2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (ROUND 3)
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
3-1
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
2 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
0-2
Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
Bracket 2
3 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2-0
Xu Xiangyu
CHN
4 Wang Hao
CHN
3½-4½
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
5 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
5-3
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
6 Wei Yi
CHN
1½-2½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
7 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
½-1½
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
8 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
½-1½
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
4½-3½
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
10 Peter Svidler
RUS
2½-1½
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
Bracket 6
11 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
2½-3½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
12 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
13 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
1½-½
Eltaj Safarli
AZE
14 Daniil Yuffa
RUS
½-1½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
15 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
½-1½
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
16 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3½-2½
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Xiong upsets Giri…five Russians advance…
Wesley So cruises

Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Jeffery Xiong provoked sharp battles to upset Anish Giri
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Down to the “Sweet Sixteen” at the 2019 FIDE World Cup. There were a couple of surprises in today’s action as Jeffrey Xiong took down Anish Giri. The match went six games and ended when Xiong delivered a blistering attack.

Outstanding!

Xiong was surprised at the result and mentioned in the post-match interview that his strategy was to make the games complicated. His 22…Rxh3!? in second rapid tiebreak showed tremendous courage. All of the games in the tiebreak were tense and the young American phenom showed that he has the ability to keep his calm during tense moments. He plays Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland in the next round.

The other surprise of the round was Pentala Harikrishna bowing out to Kirill Alekseenko, a promising 22-year old Russian. He would lose both games to the disappointment to the massive Indian fan base. Vidit Gujrathi was also eliminated. There was ample coverage of the Indian players by ChessBase India and we can expect their players to go deeper in future tournaments.

Vidit Gujrathi. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Vidit Gujrathi was ousted by Wesley So, but a bright future awaits.
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Not much is know about the Russian star who earned his GM title in 2015. He has won the Chigorin Memorial three times and competed in the 2018 European Individuals scoring 7/11 and beating Vassily Ivanchuk in the process. Alekseenko has had an auspicious World Cup debut advancing to the 4th round. He will play top-seed Ding Liren who outclassed Alireza Firouzja winning both tiebreak rapid games.

Alireza Firouzja showed flashes against Dubov
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Ding has been able to get through quite comfortably although he claims that he is not in top form yet. This match was highly anticipated since Firouzja is one of the world’s most active streamers at Twitch. He also played a brilliancy against Daniil Dubov (37.exd6!!). However, facing a 2800 is a totally different beast.

In the first rapid game, Ding won a game that appeared to be completely drawn. He stated he had more time on the clock so he continued to play on. The second game was a complete demolition as Firouzja took chances with the white pieces, but was thoroughly crushed. So the Iranian will exit having made an impression. This trend shows that the balance of power has shifted and China, India and Iran are producing prodigious talents.

Five Russians made it to the next round, but not the ones most anticipated. Sergey Karjakin, Vladislav Artemiev and Dmitri Andreikin are headed home. On the other hand, Alexander Grishuk and Peter Svidler will lead the Russian contingent. Svidler beat Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu in the battle of personalities (earring vs. pony tail).

Grischuk’s nice tactical flourish in the first game (37…Bxe5!) won him plaudits from chess fans around the world…

Not to be outdone, he finished off the overachieving Xu Xiangyu with an impressive positional squeeze.

While Russia has five players remaining, the U.S. has Xiong, So and Leinier Dominguez. A Cuban national, Dominguez switched his federation last year and has a chance to advance further. His last match with Wang Hao was thrilling as the tiebreaks featured two successful “win on demand” situations. He won the first of the 5’+3″ and held the draw in the second to win the match.

Maxime Vachier Lagrave went eight games before beating Dmitry Jakovenko and Le Quang Liem advanced over Vladislav Artemiev.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (ROUND 2)
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
2½-1½
Sergei Movsesian
ARM
2 Daniil Dubov
RUS
½-1½
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
3 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
1½-½
Vladimir Fedoseev
RUS
4 Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
2½-1½
Johan-Sebastian Christiansen
DEN
Bracket 2
5 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2½-1½
Benjamin Bok
NED
6 Ernesto Inarkiev
RUS
½-1½
Xu Xiangyu
CHN
7 Wang Hao
CHN
1½-½
Maxim Rodshtein
ISR
8 Nijat Abasov
AZE
1-3
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
9 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
1½-½
Alexandr Predke
RUS
10 Aravindh Chithambaram
IND
½-1½
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
11 Wei Yi
CHN
2½-1½
David Antón Guijarro
ESP
12 Baskaran Adhiban
IND
1½-2½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
13 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
2-0
Samuel Sevian
USA
14 Niclas Huschenbeth
GER
1-3
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
15 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
1½-½
Aleksandr Rakhmanov
RUS
16 Anton Demchenko
RUS
½-1½
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
17 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
2-0
Igor Kovalenko
LAT
18 Gawain Jones
ENG
1-3
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
19 Peter Svidler
RUS
3-1
Andrey Esipenko
RUS
20 Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
1½-½
Hikaru Nakamura
USA
Bracket 6
21 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
1½-½
Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
22 Anton Korobov
UKR
½-1½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
23 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
2½-1½
Boris Gelfand
ISR
24 Parham Maghsoodloo
ENG
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
25 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
1½-½
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
UZB
26 Nihal Sarin
IND
1½-2½
Eltaj Safarli
AZE
27 Daniil Yuffa
RUS
5-3
Luke McShane
ENG
28 Sanan Sjugirov
RUS
1½-2½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
29 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
1½-½
Rinat Jumabayev
KAZ
30 Tamir Nabaty
ISR
0-2
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
31 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3-1
Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
32 Evgeniy Najer
RUS
4-5
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Round #2 Recap
September 13-15, 2019

Firouzja on fire! Twelve Russians advance to last 32

Alireza Firouzja has become a sensation over the past couple of years since making an impression at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. At that time he was the 13-year old national champion of Iran and was playing fourth board behind Parham Maghsoodloo. He has since become the top Iranian player and has vaulted over 2700. In this tournament, he created a buzz with his win over Russia’s Daniil Dubov.

His 37.exd6!! got a shower of gold coins and showed that this 16-year old is a huge talent. He advanced and will get a stiff test against the top seed Ding Liren.

Another young prodigy in 15-year old GM Nihal Sarin received a lot of attention in this round after conducting a clinic on attacking the king. His win over Eltaj Safarli got high praise from Magnus Carlsen

In severe time pressure, Nihal Sarin errs with 32…Rg6?? after which Eltaj Safarli snapped off the bishop with 33.Bxf2.

The mating attack at the expense of Safarli drew comparisons to Anatoly Karpov, but perhaps the attention became too great for the 15-year old. In the next game, Safarli trotted out the Evans Gambit looking for a fight. It was the first time in his life and will probably be the last. Sagar Shah of ChessBase India did a deep analysis of this game and discussed the amount of time that Nihal was spending on each move… some of them simple recaptures. By move 16, Nihal had 24 moves to make in 10 minutes! Then disaster struck…

Some figured that he was thinking he rook was already on f8. In fact, any reasonable move with his a8-rook would be enough for a draw. It is heartbreaking to see so much energy put into a game and have it lost on a simple mistakes, but that’s chess. It can be a cruel game sometimes. Unfortunately for Sarin he also lost the tiebreaks. Let’s hope that he learns from the experience and that he moves on from this loss quickly.

Wei Yi is a player who has quietly entered the third round. Many have been wondering if the Chinese prodigy has stopped improving, but he shows that he is still a dangerous opponent. He will face his compatriot Yu Yangyi next. Perhaps the most exciting match was Daniel Yuffa versus Luke McShane, the world’s strongest amateur player.

Mikhail BotvinnikMikhail Tal
24th World Championship, 28 April 1961
Black wins 83…Bf4+

In the first game, there was an intriguing ending that arose with K+B+B vs. K+N. Yuffa was trying to pry the knight away from McShane, but was unable to convert the TableBase win. McShane went for the toughest defense which is to keep the knight on b2, b7, g2 or g7. McShane shuffled his knight from g7 to e8 for several moves then ran down to the b2 square with his knight and set up the same structure. A draw was granted.

Forced mate with best play from both sides is 66-78 moves depending on the configuration. However there are cases like in Dreev-Cabrera (2005) where the Russian won the bishop due to a blunder. Mikhail Tal also beat Mikhail Botvinnik (WCh 1961, Game 17) in only seven moves after achieving the K+B+B vs. K+N. Jan Timman was also successful against Jonathan Speelman (Linares 1992).

Yuffa went on to win 5-3 and is one of a dozen Russians to make it to the round of 32. The usual suspects are still in the hunt with Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, Nikita Vitiugov, Dmitry Jakovenko, Dmitry Andreikin, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Vladislav Artemiev advancing. Besides Yuffa, Maxim Matlakov and Kiriil Alekseenko finish the contingent. Starting with 28/128 (21%) they improved with 12/32 (37%).

One of the vanquished Russian was former European Champion Evgeny Najer who lost a wild match to Anish Giri. Daniel King gave a synopsis of the key tiebreak games.

As far as the Americans, Hikaru Nakamura was surprisingly eliminated from the tournament. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu discussed the first game featuring a queen sacrifice. It was suspected that Nakamura had gotten the move order wrong and was punished for it. Nisipeanu was very gracious in his comments during an interview. With Sam Shankland and Nakamura gone, Wesley So, Jeffery Xiong and Leinier Dominguez advance to the round of 32. Who is now the youngest of the event?

Very good! This pun went viral for good reason. While Jeffery will always be the Xiongest, Iran’s Alireza Firouzja is now the youngest at 16.

All Games (Round 2)

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
2-0
Shaun Press
PNG
2 Grigoriy Oparin
RUS
½-1½
Sergei Movsesian
ARM
3 Daniil Dubov
RUS
1½-½
Alexandr Fier
BRA
4 Arman Pashikian
ARM
½-1½
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
5 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
2-0
Yuri Gonzalez Vidal
CUB
6 Ganguly Surya Shekhar
IND
2-4
Vladimir Fedoseev
RUS
7 Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
1½-½
Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son
VIE
8 Johan-Sebastian Christiansen
DEN
2-0
Radoslaw Wojtaszek
POL
Bracket 2
9 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
1½-½
Paulius Pultinevicius
LTU
10 Benjamin Bok
NED
2½-1½
Ivan Šaric
SRB
11 Ernesto Inarkiev
RUS
1½-½
Karthikeyan Murali
IND
12 Xu Xiangyu
CHN
3½-2½
Bu Xiangzhi
CHN
13 Wang Hao
CHN
3½-2½
Aleksei Pridorozhni
RUS
14 Mateusz Bartel
POL
½-1½
Maxim Rodshtein
ISR
15 Kacper Piorun
POL
3½-4½
Nijat Abasov
AZE
16 Alder Escobar
COL
1½-½
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
17 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
2-0
Sugar Gan-Erdene
MGL
19 Alexandr Predke
RUS
2½-1½
Alexey Sarana
RUS
20 Michael Adams
POL
3½-4½
Aravindh Chithambaram
IND
18 Nikita Petrov
RUS
1½-2½
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
21 Wei Yi
CHN
1½-½
Miguel Santos Ruiz
ESP
22 S.L. Narayanan
IND
1½-2½
David Antón Guijarro
ESP
23 Baskaran Adhiban
IND
1½-½
Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli
VEN
24 Ehsan Ghaem-Maghami
IRI
2½-3½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
25 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
1½-½
Susanto Megaranto
IND
26 Aryan Tari
NOR
½-1½
Samuel Sevian
USA
27 Arkadij Naiditsch
AZE
0-2
Niclas Huschenbeth
GER
28 Frode Urkedal
NOR
½-1½
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
29 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
1½-½
Alan Pichot
ARG
30 Aleksandr Rakhmanov
RUS
1½-½
Nils Grandelius
SWE
31 Anton Demchenko
RUS
1½-½
Robert Hovhannisyan
ARM
32 Sergio Duran Vega
CRC
0-2
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
33 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
2-0
Daniel Anwuli
NGR
34 Constantin Lupulescu
ROM
1½-2½
Igor Kovalenko
LAT
35 Gawain Jones
ENG
1½-½
Diego Flores
ARG
36 Jose Eduardo Martinez
PER
0-2
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
37 Peter Svidler
RUS
1½-½
Carlos Daniel Albornoz
CUB
38 Andrey Esipenko
RUS
1½-½
Ruslan Ponomariov
UKR
39 Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
2½-1½
Mircea Parligras
ROM
40 Bilel Bellahcene
ALG
0-2
Hikaru Nakamura
USA
Bracket 6
41 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
1½-½
Ilia Iljiushenok
RUS
42 Ahmed Adly
EGY
½-1½
Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
43 Anton Korobov
UKR
3-1
Abhijeet Gupta
IND
44 Aleksej Aleksandrov
RUS
1½-2½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
45 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
1½-½
Nodirbek Abdusattorov
UZB
46 Lu Shanglei
CHN
2-4
Boris Gelfand
ISR
47 Parham Maghsoodloo
IRI
2-0
Maksim Chigaev
RUS
48 Essam El Gindy
EGY
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
49 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
2-0
Fy Rakotomaharo
MAD
50 Evgeny Bareev
CAN
½-1½
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
UZB
51 Jorge Cori
PER
0-2
Nihal Sarin
IND
52 Eltaj Safarli
AZE
3½-2½
Sam Shankland
USA
53 David Navara
CZE
1½-½
Daniil Yuffa
RUS
54 Neuris Delgado Ramirez
PAR
1½-2½
Luke McShane
ENG
55 Sanan Sjugirov
RUS
2½-1½
Sandro Mareco
ARG
56 Helgi Dam Ziska
GER
½-1½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
57 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
2½-1½
Krikor Mekhitarian
BRA
58 Rinat Jumabayev
KAZ
1½-½
Ferenc Berkes
HUN
59 Tamir Nabaty
ISR
1½-½
S.P. Sethuraman
IND
60 Cristobal Henriquez Villagra
CHI
½-1½
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
61 Jeffery Xiong
USA
½-1½
Igor Lysyj
RUS
62 Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
1½-½
Bassem Amin
EGY
63 Benjamin Gledura
HUN
1½-½
Evgeniy Najer
RUS
64 Mohammad Fahad Rahman
BAN
1½-½
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Round #1 Recap
September 10-12, 2019

Wojtaszek upset… Nihal shines

Commentators marvel at World Cup because the diversity of players and the various formats in each match. Indeed there are the unknown players who qualified from their zonal tournaments getting a chance to share the stage with the world’s elite. Then there are those rising stars looking to supplant the veterans. Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan was the youngest in the field at 14. That led to a quip by Lawrence Trent

Radoslaw Wojtaszek was the first big name to have an early exit after losing to Norway’s Johan-Sebastian Christiansen 2-0. Christiansen was overcome with joy after the result.

Bu Xiangzhi was another victim losing in tiebreaks to 20-year old countryman Yu Xiangzhi. Bu has enjoyed a wonderful career and he will soon make way for the cadre of rising Chinese yet to arrive on the professional circuit. There was another exchange between Trent and Jan Gustafsson on the dangers of playing in the Chinese League among unrated players. “Not good for your Elo rating,” was the moral of the story.

Perhaps the sensation of the round was the Nihal Sarin who won convincingly over Jorge Cori of Peru. His first game achieved plaudits from legendary players and the comparisons to Anatoly Karpov were commonplace.

There has been a lot made of the Indian talents Sarin (15), Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (14) and Dommaraju Gukesh (13). There has been quite a bit of attention given to the recent push to develop Indian talent. Most recently a group of young Indian prodigies attended a camp conducted by Vladimir Kramnik and hosted by ChessBase. Sagar Shah of ChessBase India was on the scene. With Viswanathan Anand also lending his leadership, India will be looking to improve its #4 position in the world.

There were 28 Russians starting this event and they had their own young talents including 17-year old Andrey Esipenko winning over former FIDE champion Ruslan Ponomariov. There was a controversy involving doping tests. Ponomariov was upset because the test took a couple of hours and did not allow him time to prepare for his next game which he lost badly. Dr. Marape Marape, Chairman of FIDE Medical Commission spoke on the matter to clarify.

Levon Aronian escaped against Essam El-Gindy
Photo by khantymansiysk2019.fide.com

Not too many upsets in the first round, but Levon Aronian nearly dropped his first game against Essam El-Gindy of Egypt before holding on to draw. He would win the next game and move on. As far as smaller federations, those from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not fare well. The balance of power has shifted eastward, but the transition has been gradual.

Of course the Asian powerhouses China (#3) and India (#4) will go deep in the tournament, but chess is still in transformation and perhaps one day there will be a singular talent to come from an obscure country. Before Magnus Carlsen rise, Norway was not exactly a world power in chess and is still not a world power. However, it shows that one can rise if given the right opportunities and the World Cup is one such event.

All Games (Round 1)

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

This has been a banner year for African chess. The Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz hosted in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire was a smashing success. The 2019 African Championship in Tunisia was the strongest ever and the recently-held 2019 Africa Games was all the rave. These three events have been a culmination in a year of promise and hope on the continent.

African players will trek to the Siberian region of Russia with a rejuvenated spirit in hopes to make an impression. A refreshing confidence has been seen in recent years. Who can forget the confidence of Zambia’s Andrew Kayonde when facing world-class opponent Vassily Ivanchuk at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. In a gripped battle, Ivanchuk was still trying to win a game from an equal position. Not to be denied, Kayonde said, “I know he is Vassily Ivanchuk, but I’m also the Zambian Champion!

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco
Photo by Jeux Africains Rabat 2019

In what has come to be one of the main staging grounds for chess, Khanty-Mansiysk will host the 2019 World Cup and six African players will be on hand. Traditionally, African players had been overmatched and went looking for experience. In recent years, the continent has not only sent stronger players, but have produced some tough matches on the higher boards.

Years ago, there were some chatter about Africans not being deserving of six slots in the World Cup given the level of the players. Such comments are becoming less favored. In the past, Africa would sent a mixture of IMs and FMs. This year four Grandmasters and two International Masters from the African continent will join the field.

Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

Grandmasters Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt)
Photo by James Mwangi

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
Photo by Amruta Mokal

This year, six African players will be competing of which three are Egyptian. In 2015 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, GM Bassem Amin was first African player to advance to the second round. He qualified by virtue of his second place finish in the African Championships. His compatriot GM Ahmed Adly won the event, but had already qualified after winning the 4.2 Zonal. GM Essam El-Gindy, the tournament’s eldest player, will take that spot instead. GM Bilel Bellahcene of Algeria won the 4.1 Zonal while IM Fy Rakotomaharo of Madagascar won 4.3 Zonal. Lastly, IM Daniel Anwuli of Nigeria won the 4.4 Zonal.

IM Daniel Anwuli and IM Fy Rakotomaharo will also travel for the World Cup. Will they be future challengers for the African crown? Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

Young talents IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) and IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) will be in Khanty-Mansiysk looking for upsets. Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

While African players are generally outrated in the World Cup, Amin will be the favorite his first match. The others will face players had all been in the top 10-30 at one time or another. Here are the pairings.

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
Round #1 Pairings for Africa
1 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
IM Daniel Anwuli
NGR
2 GM Bilel Bellahcene
ALG
GM Hikaru Nakamura
USA
3 GM Ahmed Adly
EGY
GM Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
4 GM Levon Aronian
ARM
GM Essam El-Gindy
EGY
5 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
IM Fy Rakotomaharo
MAD
6 GM Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
GM Bassem Amin
EGY
Official Pairings

This is a tremendous opportunity for African players to break through. They are not going as “tourists” merely to say they have participated. They are going for glory and to defend their national honor.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)

Ugra Chess Academy (Loparev Street, 6) in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

On tomorrow, September 9th, the 2019 FIDE World Cup will open in Khanty-Mansiysk making it the city’s fifth time hosting the event. 128 players from 47 countries will make the journey to the Siberian region for a chance a glory and a chance to raise their flag. The event which will close on October 4th. The two finalists will qualify for the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020, a qualifier for the World Championship against Magnus Carlsen. Ding Liren will be the top seed and many other top 20 players will be present.

China’s Ding Liren is the top seed
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The opening ceremony will be held in the Arts Center for Gifted Children of the North on September 9th at 7:00 pm local time. Draw for the colors will take place during the ceremony. Russia is represented by 28 players, followed by India – 10, China – 7, and USA – 6. The diverse field features youngsters and long-time veterans. The 14-year-old GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan) is the youngest player while GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt) the oldest at 53. Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun will not be competing in order to prepare for the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix.

Carlsen will not participate this year after participating in Tblisi, Georgia in 2017. He was eliminated by Bu Xiangzhi in round three. Fabiano Caruana will also not be taking part as he has a guaranteed spot in the Candidates tournament.

Anish Giri (2780, Netherlands), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2776, Russia), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2774, France), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2767, Azerbaijan), Wesley So (2767, USA), Yu Yangyi (2763, China), Lenier Dominguez Perez (2763, USA), Sergey Karjakin (2760, Russia) are some familiar names. Karjakin won the Cup in 2015. Other winners participating include Levon Aronian (Armenia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), and Peter Svidler (Russia).

The total prize fund is $1.6 million, with $110,000 for the winner and $6,000 for first round losers.

Levon Aronian of Armenia, 2017 World Cup winner
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.org)

PRIZE DISTRIBUTION
(US$)Total
Round 1: 64 × 6,000=384,000
Round 2: 32 × 10,000=320,000
Round 3: 16 × 16,000=256,000
Round 4: 8 × 25,000=200,000
Round 5: 4 × 35,000=140,000
4th place: 50,000
3rd place: 60,000
2nd place: 80,000
1st place: 110,000
Total (US$): 1,600,000

MATCH DETAILS

Each of the matches will comprise of two game matches, plus tiebreaks, if necessary. The last standing after the previous rounds will enter a seventh round of four games, plus tiebreaks if necessary. Players receive 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds per move starting from move one. If the score is tied the players then play two 25-minute + 10-second increment rapid games, then two 10+10 games, then two 5+3 and, finally, Armageddon, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 but a draw qualifies Black for the next round.

SCHEDULE
Round 1: September 10th – September 12th
Round 2: September 13th – September 15th
Round 3: September 16th – September 18th
Rest day: September 19th
Round 4: September 20th – September 22nd
Round 5: September 23rd – September 25th
Round 6: September 26th – September 28th
Rest day: September 29th
Final and play-off for third place: September 30th – October 4th

All rounds start at 3 pm local time

Chief Arbiter – IA Ashot Vardapetian (Armenia)

CLICK to enlarge

The 2019 World Cup is organized by the Government of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra, World Chess Federation (FIDE), Ugra Chess Federation, and Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019

Zahir Muhammad at the 2018 Denker Tournament of Champions against FM Maggie Feng. Photo courtesy of Zahir Muhammad

Zahir Muhammad, 17, has a vision. It is a vision that is often stated by many in the Black community. Muhammad is a slender 6’3″ and has the frame of a point guard, and while he does indeed play basketball as well as track, chess has become his focus. Zahir was taught chess at the age of three by his father, Rory Muhammad who instilled the virtues of the game. Currently a Class-A player and two-time Denker qualifier, Muhammad has recently launched an organization designed to bring chess to the underserved community. Full Circle Chess seeks to change the perception of chess as a more inclusive activity.

Interestingly, his mission has in part been motivated by racist incidents.

“In middle school, I was on an all-black chess team and everywhere we went, people were looking at us differently and they were looking like – what are they doing here? Why are they here?” Muhammad described. “We even had to go against people making monkey noises and things like that because we were defeating stereotypes. The way that we responded was playing well on the chess board and winning championships.”

Zahir was involved with the Bravo Zulu Chess Club, a district-based non-profit training academy for chess development. The club comprises of a number of players from different school and they compete in area tournaments. One event in which they have shined is the “Bum Rush the Boards” Hip-Hop Chess Tournament organized by Words, Beats & Life (WBL).


“I tell all my kids, ‘Use your brain, it will last longer.’”
~Rory Muhammad, Zahir’s father


DC is well-known for its iconic Dupont Circle, a famous watering hole for chess. Many organizations such as WBL and the DC Chess Center attempt to serve the greater DC area, but Zahir has a goal to widen the outreach with his new initiative.

Full Circle Chess

Full Circle Chess will provide a service where others like James “Black Knight” Taylor and Eugene Brown’sBig Chair Chess House have tried before. The latter organization was the subject of the movie, “Life of a King” starring Cuba Gooding.

Last year Zahir was honored by the DC City Council as a community leader and also chosen by DC Council Member Anita Bonds as ‘Community Cornerstone Award’ recipient. In the past, he has given demos in the DC area and recently announced a collaboration with Howard University.

Video Fox News 5 (DC)

If it takes a village to produce a high-achiever, then several people have contributed to his chess development. Zahir has been mentored and coached by DC residents such as Ted Fagan (Eagle Chess Academy), Vaughn Bennett (National Chess Academy), Shaka Greene (Bravo Zulu Chess Academy), Gregory Achonolu (DC Chess Center), Quito Swann, Robin Ramson (Chess Girls DC) and current coach, David Bennett.

Zahir has a desire to attend an HBCU and hopefully Howard, FAMU, North Carolina A&T and Morehouse are listening!

Links

The 2019 Florida State Championship is back on again!

After Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc in the Bahamas and was headed toward southern Florida, emergency measures were taken and the Labor Day weekend tournament had to be cancelled. Florida Chess Association (FCA) Board Member and tournament organizer NM Bryan Tillis has announced the rescheduled dates for next month. Following is the announcement…

Florida Chess Association

On Sunday morning of September 1st, the Florida Chess Association Board of Directors met via teleconferencing. FCA Membership was up 58% from last year and before the cancellation, there was also an increase in pre-tournament entries from last year’s state championship in Jacksonville. We hope to recoup all the entries and see an increase since some may have had other plans for Labor Day.

The Board certified the election of the new Board of Directors for 2019-2020. They are as follows:

FCA Board of Directors

President: Kevin Pryor
Vice President: Bryan Tillis
Secretary: Matthew Kolcz
Treasurer: Scott Cavan
Northeast VP: Steve Lampkin
Northwest VP: Tim Staley
Southern VP: William Bowman
Central VP: Paul Leggett
Western VP: Krista Alton
At Large: Miguel Ararat
At Large: Jon Haskel
At Large: Harvey Lerman
At Large: Daaim Shabazz

Bahamas Bahamas Bahamas

Nature takes no prisoners when it comes to expressing it relentless power. The latest evidence has taken place in the western hemisphere and it goes by the moniker of “Dorian.” The hurricane whipped up tremendous energy and has devastated large parts of the Bahamas while largely sparing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These islands got residual damage such as flooding and power outages, but what was unleashed on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama was pure hell. The slow-moving hurricane hovered over the Grand Bahama for nearly two days with 180-200 mph (290-322 km/h) winds.


New Providence the capital had flooding and service outages, but the northern Bahamas (Abaco and Grand Bahama) was devastated. People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them.

~ Elton Joseph, President of Bahamas Chess Federation


The Bahamas is a group of 700 islands that include some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Most will know about Nassau and Freeport, but Abaco and Grand Bahama are also frequent attractions for tourists from around the world. The beautiful waters striking all shades of blue make it a perfect place for jetsking, parasailing, snorkeling of simply a peaceful walk on the the white sandy beaches.

Google Maps (Abaco & Grand Bahama)

The Beauty of the Bahamas

Birds of a feather…flock together!

Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

However on Sunday, September 1st, Dorian begin to crash into the Bahamas, arriving as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. The slow-moving hurricane dumped torrential rains onto the islands and the winds sucked the roofs off of houses, carried cars and debris miles away from their origins. In Abaco and Grand Bahama, the scene resembles an absolute war zone. Unfortunately, the death toll cannot be tabulated until the waters subside when health and sanitation will become critical needs.

By some estimate, Abaco and Grand Bahama islands were said to be more than 90% destroyed. The Chess Drum contacted Elton Joseph, President of the Bahamas Chess Association, who reflected on sad situation. “People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them,” said Joseph.

There are a number of relief aid agencies collecting supplies to send to the islands. Initial efforts made by first-responders were thwarted because the airports were underwater. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis gave an assessment on the situation of what he called a “monster hurricane.” The images are heartbreaking. Let us learn from the tsunamai (2005) and Haiti (2010) disasters and not tarry!

Video by MSNBC

The Bahamas has an active chess community and most recently participated in the Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. According to Joseph, there was minimal effect in the New Providence area (within the capital of Nassau), a place known to most tourists. It is the hope of the chess community that the Bahamas, its citizens and the chess players will begin recovering from this destruction and come back a stronger nation.

Karelina Polina, the 2019 Bahamas Junior Champion posted on her Facebook page the day after Dorian made landfall…

Hurricane Dorian Support: http://www.doriansupport.org/
Red Cross: https://bahamasredcross.org/donate/

Ding Liren after winning 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The chess world is still buzzing about Ding Liren’s win of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. He had to overcome World Champion Magnus Carlsen who has looked unbeatable all year long. This is a landmark win for many reasons.

Firstly, it shows his competitive toughness; secondly, Ding remains a good chance to make the Candidates tournament to qualify for the World Championship; lastly, it may be evidence that the chess world may be witnessing the emergence of the next batch of contenders.

In the recent years, we have heard so much about rise of Asian players from Viswanathan Anand to most recent sensations like Iran’s Alireza Firouzja. Ding Liren mostly flew under the radar and was merely one of several Chinese players who were 2700ish. Wei Yi was the player most commonly thought be the singular talent to challenge for the world title in the near future.

Rise of the Chinese Dragons

We have been witnessing the rise of China as a chess power for the past 20 years. The Chinese women had always been a force since the 80s and boast six Olympiad gold medals and six World Champions (Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan, Tan Zhongyi and the reigning champion, Ju Wenjun). Xie Jun is now the President of the Chinese Chess Association!

For the men, the emergence of Bu Xiangzhi was perhaps a sign that China would begin to produce world-class talent. Bu once held the world record for the youngest Grandmaster at 13 years, 10 months and 13 days. The 2003 editorial Why China Will Soon Dominate Chess,” was gaining some credibility, but it had been a long time since Liu Wenzhe shocked the hall at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1978. It was on the largest stage that he uncorked a sparkling queen sacrifice over world class Jan Hein Donner. The world began to take notice.

On these pages, several articles were penned about the Rise of Asian Tigers and the emergence of young talent such as Wang Hao, Wang Yue, Li Chao, and Yu Yangyi. Ding Liren perhaps hit the chess radar when, as an untitled 2400-Elo player, he won the Chinese Championship.

Ding Liren, then 16 and 2400, enroute to his first Chinese title in 2009!
Photo by Sina Chess News
.

He was part of a succession of 2700-level Chinese players who began to grace the chess media for the first time. Xu Yuhua was one of the first Chinese players to grace the cover of a New in Chess in 2006. Wang Yue appeared a couple of years later.

In 2014, Chinese “men’s” team won its first Olympiad gold medal and a silver in 2018 in Batumi. Ding Liren has slowly emerged as the leader after others like Bu Xiangzhi, Ni Hua, Wang Yue, Yu Yangyi all took turns appearing as the face of the emerging chess power. Ding appeared as the cover story of New in Chess in 2015 and gave a poignant interview. He spoke of yet another rising star in China.


“Maybe I’m just a little stream or a little hill in front of him and it’s just a matter of time for Wei Yi to pass me.”

~Ding Liren in 2015 interview with New in Chess


Very dignified comments in deferring to the super talent. However, it doesn’t appear that Wei Yi will be overtaking Ding any time soon given the latter’s fine form in the past few years. In fact, Wei Yi’s development has stabilized in the past four years, but he is only 20.

Ding Liren at the 2011 World Team Championship.
Photo by Fan Lulu

Fast forward to 2018, it is clear that the humble and soft-spoken Ding has made a separation having eclipsed the 2800-mark for the first time. His recent win at the Sinquefield Cup and the defeat of Carlsen in blitz tiebreak has the chess world buzzing. Is he the next challenger? If so, he has proven that going to tiebreak would not be the obstacle that it was for Fabiano Caruana. He has mild demeanor, is hard to beat and is absolutely fearless. The closing moments in the tiebreak tells all.

What’s Next for Ding?

Now at 26 years old, Ding is entering his prime and appears to be heading to London for the Grand Chess Tour final. However, there are still many suitable candidates anxious for a shot against Carlsen. One of the drawbacks to such a circuit is the fatigue of seeing the same players compete year after year. These players are now so well prepared against each other that we see only a handful of decisive games in a tournament.

We recall the reaction when Carlsen-Caruana match had 12 consecutive draws and had to resort to quick-chess to determine the champion. One thing for sure, Ding will have no problem going into tiebreaks if this should occur. This may prove to be an important psychological point going into a championship match. It should be an exciting final and the candidates match will prove to be an important stage for Ding Liren.

Official Site: https://grandchesstour.org/2019-grand-chess-tour/2019-sinquefield-cup
PGN Games: (classical, tiebreaks)
Hartmann, John, “Ding Liren wins 2019 Sinquefield Cup,” 30 August 2019, Chess Life Online
.

The New Orleans Film Society presents its lineup for the 2019 New Orleans Film Festival. This arena is to showcase the talent of filmmakers and to bring to light many fascinating stories that would otherwise go untold. Chess is one such activity that has as many stories as there are players.

There is a film that features Pontus Carlsson’s visit to New Orleans last October promoting his “Business with Chess & Kids” campaign. Carlsson’s vast chess experience and extensive travels given him a platform to promote the benefits of chess. In the documentary featured, he recommends “at least two years of chess.” He doesn’t emphasize that they should be Grandmaster, but that the benefits from playing two years can translate in a training ground for personal development. The video has appearances of National Master Rene Phillips. Watch the trailer!

New Orleans Film Festival: https://neworleansfilmsociety.org/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Egypt still Valley of Kings and Queens!

Bassem Amin sings Egyptian anthem.
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Going into the popular blitz segment, everyone knew the Egyptians would be tough to beat. However, Africa has many strong blitzers throughout the continent and the Internet has made it more popular than ever. Who would be able to unseat the Kings and Queens of African chess? Would it be the Algerians? Zambians? Nigerians? Moroccans? Perhaps there would be a legend created from an less-fancied chess nation. Questions abound. Well.. Bassem Amin would have all the answers.

To be honest, Amin has proven himself to be in a class by himself having once eclipsed the 2700 mark. In blitz, while speed of moves is important, chess knowledge is paramount. It is so much easier to get into a good flow when one knows exactly what to do. Amin’s 9/9 mark was only blemished by the fact that he couldn’t try for a Bobby Fischer 11/11. He would have to settle for a Robert Gwaze 9/9. Authorities shortened the event the previous day from eleven rounds to nine rounds.

Of course, Ahmed Adly would be a prime contender to win the “triple crown” and has competed in World Blitz Championships with the best in the world. In this tournament, Adly was slowed by Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu losing badly in round three. This would force him to take chances in order to get onto the medal stand. He would be nicked for a draw in the very next round by Morocco’s Mohamed Tisser. Adly would go on to win five in a row including wins over Hicham Hamdouchi and Bilel Bellahcene. Impressive comeback.

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Babatunde Ogunsiku of Africa Chess Media asked about the shortening of the blitz tournament. His rational being that it would be useful to give contenders an optimal change at getting the last medal. It just so happened that in the final standings seven players were on 6/9! Nevertheless, Bilel Bellahcene’s last two wins over Rodwell Makoto and Harold Wanyama got him on the podium with 6.5/9. The other contenders were busy beating each other (and losing to Amin). Another two rounds would have made for a tense conclusion.

Blitz games are difficult to assess and analyze because of the nature of the games, but of course the strongest players tend to show their experience. The top four players were all Grandmasters. It appears like the future of competitive chess has a bright future in Africa.

Three events… three gold medals. Shrook Wafa is the only chess player at the All-African Games who can make that claim. She did so in style dropping only three games out of 27 (+22-3=2). Two of those were to Lina Nassr of Algeria, who won a silver (mixed team) and bronze (blitz). Her sister Shahenda Wafa also bagged two medals scoring an impressive 8.5/9 in the team event and silver in the blitz.

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

BLITZ WINNERS
Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

It appears that the balance of power is still firmly in the north, but there are a few cracks in the foundation of North African dominance. While Egypt and Algeria are still the class of the continent, players from countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe scored a number of rousing upsets including Linda Shaba’s impressive win over Shahenda Wafa to end the tournament.

Click to watch!
Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)

Linda Shaba. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Zimbabwe’s Linda Shaba
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

The New FIDE. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

The New FIDE at the 12th All-Africa Games
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

In the end, it was an outstanding event with good conditions and the camaraderie seemed to be everpresent. The photography by Mohamed Bounaji helped convey the spirit of the event. With the attention of FIDE, perhaps there will be an initiative to support African chess development. The typical “Chess in Schools” that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov promised every election campaign is necessary, but not sufficient for cultivating the talent for elite level.

Thirteen years ago, article appeared on these pages titled, Can Pan-Africanism Work in Chess? There were some suggestions about regional collaboration and using Africa’s genuine appeal for Grandmasters to play in top-level tournaments. After a successful Grand Chess Tour tournament in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, there is proof that it can be done. Are we ready to make this the African Century?

Standings
Open (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

Standings
Women (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

Egypt
National Anthem

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: Mixed Rapid (Team), Individual Rapid (Open, Women), Individual Blitz (Open, Women)
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Egypt Double Gold in Rapids!

Egypt
National Anthem

It goes without saying that Egypt remains the “Valley of the Kings and Queens” in chess. In today’s action, they continued their onslaught on the field with Ahmed Adly and Shrook Wafa taking the Open and Women’s titles. However, one could argue that it is no longer a forgone conclusion that Egypt will waltz onto the medal stand and haul the medals back to a triumphant crowd in Cairo.

Shahenda Wafa faded in the crucial rounds. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

In the women’s section, we saw a dominant performance by Shrook Wafa creating a bit of distance by first winning the game against her sister, Shahenda Wafa. This result came as a surprise to some, but these two would rather compete than to agree to prearranged, 10-move draw, which is antithetical to the spirit of competition.

Even after the loss to her elder sister, Shahenda was still in the second position after six rounds, but then lost to Nigeria’s Toritsemuwa Ofowino which opened the door for several players. Ofowino, Algeria’s Sabrina Letreche and the optimistic player from Zambia, Lorita Mwango were in hot pursuit.

Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsemuwa Ofowino. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsewuma Ofowino (Nigeria)
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Going into the last round, Shrook Wafa was only one-half point ahead of the field, but had superior tiebreaks. Ofowino’s consecutive wins against Shahenda Wafa and Sabrina Letreche meant someone would need to beat Wafa in order to catch her. That did happen when Wafa lost with the white pieces to Lina Nassr in a massive upset. The Algerian simply outplayed Wafa in every phase of the game in a Sicilian.

White’s play was questionable and 17.f4 is not in the spirit of the position. Black could’ve won the exchange with 17…Qb6+ (first), but after the text 17…Ng4, black pushed white into a defensive posture. Black established a positional grip by playing 19…a5! and then placed her Godzilla knight on e5. White’s position was in shambles and after 22.Ng3?? engines gave Nassr +7.32 since it loses material to 22…Rb3!

Click to watch!
Wafa-Nassr, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

Wafa continued on hoping that time would become a factor. Shrook did attempt a snap mate after 29.Qh4 threatening Qh7+! That threat was parried with 29…h6 and black’s position was granite solid. As Shrook tried getting at the black king with 34.f6, Nassr had conjured up a mating net of her own. White had to donate material to stave off mate. All that was left is for the Egyptian to resign and watch the outcome of Mwango-Ofowino. The game between two of the leading Anglophone chess nations was intense!

Tension had built up to a fever pitch when in an equal position, Ofowino played 24…Nxb2?? There is nothing that would explain this other than chess blindness. It was a clear piece for nothing. The game went 79 moves, but the result was academic. Despite the loss, the Egyptian breathed a sigh of relief after the tertiary tiebreaks determined she was the winner. Mwango would secure the silver and Letreche would get the bronze over Ofowino.

WFM Lorita Mwango... Untold Stories of Africa

Zambia’s WFM Lorita Mwango
Zambia Zambia Zambia

Highly-regarded in Zambia and respected in the African women’s circuit, Mwango has proven to be one of the elite players on the continent. She came into the individual rapid having won her last four games in the mixed team event. This momentum helped her to gain confidence and remain a medal contender. Zambia is celebrating!

Algeria’s Sabrina Letreche had lost both of her games to Shahenda Wafa and had a subpar performance in the mixed team, but roared back in the individual rapid closing with a win and getting the bronze. Shrook Wafa has been the star of the women’s event and has suffered only two losses in 18 games thus far (+14-2=2). She adds to her prodigious medal count in her esteemed career. It may very well be that women will have to compete in the open section more frequently to gain the confidence to reach the international titles of FM, IM and GM. It would be great to see at least a few of them competing against the continent’s best.

Lorita Mwango (Zambia), Shrook Wafa (Egypt) and Sabrina Letreche. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Lorita Mwango (Zambia), Shrook Wafa (Egypt), Sabrina Letreche (Algeria)
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Women (Rapid Chess)

As far as the open section, Ahmed Adly showed his form by decimating the field with +8 only ceding a draw to Bassem Amin. In watching his play, one can see the difference in levels of understanding as the Egyptian routinely outplayed his opponents from all types of positions. Of course Amin is always a threat to win in Africa and got a 8/9 against the rapid field.

The surprise of the tournament may have been FM Harold Wanyama who had announced his retirement a few years back only to return only months later with renewed vigor. He ended the rapid on 6.5/9 including a win over Moroccan veteran Grandmaster Hicham Hamdouchi.

Click to watch!
Hamdouchi-Wanyama, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-open)

Wanyama brought up a very sound point when he stated the lack of financial opportunities in African chess. Hopefully under the new administration, there will more investment in the vast continent that possesses no shortage of talent.

Harold Wanyama about to receive his bronze medal from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. FIDE Vice President Mohamed Al-Modiakhi looks on. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

FM Harold Wanyama about to receive his bronze medal from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. FIDE Vice President Mohamed Al-Modiakhi looks on. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Open (Rapid Chess)

Standings
Open (Rapid Chess)

Standings
Women (Rapid Chess)

Click for full standings

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/08/24/12th-all-africa-games-rabat-morocco/
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/african-games-team-championship-2019/
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Fire on Board in Casablanca!

Wow!

That is the one word that will describe the action today in Casablanca. While most of the world were preparing for the Sinquefield Cup at the St. Louis Chess Club, thousands were tuning into chess24 to follow the All-Africa Games. In addition, Arkady Dvorkovich was on hand to make the ceremonial move before the day’s action started. It has been his plea to spread the joys of chess globally and he mentions Africa frequently. In fact, many of the journalists have given plaudits to the current administration for their attendance in Morocco.

Mr. Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Of course, chess had previously been included the All-African Games as recently as 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique, 2007 in Algiers, Algeria and 2004 in Abuja, Nigeria. The Chess Drum gave the events coverage, but social media had not developed at that point. There was not widespread coverage in the chess media.

GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) vs. IM Stanley Chumfwa (Zambia)
2011 All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique

Many things have changed since 2011… besides the venue of colorful jackets. There is a new FIDE President and his staff has bought into his message of making chess excellence more attainable. There was also the appearance and endorsement of General Ahmed Nasser who serves as the President of Association of African Sports Confederations.

Arkady Dvorkovich chatting with General Ahmed Nasser while Kema Goryaeva (left) and Egyptian Chess Federation President Dr. Hesham Elgendy.

Introduction of General Nasser

General Nasser making ceremonial move at the board of the two Egyptian sisters, Shrook and Shahenda Wafa.
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

Now onto chess…

Today’s games were absolutely thrilling. There were lots of twists and turns as the format meant everyone was playing for their own glory. The posture of the players seem a lot more intense. In the first round of the open, all of the favorites won without exception. In the women’s field there was one upset as Caxita-Magne was a very unpredictable affair.

In a Center Counter, white was actually winning right in the opening as black spent more time than usual trying to untangle her position. In fact on move 12, white has the killer 12.a4! (+4.59) and black will be fortunate to last five more moves. By move 25, white had lost most of her advantage and probably spent time trying to find the knockout blow.

Unfortunately, it was black who had the initiative. Under time pressure, white hung a piece, then black hung one back. The game settled into a R+Q vs. R+Q and five pawns. However, black’s passed d-pawn was ominous and white failed to stop its march. So there it was… a 500-point upset.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 1)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 1)

Rapids underway!
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

The second round was a bit more tense as the games were more competitive. Bilel Bellahcene continued his offbeat openings with 6.h4!? against Abimbola Osunfuyi’s Najdorf Sicilian. The game was an exciting slugfest, but the Algerian GM waded through the maelstrom of complications finishing with a 34.Rf8! shot.

Ahmed Adly played a master game against the other Nigerian, a motivated Oladapo Adu. That game came out of a “hippopotamus,” an opening increasingly favored by the Grandmaster. In this game he simply had a better understanding and it was a marvel to watch.

Click to watch!
Adu-Adly, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-open)

Lidet Haile (Ethiopia)
Photo by Kema Goryaeva

In the women’s event, most of the favorites won, but there was an interesting game in Nassr-Haile. The Ethiopian was outrated 300 points, but played a fantastic game conjuring up a lightning attack. Nassr took quite a number of risk in allowing 23…Qxa4 going after an exchange. It costed her two pawns… one of them a passed a-pawn.

As white was trying to recover pawns, she allowed the black queen and knight to coordinate a devastating attack. In the end, Nassr had to return the exchange, but Haile proceeded to gobble all of white’s pawns. It was truly an instructive comeback. In these shortened time controls, it is evident that playing a bit too risky is unwise even if you’re the heavy rating favorite. Great win for Haile!

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 2)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 2)

More interesting games in round three. One of the best played games of the third round was Shrook Wafa’s positional masterpiece against Onkemetse Francis. At one point, it was hard for black to move any pieces. This immobilization allowed white to slowly position her pieces in an aggressive stance and then launching an attack at the right time. Notice how white’s knight sat on c5 to disrupt black’s army.

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Shrook Wafa-Onkemetse Francis, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

While Adly and Amin were coasting to 3/3, Arthur Ssegwanyi of Uganda got a stroke of fortune when he mated Hicham Hamdouchi in a roughly equal position. Moroccan tried to get a mating attack but forgot about an important zwischenzug which mates him with a pawn.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 3)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 3)

With a four-way tie for first, the Egyptian GMs took care of business, but the other Ugandan Harold Wanyama was gathering momentum. He won again pushing his score to 3.5/4. Bellahcene continued his unorthodox play. During the mixed team, the Algerian played 1.Nh3 (winning against Adu) and 1…Na6 (losing against Oatlhotse).

In the second round of this tournament, he tried 6.h4 against the Najdorf (winning against Osunfuyi), an idea having come into vogue at the GM level. Now he plays another offbeat line with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.b4!? wing gambit which went 3…cxb4 4.d4 d5! It is similar to 1.e4 c5 2.b4?! cxb4 3.a3 d5! The opening caught IM Adlane Arab by surprise. He misplayed it and lost in just 22 moves.

In the women’s section, the Wafa sisters won smoothly and would be set to play each other in round five. Rapid chess at 15’+10″ is nerve-wrecking. We often arrive at winning positions only to see it fritter away. What must Onkemetse Francis be thinking about her fourth round game. She was a clear knight and pawn up and allowed her opponent to draw the game with no more than a prayer and a hope. Ouch.

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Francis-Haile, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

Chess can be brutal sometimes. Missed mates are bad, but letting a hard earned win slip away is the worst feeling because of the energy invested.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 4)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 4)

FM Abimbola Osunfuyi (Nigeria)
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

In the last round for the day, the top seeded Egyptians (Amin and Adly) agreed to a quick draw in the open section. However, the Wafa sisters showed that they are competitive and played one of the craziest games of the tournament. There were tactics everywhere and three results were always possible. It just so happened that Shahenda Wafa left her queen enprise during the time scramble and Shrook simply snapped it off. Truly bruising battle!

Kayonde and Bellahcene was also “Fire on Board” as the Algerian seemed to have some initiative. After a few mistakes Kayonde pounced and took over the initiative and getting a winning position. The marvel of this game was that both kings were totally exposed to the pieces zipping around the board. Of course, one has to snare the full point. As we have seen many blunders at this fast time control, anything could happen. This time Kayonde kept his composure and won. By the way, Wanyama won again and he is now in a tied for first on 4.5/5. He will face Adly tomorrow.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 5)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 5)

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/08/24/12th-all-africa-games-rabat-morocco/
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/african-games-team-championship-2019/
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Despite upsets, Egypt take gold!

Zimbabwe vs. Nigeria fought to a thrilling 2-2 draw. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Zimbabweans Rodwell Makoto and Emarald Mushone chat before their first round game against Eritrea. They would win their games, but the were more proud of the wins they got in round six. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

What a finish in the first chess event ending with the Egyptians edging the field and winning the gold. In round six, Egypt were winning their matches comfortably, but had a scare after both Ahmed Adly and Bassem Amin lost in round six! This sent shock waves throughout the hall and the continent. Perhaps the Egyptians were feeling too comfortable and got a rude awakening.

One can see that competition is getting a bit more stiff on the continent as evidenced by the number of upsets during the tournament. Providence Oatlhotse of Botswana beat Bilel Bellahcene while Tunisia’s Amir Zaibi also beat Bellahcene and Hicham Hamdouchi.

Nevertheless the Egyptians came back with a vengeance. In fact, it would be the Wafa sisters (Shrook and Shahenda) who piled up huge scores, 8/9 and 8.5/9 respectively. Shrook Wafa’s loss was to Lorita Mwango of Zambia who seems to be quite a dangerous player in continental play. The Zim ladies Linda Shaba and Colletta Wakuruwarewa maintained stable play. In fact, Shaba got an upset win over Mwango in the battle of the only “Z” nations on the planet.

Games from Round 6

Malawians were lead by two FIDE Masters FM Joseph Mwale who tallied 6/9 and FM Gerrard Mphungu who compiled a strong 6.5/9. Mwale beat Zambian International Master Stanley Chumfwa in the process. According to online reports, Mwale is based in South Africa and serves as a professional coach there.

Malawi vs. Nigeria. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Malawi vs. Nigeria

Mali vs. Namibia. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Mali vs. Namibia
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

The rapid portion is filled with twists and turns as we saw during the event. Providence Oatlhotse had a 100-move draw with Hamdouchi (3rd round) during which pieces shuffled behind walls of pawns. It was a bit humorous to see such a game. There was a R+N vs. R than was a draw (Osunfuyi-Silva) and another that was a win (Wafa-Mayar)! Kudos to Phemelo Ketho for saving the rook ending against Mohamed Boudriga two pawns down. It ended with the famous stalemate trick!

What was also amazing was the number of picturesque checkmates delivered over the board. Some of them are obviously embarrassing, yet instructive. With the “Puzzle Rush” craze in the chess world, some of these games may be candidates for inclusion. Below are some of mates seen during the mixed segment (names withheld). Some were mate-in-one slips and others were combinations ending in mate. Mate happens.

Puzzle Rush @ 2019 All-Africa Games!

As one would imagine with the accelerated time control, mistakes are more common. However, there were some powerful games played including the above Amin-Mushore where the Zim player held his composure after the Egyptian threw all of his pieces at his king. That was a great moment for the untitled player. Zim’s results allowed Algeria to move within a point of the lead, but they never made up any ground. Ethiopia had quietly crept into medal contention.

After the scare, Egypt obliterated Botswana 4-0 on Ahmed Adly’s beautiful attacking game against Oatlhotse. The win only took 17 moves and was an impressive display of power. The loss must’ve motivated the Egyptians. Algeria remained close on match points, but they had already lost to Egypt and were far behind on board points. Zimbabwe kept punching hard, beating Angola as Mushore beat Angola’s young IM David Silva.

Games from Round 7

In the penultimate round, Algeria was hoping that Zambia would halt the march of Egypt, but their IMs were no match. Adly even played the “hippopotamus” setup to keep Chumfwa off balance. Ultimately, the Zambian well astray thinking he would have enough compensation for a sacrificed piece. Meanwhile, Amin crushed Kayonde with a barrage of tactics to collect the point. Algeria won again to keep pace, but Egypt had all but clinched the gold.

Games from Round 8

While it is true that Malawi had moved up into 6th place, Egypt was looking to win in style. The two losses in round six may still sting. Since the draw with Zimbabwe in round six, Egypt had three wins on 11/12. Algeria punished Ethiopia 4-0, but they’d have to be satisfied with silver. Before the loss, Ethiopia had moved into 4th place. Bronze will still up for grabs.

Zimbabwe was a mere point ahead of Ethiopia and Tunisia. With both teams losing, Zim only needed a draw to clinch… which they achieved. Nigeria was just out of the medals, but ended strong.

Games from Round 9

Most of the teams struggled with consistency and were unable to gain momentum. If we look at the bottom of the charts, several of the teams had hard times. Cape Verde has relatively young players with little experience. Countries like Central African Republic, Mali and Eritrea will build in this experience before the continental championship and Olympiad next year. It was great to see them in action!

Cape Verde: Honorina Morais, Loedi Gomes, Joel Pires, Luis Moniz. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Cape Verde
Cape Verde Cape Verde Cape Verde
Honorina Morais, Loedi Gomes, Joel Pires, Luis Moniz
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

As we move on to the rapid individual, there will be more focus since one lives and dies by their own effort. It will be interesting to see the transition from a team event to an individual event. Perhaps bitter fights are ahead of us tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Final Standings
Mixed Team (Rapid Chess)

Egypt
National Anthem

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/08/24/12th-all-africa-games-rabat-morocco/
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/african-games-team-championship-2019/
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Games off to a sizzling start

There are not enough superlatives to describe the organization of the 12th All-Africa Games thus far. Mehul Gohil of Kenya gave the event full marks and sent loads of photos showing the excellent conditions. “Maputo in 2011 was wonderful. This is even better,” he said. Of course, what would a first-hand experience be without any photos to capture the moment?

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Beautiful colors!!
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Kenya’s Mehul Gohil with Nigeria’s Lekan Adeyemi
Photo by Mehul Gohil

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Lekan Adeyemi making the ceremonial move at Ahmed Adly’s board.
Photo by Kema Goryaeva/FIDE

Action started with the mixed team event. Five rounds with each team fielding two men and two women. The first round was a wash with the favorite winning the matches by large scores. Only Nigeria failed to get the 4-nil verdict giving up draws on the top two boards. It was good to see teams from Mali, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Cape Verde. These are small and relatively new federations.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Mali brought a team including one FIDE Master.
Photo by Mehul Gohil

It would be interesting if Africa got all 54 nations to join FIDE. Twenty teams made the trip with Egypt the top seed. With Bassem Amin and Ahmed Adly on the top two boards, the the Wafa sisters, other teams would find Egypt a tough challenge.

Both GM-led Algeria and Morocco got wins, but one thing apparent is that competition is getting tougher. While the score piled up the games were surprisingly competitive. In the second round, the matches were closer and only one team scored a “clean sheet” with Sao Tome Principe beating Central African Republic 4-0. The other matches were more or less competitive, but there was a controversy that held up the pairing for round six.

On the fourth board of Morocco-Tunisia, the game Closed Sicilian look promising as white won an exchange, but black had compensation. Then the game became tense and errors started to pile up. White ended up losing the exchange and it appeared that black was firmly on top.

After 44…Nh4+, Mayar attempted to play 45.Rxa3 when Marzouk claimed a win.

Unfortunately black went for 34…cxb3? 35.Rc8+ thinking she would promote her pawns, but after 35…Kg7 36.Qxa3! bxa3 white was hanging on. Black had clear compensation for the exchange with a mass of pawns, but the fleet rook begin to pick off pawns. In the end, white was a clear rook up when in time pressure she left her king hanging and controversy ensued. According to Mehul Gohil of Kenya, both players were below a minute on clock when the Tunisian made the illegal move.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

The controversial match…
Mayar-Marzouk is the second board to left.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

We can see the rook on a3 in the disputed game.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

The arbiters try to sort it out.
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

There was a question as to what the penalty should be and the round was delayed until it was sorted out. The journalists could not get any information on the ruling, but in the end, the Tunisian got the verdict and salvaged a draw on the illegal move. Unbelievable! Tunisia earned a 2-2 draw.

Games from Round 2

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Sao Tome Principe’s Juazilmira DE OLIVEIRA B RITA
Photos by Mehul Gohil

In round three, Algeria would try to test Egypt, but all they could manage was a draw on board one with Ahmed Adly and Bilel Bellahcene splitting the point. Morocco edged Botswana and Providence Oatlhotse held Hichem Hamdouchi in a game that ended with a funny locked position. Oatlhotse would score a GM-scalp against Bellahcene later on.

Angola-Nigeria engaged in a pitched battle as they are two of the most talented countries south of the Sahara. Oladapo Adu tried to employ a hedgehog, but Pedro Aderito played an early e5 and got an edge. Amidst the complications, the Angolan seemed to get a winning position, but later got his rook trapped! Blitz kills. The Nigerian reeled in the point giving Nigeria the margin of victory.

Games from Round 3

Round four had some interesting games. African champion Shrook Wafa converted a R+N vs. R against Firdaous Mayar of Tunisia. The game was completely drawn, but the Moroccan fell into a trap and lost her rook to a fork. What a horrible tournament for Mayar who also lost the controversial game in round two.

Another game that needs a look on how to press the initiative was Bellahcene-Adu. That game started 1.Nh3!? but after a dozen moves, white had a normal position. The Nigerian fell asleep at the wheel and was hit by 19.Nxd5! White sacrificed the queen and it was instructive to see the two rooks dominate the open d-file. A nice shot at the end was elegant.

One of the tricky parts of the mixed event is the unpredictability of the bottom boards. Many of the teams have inexperienced players and the tension is much greater than anything they may have faced. Also some of the games have been played all the way until checkmate which is interesting because on the lower boards you get see some wonderful mating patterns! Check out Mesfin-Kourakouba, Haile-Gamba, Kone-Morais!

Games from Round 4

In the last round of the day, Egypt continued its dominance with another +3 win against Tunisia. Nevertheless, they have only a two-point lead over the field. Algeria beat Botswana, but as mentioned Bellahcene lost on board one! The Algerian started his black game with 1.d4 Na6!? I suppose his successful use of 1.Nh3!? had given him confidence, but this reality was soon shaken.

Providence Oatlhotse got a nice win over GM Bilel Bellahcene’s 1…Na6. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

The Algerian got a normal position, but the structure is not one of the most ambitious for black. White kept the edge, but after 20 moves of maneuvering, black sacrificed an exchange. Immediately the evaluation goes to +1.26 meaning that the engines were not impressed. It turns out that black didn’t have full compensation especially since his bishop was restricted by his own pawns. The Botswana player held the exchange, kept the black queen at bay and ended the game with the nice 87.Kh1!

Zimbabwe scored an upset win over Morocco with Rodwell Makoto holding Hamdouchi. The game ending with an improbably five pawns against a rook! The Zim player had actually got a crushing kingside attack, but the wily Grandmaster held on for dear life. He had to sacrifice material to survive. At one point, white had two pawns for the rook… then three… then four… then five! The final position is amazing. Mohamed Tissir was brutally crushed by Emarald Mushore while the women traded wins. The shock of the round had to be Angola’s +3 drubbing of Zambia.

Egypt ended the first day of play with a two-point lead, but they have also piled up the board points with a total of 18. Algeria has 13.5. Should be an interesting day tomorrow!

Games from Round 5

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/african-games-team-championship-2019/
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

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