciting the event was.

Unfortunate was debutant  ‘The Malagasy radar’ IM Rakotomaharo Antenaina(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 50 -50 until the Shark managed to plant his Rook in the Malagasy radars 8th rank. Indeed, It turned out that, by playing this, he cut the jugular vein that led to Rokomtomaharo’s position to gradually breed to death. As it stands, tomorrow the radar has to win at all cost with Black pieces just to come back into contention. 

IM Rakotomaharo

But this year , due to the Covid 19 pandemic , Fide has approved hybrid format tournmaments for qualification for the World Cup 2021 that will take place in Soche Russia.

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