As you are leaving Lilongwe new city center, going towards the new presidential abode ,as you look to your right , suddenly ‘boom’ your eyes are bombarded with this super imposing Golden Peacock Hotel, which we recommend to be one of the best ‘home away from homes’ in Lilongwe. However, the place is so beautiful and innocent for such an ugly cruel brainy chess war that is taking place there from yesterday 18th May to 28th May , 2021.
The 2021 African Individual Chess Championship, which is being played in ladies and open sections , has attracted 128 players from 20 African countries .Of the 128 , 5 carry the sacred tag of ‘grandmaster ‘,while 2 are woman grandmasters. The breakdown continues- 8 are International masters and 4 are woman international masters-just to talk about the highest coveted titles.
It was actually the Malawi Sports Minister himself, youthful Honorable Ulemu Msungama who opened the whole show on Monday night with an exhibition game with a player from Algeria , a player that was chosen to represent grandmaster Bilel Bellancene from the same country. Well, it was erroneously reported that grandmaster Bellahcene was the only grandmaster within the vicinity at that time, so when the Minister kept waiting for him in front of the demonstration board , the organisers opted to pick any Algerian to represent the youthful grandmaster who was not yet in the country at that time. But it was still fun as the Minister played in front of a sizeable crowd that included, Africa Chess Confederation President ,Lewis Ncube, Honorable Kezzie Msukwa who is also Africa Chess Confederation General Secretary and Chessam President Susan Namangale with Malawian jazz playing in the background .
On the first day the advertised kickstart time proved quite tricky for the organizing team as most of the players ,including the highest rated player Egyptian grandmaster Amin Bassem (2701), were going to arrive on the same day. So the organizing team had no choice but to shift the starting time of the games from 15 hours to 17 hours, so that players have ample time to rest.
The games were supposed to be viewable on cloud, but due to technical glitches chess lovers across the globe were unable to follow the mouthwatering first round games live.
However , in the first round , none of the heavy weights blinked , except for 2 upset in the ladies section when Malawi’s ladies Champion Priyasha Santoshi rated only 1285 defeated Kenya’s WCM Ndiragu Joyce Nyaurai rated 1659, and another Malawian young girl Charity Tadeyo rated 1084 drew with another Kenyan WCM Lucy Wanjiru rated 1623.
But for all the other games , the heavyweights lived up to their expectations. On board one in the Open Section, after GM Amin Bassem playing e4 , Malawi’s Champion CM Alfred Chimthere took a long think before replying with c5 , but the grandmaster quickly posed him with some serious strategic questions coupled with tactics here and there to cause him to resign just at move 27.
On board 2 , it was also a war of strategy between GM Ahmed Adly and CM Chiletso Chipanga in the Catalan Opening .But when the grandmaster systematically managed to place his heavy pieces in the strategic C file , it caused Chipanga to die slowly.
Strategy was also the order of the day in GM Bilel Bellacene versus Malawian CM Joseph Nyambalo who landed in an unusually Kings Indian position, that required deep understanding of crampled positions . But the grandmaster used the python method to suffocate CM Nyambalo.
But perhaps the most brilliant piece was the one between IM Gillian Bwalya of Zambia versus CM Pearson Abrantess of Mozambique. Bwalya sacrificed his Queen to push Abrantess into nasty puzzles that killed him in the long run. People were amazed at the depth of the Queen Sacrifice that gives us hope that chess in this part of Africa is still alive and well.
The top hot fixtures for round 2 which kickstarts at 15 hours today are tough fighter Zambian FM Prince Daniel Mulenga (2246) in white against GM Amin Bassem (2701) on board 1, GM Adly Ahmed(2646) vs FM Adulrahim Akitoye (2264) from Nigeria on board 2, FM Talbi Chafik (2244 )will trade pieces with GM Bellahcene Bilel (2508)
In the ladies section, Egyptian Wafa Shahenda (2145) will take on the teenage menace from Botswana Naredi Merape (1717)
you can follow the games on www.chessresults.com