Ron Jones playing Phiona Mutesi,
“Queen of Katwe”
Photo by U.S. Chess Center

Tragic news has hit the chess community once again. Ronald Jones, 59, an icon in the Washington, DC chess scene was stabbed to death in a domestic incident at his home. The assailant named in the Washington Post article was Alisa Randall, 31, of the Northwest DC area. The police were summoned to check on Jones and found him on Monday morning (July 15th) at his home with “multiple stab wounds.” DC Fire and Emergency Medical Department Service (MEDIC 21) pronounced him dead at 5:39am. Randall was arrested at the scene and has been charged with second-degree murder. An official motive has not been given.

Jones was very active at the DC Chess Center run by David Mehler and according to the organization’s website,

Ronald Jones has been an instructor and manager at the U.S. Chess Center since 2008. In addition to working with kids in various Chess Center programs and handling numerous administrative tasks, he directs tournaments at the Center. Prior to coming to Washington, D.C., Mr. Jones was an active member of chess communities in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York, and has mentored many young players along the way. In 2008, Ron won first place in the Garry Kasparov Problem Solving Contest in Harlem. He competes in the D.C. Chess League as a member of the Black Knights, and is the reigning D.C. Chess Champion.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim, a DC-area journalist and writer for Chess Life met Jones after arriving in DC in 2008.

We’ve played countless games on the cement tables at DuPont Circle well into the wee hours of the night on numerous occasions. With Ron being expert player, of course, he won the vast majority of the games against me as a “C” Class player who has never broken 1600. Even when I was pressing him and thought maybe I had the upper hand, he would usually find some type of way to wriggle out of trouble and win the game. It was aggravating as a player.

According to his USCF tournament record, Ron played most of his tournament chess in the DC area, but could be seen at the World Open in Philadelphia where he played in the side events. He was a fervent believer in the upliftment of the Black community and very big advocate of chess excellence among the Black youth. In Abdul-Alim’s story titled, “The Racial Gap for Titles Among American Chess Players,” Ron offered this hypothesis:

“Most of the people that play, they have disposable income. They can afford to spend $300 for a tournament, $500 for a hotel, another $1000 for an airline ticket to another state.”

It’s very true that tournaments are expensive and the cost-benefit analysis does not always suit playing in major tournaments. Many will seek the cheaper one-day events or simply blitz games in the park. However, Ron was present during one of the historic chess events in the Black community, the Wilbert Paige Memorial held July 2001 in Harlem, New York. Ten of the top players for African descent assembled to battle.

Front row for the opening round of the historic
Wilbert Paige Memorial!

Ron (left) with a couple of luminaries in National Masters Frank Street (Maryland) and Glenn Bady (Philadelphia). NM Jerald Times is filming the session.

Ron Jones (front left) watching analysis at 2001 Wilbert Paige Memorial in Harlem, New York. There are other recognizable faces in the crowd! Photos by Daaim Shabazz

That tournament featured IM (now GM) Amon Simutowe, IM Watu Kobese, IM Michael Schleifer (deceased), FM (now GM) Kenny Solomon, FM (now IM) Stephen Muhammad. FM William Morrison, FM Ron Simpson (deceased), FM Norman Rogers, NM Grace Nsubuga and NM Stephen Colding and organized by Jerry Bibuld (deceased).

The Wilbert Paige event was a memorable tournament and everyone who was present could feel its powerful vibe. Ron spoke fondly of the time he spent playing in New York and the indelible impression it left on him.

According to Jamaal, Ron had a generous side. Jamaal reflected on a recent story where Ron was proudly passing out “Millionaire Chess” vinyl boards. This was not just any chess board. This was a piece of history created by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley! Although he didn’t participate in the events, perhaps it was his way of sharing that memory.

Ron was one of those men who had a lot of awareness about the plight of the Black community and developed very pointed views about the subject. Jamaal mentioned Ron creating a PowerPoint presentation about “Black Wall Street” and presented the illustration to make a point about the open hostility that Black people in the United States have faced historically and continue to face. The plight of the disenfranchised and impoverished touched his soul.

The morning after Tulsa race riots decimated the affluent “Black Wall Street” in 1921. It is amazing that Ron sought to immortalize this tragedy, but he also had respect for homeless. It is without a sense of irony, that 10,000 people were left homeless as a result of the Tulsa riots.

Jamaal reflects…

Ron had strong opinions about how I wrote about DuPont Circle. For instance, in one story, I indicated that I planned to mention how a lot of the players at DuPont are homeless. He didn’t like that label at all and he let me know it in no uncertain terms. He thought it had too much of a negative connotation and stigmatized the players. In fact, he didn’t even want anyone to refer to Tani (Adewumi) — the 8-year-old rising star out of New York — as homeless. I mean, he was vehemently against that label. He despised and detested it.

Ron Jones awarded the championship trophy at the DC Housing Finance Agency camp to Sahana Bradley. Photo by DC Chess Center

One wonders what drives men like Ron and others like James “Black Knight” Taylor, another passionate DC resident who preceded him in death. These men may not be chess masters, but their passion for chess and their belief in its qualities may be more authentic than players who only focuses on securing money, titles and accolades for self-fulfillment. Ron spent years giving the knowledge he had. Not a master, but good enough to have the credibility in knowledge he was spreading… and people listened.

The Chess Drum salutes Ron Jones!

IM-elect Josh Colas
Photo courtesy of Webster University (SPICE)

Josh Colas just finished his junior year at Webster University and has begun a series of tournaments in Europe. Colas has a GM norm and two IM norms needing only to reach 2400 to have the IM title conferred. He is looking to add to his collection of norms and Elo points during this tour. Planned are tournaments in Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The first was the Benasque International Open which features a strong field of Grandmasters throughout Europe and Latin America.

Grandmasters Robert Hovhannisyan of Armenia and Mateusz Bartel of Poland won the tournament with 8.5/10, but the Armenian had better tiebreaks and declared the overall winner. Colas got 7/10 including 50% against GMs and a win over Peru’s WGM Deysi Cora. Deysi is the sister of Josh’s Webster teammate GM Jorge Cori. Josh gained 25 Elo points in Benasque and begins his second tournament today, the Czech Open in Pardubice, Czech Republic, July 19th-28th. He will then compete in Hungary beginning August 4th.

FM Josh Colas (2302-USA)
2019 Benasque International Open
Benasque (Spain)
# Title Player ELO Fed
1 SARTO RAMOS, Angel 1818 Spain
2 VIÑAL GUTIERREZ, Pedro 2026 Spain
3 PES MATEO, Ángel 1961 Spain
4 NÚÑEZ REIZ, Antonio 2110 Spain
5 WFM REPRESA PÉREZ, Mireya 2017 Spain
6 GM JANSA, Vlastimil 2457 Czech Republic
7 GM RYCHAGOV, Andrey 2537 Russia
8 GM GASCON DEL NOGAL, José Rafael 2466 Venezeula
9 WGM CORI, Deysi 2405 Peru
10 IM ADMIRAAL, Miguoel 2504 Netherlands
Score: 7/10 (Standings)

Synopsis of Benasque: Josh starts off his European tour with a decent +4 result. He got a chance to play three Grandmasters including Czech legend Vlastimil Jansa, whom he beat. Jansa played in the Olympiad for Czechoslovakia and is a three-time national champion (1964, 1974, 1984). Jansa is highly regarded as a trainer and was the teacher of Czech super-GM, David Navara. Josh also played WGM Deysi Cori, a long-time Peruvian women’s champion and IM Miguoel Admiraal, a rising Dutch talent.

FM Josh Colas (2302-USA)
2019 Czech Open
Pardubice (Czech Republic)
# Title Player ELO Fed
1 WGM PTACNIKOVA, Lenka 2074 Iceland
2 GM GAGARE, Shardul 2476 India
3 PETR, Jan 2107 Czech Republic
4 JINSOO, Kim 2087 South Korea
Score: 1½-2½ (Standings, Main Site)

Egypt Egypt Egypt

In what has become somewhat of a tradition on the continent of Africa, the Egyptian’s major haul in continental championships continued in Hammamet, Tunisia. The Republic of Egypt took five of the six medals in the Open and Women’s African Individual Championships over the past week and cemented their status as the African Lion.

Shrook Wafa, 2019 African Women's Champion

From left to right: WGM Shahenda Wafa, WIM Eman Elansary, GM Bassem Amin, GM Essam El-Gindy, GM Bassem Amin, WIM Ayah Mooataz, WGM Shrook Wafa. Photo by Egyptian Chess Federation

GM Ahmed Adly, 2019 African Champion
Photo by Ahmed Adly

Two weeks before the tournament began, there were major changes in the venue and the schedule. The site moved from Tunis to Hammamet and the playing schedule eliminated the double rounds that were to occur on three of the days. This was mandated by FIDE because continental tournaments are World Cup qualifiers and had to meet specific requirements. In order to comply with the one round a day requirement, the rapid and blitz tournaments were cancelled.

Nevertheless, the tournament was completed in a spacious venue with 18 federations represented. GM Bassem Amin was the only 2700-level player in the field and an odds-on favorite. There was new life breathed into the African championship due to the return of Moroccan legend GM Hicham Hamdouchi and the emergence of young stars like IM Fy Rakotomarharo (Madagascar), IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) and GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria). In the end, it was GM Ahmed Adly who notched his third African crown.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy will be joining Adly and Amin for 2019 World Cup
Photo by James Mwangi

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

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

In the women’s field, many of the same contenders were present as they have been for the past eight years. WGM Mona Khaled would not be in the Egyptian delegation, but WGM Shahenda Wafa would carry the flag as the defending champion. Her sister WGM Shrook Wafa was a two-time champion winning her 2013 title in Tunis, Tunisia and 2014 title in Windhoek, Namibia. She carries her third title home after winning in Hammamet, Tunisia.

Shrook Wafa, 2019 African Women's Champion

WGM Shrook Wafa
2019 African Women’s Champion
Photo by Egyptian Chess Federation

Algeria’s WIM Amina Mezioud and WIM Sabrina Latreche have quite a number of accolades over the years and WFM Lorita Mwango of Zambia has been a top contender. What is clear is that the balance of power still lies in the north and those in the sub-Saharan region will be seeking to produce stronger competition in years to come. Nigeria already has a “First GM” campaign.

Hopefully, in the next edition there will be the rapid and blitz segments and the presence of more federations. Some of the glaring absences were recent participants Botswana, Ghana and Kenya, the latter two hosting zonal events this year.

In addition more arrangement should be made for publicity of this important event there were only three organizations reporting on the event this year. Africa Chess Media had daily coverage, Kenya Chess Masala filed reports and of course The Chess Drum has provided coverage since its first report in 2001 when GM Hicham Hamdouchi won the event! Hopefully by the next continental championships we will see more GMs in the field. Let’s make this an African century in chess!

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)



GOLD- GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt)

SILVER- GM Bassem Amin (Egypt)

BRONZE – GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt)


GOLD – WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt)

SILVER – WIM Sabrina Latreche (Algeria)
South Africa

BRONZE – WIM Eyah Mooataz (Egypt)

National Anthem


Ahmed Adly wins the 2019 African Individual Championship!
Bassem Amin takes the silver… El-Gindy bronze!

There were a lot of combinations in terms of the medal race, but in the end, everyone knew an Egyptian Grandmaster would be on the gold medal stand. The question was, “Would it be Adly or Amin?” GM Ahmed Adly had to be held and GM Bassem Amin had to win for for the current position to change. It didn’t happen and Adly won his game against a streaking IM Rodwell Makoto to win the title outright.

It was a Catalan and rather equal throughout, but the Egyptian simply understood the position better. The move 28.Bf7+! was a punch to the gut since not accepting the bishop meant black is mated after 28…Kh8 29.g6 when 29…h6 30.Rxh6 is mate. If 28…Kf8, then 29.Rxh7 and black is gone. So after 28…Kxf7 29. Rxh7 Be8 30.Rxg7+ Kf8 31.Rxb7 and white won in a couple of more moves.

GM Ahmed Adly, 2019 African Champion
Photo by Wissal Hilali

What a momentous victory for Adly, his third title. In won his first championship with 7/9 in 2005 and second in 2011 where he scored 8/9. He repeated this 8/9 winning formula this edition and was a deserving winner. He will be an capable African representative in Khanty-Mansisyk.

With Adly winning quickly, Amin-Rakotomaharo didn’t exert themselves in a game that wasn’t going to change the medal outlook. In fact, Rakotomaharo had an outstanding tournament losing only one game to the eventual champion last round. Just short of a GM norm, but this experience is one of his best to date.

For GM Bassem Amin, he will qualify for the World Cup along with Adly. IM Fy Rakotomaharo will be joining them as a zonal 4.3 champion as will IM Daniel Anwuli, winner of zone 4.4 and GM Bilel Bellahcene, the winner of zone 4.1. Adly had already qualified as the winner of zone 4.2, so the next spot will probably go to GM Essam El-Gindy, the next qualifier in line. Stay tuned for official report.

Round #9 (Selected Games – Open)


Shrook Wafa wins 3rd title…
Algeria’s Latreche prevents an Egyptian shutout, takes the silver… Mooataz bronze!

Shrook Wafa, 2019 African Women's Champion

WGM Shrook Wafa
2019 African Women’s Champion
Photo by Egyptian Chess Federation

With gold already decided, the Egyptians were looking for more medals. Actually Sabrina Latreche had already clinched a medal and actually lost to the defending champion Shahenda Wafa. Both Ayah Mooataz and Eman Elansary won equaling the Algerian on 6/9, but had weaker numbers on all three tiebreaks.

Unfortunately, Latreche will be the only Algerian making the trip to Khanty-Mansisysk since Amina Mezioud’s loss to Mooataz caused her to miss the silver medal. The Algerian simply got lost in the complications. Heartbreaking loss. Elansary brutally mated Tunisia’s Amira Marzouk to end just out of the medals, but ending with a strong result.

The host Tunisians did well with in terms of Elo performance with four players showing gains…

  • WFM Amen Miladi (1777, +60)
  • WFM Amira Marzouk (1667, +30.6)
  • WCM Malek, Chihi (1526, +22.8)
  • WCM Zaineb Hwass (1403, 23.2)

Round #9 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #8:
Shrook Wafa wins the 2019 African Women’s Championship!!

WGM Shrook Wafa, 2019 African Women's champion!

Shrook Wafa is the 2019 African Women’s champion! In what has been a truly dominating performance, the 22-year old Egyptian wins her 3rd continental title winning consecutively in 2013 and 2014. Mabrouk! Photo courtesy of Babatunde Ogunsiku (Africa Chess Media)


It appears that the Egyptians and the Algerians are battling once again for positions on the medal stand and for spots in the World Cup. The showdown will come to a culmination tomorrow as the two countries will battle for silver and bronze. Tiebreaks will be a big factor in the final tally.

Today, Shrook Wafa clinched her third title with one round to spare by dispatching of Algeria’s Lina Nassr in a game where she maintained pressure throughout. One of the trademarks of Wafa’s play this tournament was her consistency. She was well-prepared, played sharp lines and was in great form.

In her game against Nassr, they enter a Scheveningen Sicilian, but both white’s 8.Re1 and black’s 12…Nb4 were a bit off. Black actually got good play with 16…d5! and took advantage of Wafa dithering with her f-rook. However, Nassr allowed Wafa to recover with a 24.Bg3 Ra8 25.Rac5 maneuver. From that point on, white was better and even doubled rooks on the 7th. Black’s pawns disappeared and in an ending three pawns up, she had enough to clinch her third continental title.

Latreche-Elansary had an interesting game before it fizzled out into a draw. It appeared that white had a grip on the position with a pawn on d6 and a rook on the 7th rank. Black solved her problems tactically with 27…Bd4! 28.Bxd4 Rxd6! Black’s active pieces saved the day.

One of the things, about the women’s games is that the “London System” is a very popular opening. It is an easy opening to play, but it doesn’t give white a chance to play for a lasting advantage. Some of the games appear that white is playing 1.d4 and 2.Bf4 by reflex without regard to what setup black is using. Watch how black dominates without white giving much of a fight in Sabine Ravelomanana and Amina Mezioud’s game.

In February-Moaataz, the South African was trying to win her second consecutive game, but overextended her attack. February has somewhat of a crude style of attacking demonstrated by 21.Nf1 and 22.g4. Black seized on this by playing 24…Qh4 and raiding the weakened kingside. White later tried sacrificing the exchange after 31.Rxd5, but after 31…Qxd5 there was nothing but a prayer.

On 32.Bxh6 g6 33.Bg7 black’s 33…Qd2! put an end to white’s attacking dreams. To add insult to injury, February overlooked mate in two. Again… a rest day should be mandatory in continental championships. Some of the play points to fatigue and it’s obvious that some players have “hit the wall” at the midway point.

In another London System in Mwango-Moaataz, white failed to get a tangible advantage and fought hard to equalize black’s initiative. The game went on for 84 moves with white finally being able to equalize. The Zambian certainly dodged a bullet and is now on 4.5/8 and plays the champion Shrook Wafa.

Round #8 (All Games)

Top Pairings for Round #9

WFM Mwango Lorita (Zambia) – WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt)
WGM Wafa Shahenda (Egypt) 2175 – WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria)
WIM Moaataz Ayah (Egypt) – WIM Mezioud Amina (Algeria)
WIM Elansary Eman (Egypt) – WFM Marzouk Amira (Tunisia)
WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria) – WFM Miladi Amen (Tunisia)
Ofowino Toritsemuwa (Nigeria) – WIM February Jesse Nikki (South Africa)
Milena Daniel Welderufael (Eritrea) – WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar)
WCM Ampaire Shakira (Uganda) – Ntolo Darla Charlhess (Gabon)
WCM Chihi Malek (Tunisia) – Ibrahim Aishat (Nigeria)
Mululu Linah (Zambia) – WCM Hilali Wissal (Tunisia)
WCM Hwass Zaineb (Tunisia) – WCM Yavo Tchetche Marie (Cote d’Ivoire)


Grandmaster Ahmed Adly has a decorated chess career for Egypt and he is poised to had another landmark in his career. His win in round eight puts him at 7/8 with his sole loss to Bassem Amin. Thus, he will need a win tomorrow against Rodwell Makoto of Zimbabwe who has won his last four games.

In his game against an undefeated Fy Rakotomaharo, Adly played an irregular opening and opted for a game where he could outplay his less-experienced opponent. That’s exactly what happened. The middlegame was very complicated, but white had developed a tremendous space advantage. Black’s pieces were a bit cluttered.

Black sacrificed an exchange with 21…Rxc3 22.Bb2 Rxg3+ but white still maintained control despite exposed king. Adly employed an “Alekhine’s Gun” on the d-file, but the Malagasy player held his poise. That was until he fell into time pressure. Last round, his opponent blundered at move 40 and this time he would be the victim. After 39…Ba3?? 40.Rf4 Rf8 41.Rc4 wins material and black resigned.

Most of the Grandmasters won today… all except Kenny Solomon and Adham Fawzy , the latter losing his third consecutive game. In the winner’s circle, Amin won his game after thoroughly outplaying Adlane Arab. It was a finachetto King’s Indian, but somewhere along the way, white never got any queenside play going. As the script goes, black headed for a kingside attack. Even a trade of queens didn’t lessen black’s pressure and he crashed through.

As far as norms are concerned Adlane Arab has played four GMs and tallied a solid 5/8, but his performance rating is 2494, so he will most likely need to get a win to approach 2600 TPR. Simplice Degondo and Mohamed Elarabi Abobker are on 5/8 and a win will get him to 6/9. It is unclear whether they will get the performance rating to qualify. Bassem Amin will need to win out in order to claim the title with Makoto at least holding Adly. There are a lot of combinations that will determine who get the top three spots, but the certainty is that an Egyptian will secure gold. Should be an exciting round!

IM Rodwell Makoto and Spencer Masango in at Batumi Olympiad. Makoto has a chance to affect the medal positioning in the final round. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Top Pairings for Round #8

GM Adly Ahmed (Egypt) – IM Makoto Rodwell (Zimbabwe)
GM Amin Bassem (Egypt) – IM Rakotomaharo Fy (Madagascar)
GM Bellahcene Bilel (Algeria) – GM El Gindy Essam (Egypt)
IM Zaibi Amir (Tunisia) – IM Arab Adlane (Algeria)
FM Elarabi Abobker Mohamed (Libya) – IM Balogun Oluwafemi (Nigeria)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #7:
Adly storms into the lead…
Rakotomaharo upsets Bellahcene, moves in joint 2nd with Amin…
Shrook held, Latreche closes gap


There is no odds-on favorite to win the 2019 edition of the African Individual Championship. The story of the day has to be the young IM from Madagascar Fy Rakotomaharo who stands as one of two undefeated players in the field. In his game today against Bilel Bellahcene, they entered a theoretical Queen’s Gambit line that has been tested thoroughly at the elite level.

This game was a tense battle even following Reshevsky-Ragozin, 1937 for 13 moves. That game was drawn. This game was also level after twenty moves, and almost symmetrical. Then the fight began. Bellahcene uncorked the shot 30…Nxe4 which looks good, but misses a detail after 31.Nxc4 Nxf2 32.Qd6!

After that white was slightly on top. Black’s pawn structure was in shambles and ripe for the picking. However, in severe time pressure Bellahcene played 38…Nd5?? with one minute on the clock and one move to get another 30 minutes. It was not to be. After 39.Nxd5 exd5 white has 40.Rxd4! when the white pawns will promote. Very intense!

Ahmed Adly had won his second game since losing to top-seed Bassem Amin. He stands on 6/7. Incidentally, Amin was held today by Essam El-Gindy who started slow with 1/3, but now is on a run of 3.5/4. Perhaps his beautiful African shirts are the reasons for his rejuvenation! He split the point rather quickly today in a theoretical Sicilian Rossolimo, most of which had been played before! After 18 moves, they shook hands, and it amounted to a rest day for both players.

Adham Fawzy was hoping for a better showing against Ahmed Adly today, but he was outplayed once again. This game was another Sicilian which left theory fairly early and while the game was dynamically balanced, black had more activity. Adly kept probing and white’s position became a bit disjointed defending so many weaknesses.

Then came 42…Rxb2! and white had no choice but to donate the queen to avoid 43…Rdd2 and being squeezed. After getting three pieces for the queen, white had problems with coordination due to the passed pawns and exposed king. This makes it easier for the fleet-footed queen to pick off material. Ultimately, Adly’s pawns were steamrolling up the board and Fawzy resigned.

Hicham Hamdouchi is a Moroccan and African legend. If he never played another game, his legacy is safe. He may still have a few wins in him, but today would not be that day. In his game against Adlane Arab, he played an ambitious opening with 6…f6 7.Bh4 g5 8. Bg3.

After ten moves, his king had no shelter to speak of. Arab exploited this by sacrificing a pawn to expose the king even more. The Moroccan tried to simplify the position to reduce pressure on his king, but then fell into a petite combinaison losing immediately. Arab seems certain to get a GM norm.

GM Kenny Solomon in a pitched battle with IM Mahfoud Oussedik

South Africa’s Kenny Solomon, who is based in Italy, is the only other player with an undefeated mark after seven rounds. Employing the Old Indian Defense, the game was a strategic struggle before Mahfoud Oussedik sacrificed a critical pawn for no apparent compensation. The South African plowed in and got his first win since the opening round.

In other action, Zoubaier Amdouni continues his solid result with a win over Nigeria’s Oladapu Adu. With a 2400 performance, he is the leading scorer for the host Tunisians losing only to Bellahcene. Zambia’s Andrew Kayonde and Zimbabwe’s Rodwell Makoto have climbed back to the upper half of the table.

The Nigerians have fallen off the pace after hopes to make an impression in the tournament. Femi Balogun is the leading scorer on +1 while Adu and Daniel Anwuli are both at 50%. We haven’t heard much from the Libyan player Abobker Mohamed Elarabi, but he has put together a solid tournament losing only to Egyptians Adly and El-Gindy.

Youngest player Tary Bongo (Gabon) vs. Ausumana Kamara (Sierra Leone)

Top Pairings for Round #8

GM Adly Ahmed (Egypt) – IM Rakotomaharo Fy Antenaina (Madagascar)
IM Arab Adlane (Algeria) – GM Amin Bassem (Egypt)
GM Solomon Kenny (South Africa) – GM Bellahcene Bilel (Algeria)
GM El Gindy Essam (Egypt) – IM Kayonde Andrew (Zambia)
IM Makoto Rodwell (Zimbabwe) – FM Amdouni Zoubaier (Tunisia)


Anticipation of the start of the 7th round!

Beautiful African flags adorn the playing hall
All Photos by Tunisian Chess Federation

Shrook Wafa was looking for a clean sheet in this tournament, but her run was stopped as Amina Mezioud held her despite a two-pawn deficit. As good as Wafa has been in this tournament, she is only one point ahead of the field as Letreche kept within arm’s distance with a convincing win against Ayah Moaataz.

The question now seems to be the order of the medals as there are three players (Amina Mezioud, Eman Elansary and Lina Nassr) with 4.5/7 competing for the silver and bronze medals. There are also five players on +1 who still have a reasonable chance for the bronze.

Round #7 (All Games)

Top Pairings for Round #8

WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt) – WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria)
WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria) – WIM Elansary Eman (Egypt)
WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar) – WIM Mezioud Amina
WIM February Jesse Nikki (South Africa) – WIM Moaataz Ayah
WFM Mwango Lorita (Zambia) – WFM Marzouk Amira (Tunisia)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #6:
Amin on a roll, crushes Fawzy… Adly back in the hunt
Shrook devastating field, 6/6


Another exciting round of chess. Three of the top seeds are back on course and are sitting atop the field with 5/6. The situation may favor Ahmed Adly since he has already played three of the top seeds. He plays Adham Fawzy tomorrow. Neither Bassem Amin nor Bilel Bellahcene have played Hicham Hamdouchi. Amin plays Essam El-Gindy tomorrow while Bellahcene will play the undefeated Fy Rakotomaharo.

In today’s games, Amin totally destroyed Fawzy who must’ve woken up this morning from a bad dream. With the white pieces, Fawzy essayed the Scotch Gambit and unknowingly went into a line where black has a huge plus score. It is surprising that the young GM would play this line against someone of Amin’s caliber. The lines are too concrete and black is generally able to equalize… if he can avoid traps. This game was a complete disaster for Fawzy and by move 15, he was strategically busted.

Adly got back on the winning track with a win over Adlane Arab and his attempt to avoid the “Killer Catalan” with 5…b5!? This move is actually being tested at top level by none other than Viswanathan Anand, Evgeny Alekseev, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The line turned out to be very complicated and Adly showed better preparation and got a lasting advantage even with the queens off. The end of the game is instructive and proves that even with completely equal material, there is something to play for.

Bilel Bellahcene – Mahfoud Oussedik
saw 6.h4!? against the Najdorf

Bellahcene, who was raised in France, has to be quite prepared to face Mahfoud Oussedik’s Najdorf, the main weapon of French player Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Certainly there is a lot of discussion in Najdorf circles about ways to upset the dynamic defense.

The new trend in the Najdorf is after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h4!? It appears that every other pawn move has been played on white’s sixth move (even 6.h3), so this is the latest. The idea is multifaceted and at the least, white can use the move to shore up his bishop on g5. There is also the idea of f3 and g4.. or even f4 and potentially g4!

GM Bilel Bellahcene essaying the latest approach against Najdorf.
Photo by Tunisia Chess Federation

This game was a classical opposite wing battle and lived up to its billing. Without much help the white queen invaded black’s position and wreaked havoc after 27.Qh8+ Bf8 28.Qg8 Bb5 29.c3 Nb6 30.Qe6+ Kd8 31.Qxe5! The game was a clinic on how to catch an opponent flat-footed in preparation. Wonderful game by Bellahcene!

Lastly, there were two similar endings in both sections today. In Miladi-Moaataz and Munenga-Rakotomaharo, there were rook endings with a- and h- pawns remaining for one side. As we segway to the women’s section, let’s look at the positions and see how they evolved.

In the position above, black has to run his king over toward the rook to break the barrier and walk up the board to support the pawn while the rook helps to stop the enemy’s pawns. It is a common theme in rook endings. The rook can sometimes stop up to three pawns if the king is close enough.

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
Photo by Amruta Mokal

This position was very instructive because of the frequency in which rook endings occur and Rakotomaharo showed enough patience to prevent counterplay. The 20-year old IM remains undefeated, but will have a stiff test against Bellahcene tomorrow. He certainly has GM norm aspirations and of course, if he wins the tournament he will get the GM title outright. The Malagasy player won the 4.3 zonal with 8/9 so he is in excellent form.

There were a good number of draws in today’s action. Since there are no rest days, it may be no wonder that fatigue may become a factor. The tournament standings are so critical that blunders as a result of fatigue can change the fortune of the tournament quickly. There were six draws from 21 games. We can expect more in the rounds to come as players become more cautious about their position and title chances.

Top Pairings for Round #7

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) – GM Bellahcene Bilel (Algeria)
GM Amin Bassem (Egypt) – GM Essam El Gindy (Egypt)
GM Fawzy Adham (Egypt) – GM Adly Ahmed (Egypt)
IM Adlane Arab (Algeria) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)
IM Mahfoud Oussedik (Algeria) – GM Solomon Kenny (South Africa)


Back to business. Eleven games played. Eleven games decisive. The bad news is that Shahenda Wafa is all but eliminated from defending her title successfully, but her sister can be an able successor. Shrook Wafa played another sparkling game against Nigeria’s Toritsemuwa Ofowina. The 18.Rxd7! shot was the finsher on 23.Nd7+ black resigned.

Zambia’s Lorita Mwango eliminated the defending champion from contention. Photo by Tunisia Chess Federation

Sabrina Letreche has rebounded after being beaten badly by Wafa on board 1. Not often you get to see mate on the board but this game was decided when Sabine Ravelomanana had an oversight and lost a piece on move 12. There were some tactics in the middlegame and black ended up with three pawns for the piece, but they were trebled on the c-file. Letreche attacked the queenside pawns directly and begin to pick them off. Despite being a piece down, there are still chances to liquidate all pawns and begin counting. Before that happened the Ravelomanana walked into mate.

Miladi-Moaataz had an encounter that ended with an instructive ending. As mentioned earlier Munenga-Rakotomaharo had a similar ending. This was a game to watch because white had more space the entire game before overextending her position. Suddenly, she ended up two pawns down and the Egyptian converted the win comfortably. Ending with a- and h- pawns are hard to defend against with any piece because it is hard to contain them both.

There should be some discussion about the inclusion of a rest day for this tournament in the future. Some of the games in round six were not competitive. The original schedule had a free day for Saturday, but apparently the change in venue required a change in the schedule. It’s unfortunate because this tournament will be very close in the end. The open section will be especially tense the last three rounds.

Round #6 (All Games)

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Top Pairings for Round #7

WIM Mezioud Amina (Algeria) – WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt)
WIM Moaataz Ayah (Egypt) – WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria)
Ofowino Toritsemuwa (Nigeria) – WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria)
WIM Elansary Eman (Egypt) – WFM Miladi Amen (Tunisia)
WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar) – WFM Mwango Lorita (Zambia)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #5:
Amin beats Adly moves back into joint first… Shrook Wafa on 5/5


GM Hesham Abdelrahman has exited the tournament after five rounds. The 2016 African Champion suffered three losses and one can only imagine that something is not well with the Egyptian player. Takaedza Chipanga of Zimbabwe also exited the tournament after forfeiting his last game. More details on these developments as they become available. We wish the best for them in the future.

In round five action, the situation has become very intense at the half-way mark. It’s now a five-way tie after top seed Bassem Amin toppled Ahmed Adly. In this Egyptian derby, they battled in a Rossolimo and the queens came off after 14 moves. The position was a bit imbalanced, but white had the better structure.

GM Bassem Amin vs. GM Ahmed Adly, 1-0

As white’s knights held sway over black’s territory, Adly sacrifice a pawn to free his bishop. Amin pocketed the pawn, but later Another skirmish broke out. When the smoke cleared white had three passed pawns for a knight. It appears in this position Adly should be able to hold (after 52.Rxh6), but his knight begin to wander around on the queenside and even gobbled a b2-pawn… far away from the steamrolling fgh-pawns.

As it turned out the pawns were simply too fast and Amin finished off with a cute 71.Rxe8! Adly may have missed a chance to maintain his one point lead against the field. With four rounds remaining it will be a dog fight.

Adham Fawzy has been in good form so far. The relatively-new Grandmaster has long been one of the bright talents in Africa and is perhaps remembered for his sparkling win against Parham Maghadsoodloo which included a queen sacrifice.

IM Adham Fawzy

GM Adham Fawzy
Photo by

In Hamdouchi-Fawzy, white was very unambitious in the opening and allowed black to equalize quickly. As black begin to mobilize for a kingside onslaught, the Moroccan had to sacrifice a pawn to free his position. Both sides kept sacrificing pawns to gain time and the game was very dynamic. Then the tactically-alert Fawzy uncorked 33…Bxf3! and all of a sudden, black was completely winning. Black won yet another pawn and after a few more moves the Moroccan had seen enough. Hamdouchi has yet to find his footing, yet he is only a point out of contention.

Bilel Bellahcene faced Andrew Kayonde’s Caro Kann and the strategical battle ended in the Algerian’s favor. In the middlegame with most of the pieces still in play, white started to find crack’s in black’s position and after 37.Bf5! black scrambled to plug up the holes. It was too late. White had already netted two pawns… then a third. The Grandmaster then sacrificed an exchange for a fourth pawn. In the end, the pawns were more than enough to secure the point.

In other games, Adlane Arab beat Achraf Hbacha to remained undefeated. The wily veteran is seeking to remain in the hunt and it seeking to vault closer to 2500. He faced his opponents Stonewall Dutch, but had to grind out a win in a fascinating rook ending. Looking at the ending, it’s hard to understand how black could lose such a game. Take a look.

Mahfoud Oussedik scored against Nigeria’s Femi Balogun to remain undefeated and only a half-point off the pace. Fy Rakotomaharo split the point with Kenny Solomon in a very typical intense Sicilian battle. Douglas Munenga of Zambia beat Chukwunonso Oragwu to also pull within half-point of the lead (3.5/5 with Oussedik and Rakotomaharo).

GM Kenny Solomon (South Africa)
Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

Zambia is without question one of the strongest African federations. Home to the Amon Simutowe, the first African GM south of the Sahara, they have a number of hopefuls looking to score the title. While IMs like Daniel Jere and Chitumbo Mwali are not on the trip, they have more than enough. Stanley Chumfwa is one of the long-standing veterans and his win over the promising Angolan David Silva put him just a point of contention. Speaking of Zambians Prince Mulenga suffered three losses, but has scored two wins including a win over compatriot Musatwe Simutowe.

One intriguing story (besides the father and son duo from Gabon) is the upset of Hesham Abdelraham (2417). Nigeria’s Sasha Winston-Onyiah (1968) beat the Egyptian GM bringing to question the state of his health. Three losses to players 2191, 2248 and 1968 is extremely unusual. Even at his worse form, such an event is unlikely to occur. Nevertheless, it may show that the rating pool remains depressed in Africa and such lower-rated players are far above their advertised rating.

Round #5 (Selected Games – Open)

At the halfway mark, there are the rankings…

Top Pairings for Round #6

GM Adham Fawzy (Egypt) – GM Bassem Amin (Egypt)
GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) – IM Adlane Arab (Algeria)
GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) – IM Mahfoud Oussedik (Algeria)
FM Douglas Munenga (Zambia) – IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
FM Oussama Douissa (Tunisia) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)


Jesse February faced the wrath of Shrook Wafa’s Dragon Sicilian.
Photo by Tunisian Chess Federation

Again… the women’s field only had two decisive results. Surprisingly, players with the black pieces scored 9/11. Shrook Wafa has been in good form. Following her demolition of Amina Mezioud, she obliterated Jesse February with her pet Dragon. The game was actually following many theoretical discussions from the past. All the moves up until February’s 16.Bd4?? had been played before. The finish is brutal.

Sabrina Letreche and Amen Miladi produced one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Pieces zipped around the board and at some points it appears as if someone emptied a container and dropped pieces on the board. In this tactical slugfest, both sides missed chances, but what more can be expected in this Sicilian games.

The game started as a Paulsen and white adopted the Maroczy Bind. Black was fixing for a fight after 8…d5!? This game exploded in the middlegame and the evals definitely changed from move-to-move. White’s king safety was more important than any material advantage it had since black’s pieces were well-placed and ready to enter battle. Letreche did well to hold the position and dodged many bullets. It would remind one of Neo in the movie, Matrix.

Watch this battle and hold onto your hats!

What an adrenaline rush!

So many of the women players are opting for the London System. It’s not clear if they are seeking to avoid the huge volumes of preparation, but it is not going to be an opening that you can hope to get much of an advantage. Shahenda Wafa is defending her title, but had already lost to Amina Mezioud. She needed a win to keep pace with her sister who is in great form. Toritsemuwa Ofowino, the 4.4 women’s zonal champion, is looking for greater opportunities in chess and is perhaps extra-motivated to have a good showing.

Wafa trotted out the London System and black had no problem equalizing the position. Wafa was confident as the Elo favorite and her 32.Kc1 was to prevent a trade. In fact, white should have been happy to trade queens. Wafa got her king stuck in the center of the board with heavy pieces trolling the board. Ofowina’s 41…d4! was a powerful move exposing the white king to danger.

Black ended up with passed a- and h-pawns which the lone white bishop and king would never be able to stop, but the Nigerian allowed white to keep her rook with 58…c5 instead of trading down with 58…Rxd4! when white can resign in a few moves. Ofowino managed to win the game and is now joint second with three other players on 3.5/5.

Round #5 (All Games – Women)

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Top Pairings for Round #6

WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt) – Ofowino Toritsemuwa (Nigeria)
WIM Latreche Sabrina (Algeria) – WFM Ravelomanana Sabine (Madagascar)
WFM Miladi Amen (Tunisia) – WIM Moaataz Ayah (Egypt)
WIM Mezioud Amina (Algeria) – WFM Marzouk Amira (Tunisia)
WIM Nassr Lina (Algeria) – WIM February Jesse Nikki (South Africa)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #4:
Adly and Shrook win… both lead the field on 4/4


Tunisia is sizzling right now. It is not the heat of the weather, but it is the action at Hotel Caribbean. After the top seed went down yesterday, the player who beat lost to Ahmed Adly leaving him with the only perfect score.

GM Ahmed Adly five years ago in Tromso, Norway.
Will he be able to take the world stage again?
Photo by David Llada

Adly trotted out a Catalan and Bellahcene entered a sharp line entailing a pawn sacrifice with 7…Nc6!? 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.Nxc6, but must have forgotten his preparation. Black would give up a pawn for the two bishops, never got enough and his compromised structure suffered. In the ensuing endgame, black had a lot more space but a compromised pawn structure. Eventually white collected a few pawns and was able to push for the win.

Interestingly enough, none of the seven GMs qualified for second board which was a battle of International Masters. Both Andrew Kayonde and Fy Rakotomaharo have shown considerable talent on the international stage and aspirants for the GM title. Both both having led their respective countries in the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Kayonde became a sensation for drawing with Vassily Ivanchuk.

Andrew Kayonde battling Fy Rakotomaharo, 1/2
Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

In their game, the Zambian trotted out a type of London System and the player from Madagascar adopted a very solid setup before lashing out with 18…f5. It seemed to be the typical race on the wings… white trying to crash through on the queenside and black trying to checkmate on the kingside. In the tense battle, white decided to sacrifice the exchange with 33.Rc6, but did not gain an advantage. The game later clarified in a drawn knight ending.

Bassem Amin got back on track with a masterful endgame technique against Zambia’s Stanley Chumfwa.

Hicham Hamdouchi also won his game against Nigerian hopeful Daniel Anwuli. While Adham Fawzy and Essam El-Gindy contributed to the resurgence of the GMs, Hesham Abdelrahman lost again to FM Oussama Douissa of Tunisia. The Tunisians have been defending their flag quite well.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy
Photo by James Mwangi

Overall the field remains tight with Adly on 4/4 but a pack of eight players follow on 3/4. Adly will face Amin in round 5 which means he will have faced the top three in the field. Lot of interesting battle on tap!

Round #4 (Selected Games – Open)

Round #5

GM Bassem Amin (Egypt) – GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt)
GM Hicham Hamdouchi MAR – GM Adham Fawzy (Egypt)
GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) – IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia)
IM Adlane Arab (Algeria) – IM Achraf Hbacha (Tunisia)
IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) – GM Solomon Kenny (South Africa)


Very nice head coverings and flowers over here!

The women field had two draws in round four. That is the most draws in any of the four rounds. Maybe someone should punish them for too many draws! The reality is that as more games are played people are finding their form and the players are more than likely facing their equals. Unfortunately for the African field, Shrook Wafa has not found her equal yet.

Wafa won her fourth game in a complete demolition of black. This was absolutely poor preparation by black as she opted to capture a pawn only to allow a winning initiative right in the opening. After 16.e6, black was already in dire straits. Latreche had to resign in only 22 moves.

Jesse February continues as she dealt Amina Mezioud her second loss. Black opted for a French and it went into a mainline, but white released the tension too early with 6.dxc5 and allowed easy equality. After 11.Ne5?! black was fighting for the initiative. With white on the retreat, black struck with 16…Ne4 breaking all resistance. In Ravelomanana-Moaataz, it is hard to understand how the game transpired, but black appears winning after 41…d4! This was the last move given and the game was drawn.

It appears that some of the players are not fully prepared in the openings, especially with the white pieces. Lina Nassr (1982) was upset by Amira Marzouk (1667) after being outplayed in the middlegame. Her play against white’s hanging pawns was instructive. She unleashed a small combination winning a pawn with the alert 24…Nxd4! 25.Bxd4 Rxd4! 26.Rxd4 Nc3 and the ushered her pawn advantage to victory.

There are still many rounds remaining and there are some interesting matchups for the next round…

Round #4 (All Games – Women)

Round #5

WIM Jesse Nikki February (South Africa) – WGM Shrook Wafa (Egypt)
WIM Sabrina Latreche (Algeria) – WFM Amen Miladi (Tunisia)
WGM Shahenda Wafa (Egypt) – Toritsemuwa Ofowino (Nigeria)
WIM Eman Elansary (Egypt) – WFM Sabine Ravelomanana (Madagascar)
WIM Ayah Moaataz (Egypt) – WFM Lorita Mwango (Zambia)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

The World Open has been a fixture in the American chess circuit for 47 editions. Bill Goichberg and his staff have turned it into a franchise, and it remains a big draw. The tournament routinely draws 1000+ players from around the world hence the tournament’s name. There was always an intrigue to see who will show up from one year to the next.

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

The talented Jeffery Xiong represents the new face of open tournaments in the U.S. These tournaments have been overtaken by young, well-prepared and fearless scholastic and collegiate players. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

In 2003, I ran an article titled, “The Magic of the World Open.” In that article I wrote,

The playing site is a literal festival as players and their guests are milling about. The electricity can be felt from excitement. Many reunions are made between players who have not seen each other since the last World Open or perhaps many years. There is always smile, laughter and excitement… at least in the beginning of the tournament.

I continued…

During the tournament, there is the usual “star-gazing” at some of the world’s best chess players. It is interesting to see Grandmasters enter the skittles room to analyze a game in full view. This type of accessibility is usually not afforded to the average player, but the conditions of the hotel make it possible. The food vendors outside the playing area also add to the informal atmosphere as all types of players fill up on hotdogs, pizza, chips and soda in between rounds. After the tournament last year, GM Maurice Ashley took off his suit and was seen playing hacky-sack with a group of his fans. He then played a round of pickup soccer outside the hotel! At what other U.S. tournament can you have this type of atmosphere?

Philadelphia’s Adams Mark

This tournament was also (and still is) a tournament of dreams. Many players aspire to win a five-figure prize, but also to earn norms or walk away with a heap of rating points. If not that, there is always the social side of it. The old Adams Mark Hotel had a nostalgic feel and was perfect for such an event. There was plenty of room for socializing, and there was not usually a problem with noise in the playing hall. Of course, this was before the massive surge in scholastic players at open tournaments.

I have been to about 20 World Open tournaments, including a couple where I was a spectator. The first visit was in 1990 when I tagged along with Jerry Bibuld and Maurice Ashley during the summer I lived in New York. It was important because I saw a number of Black masters including Wilbert Paige, Alfred Carlin, and Norman Rogers for the first time. Emory Tate and Stephen Muhammad were also there. It was also at this tournament that I revealed my plan for starting a communication vehicle that would later become The Chess Drum.

I have fond memories of the old Adams Mark site which carried a mystique. The skittles room was always on fire and something interesting going on like a blitz battle between GMs, friendly reunions or one of Emory Tate’s theatrical postmortems. I will never forget the postmortem of his game with Sergey Kudrin, a 24-move crush of the strong GM. There was a coliseum of players watching his entertaining display, and afterward, he received generous applause.

FM Emory Tate showing Kudrin-Tate at 2000 World Open. There were easily 30 people watching. This photo was taken standing on a chair. The audience remained at rapt attention up until the last move. As he rose to leave the room, a thunderous applause broke out! Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Hikaru Nakamura at the 2004 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

GM Hikaru Nakamura at the 2004 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

One of the other attractions of the World Open is that top players were attracted to the tournament and occasionally a Chinese or Indian delegation of several players would show up. Times have changed, and the top 100 GMs are not taking a special trip to come to the World Open. There are several reasons, but it is simply a tougher tournament to play in given the expense and the amount of preparation everyone is doing at all levels. Lastly, some foreign players complain about the lack of professional conditions in American tournaments.

IM Tania Sachdev. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

India’s IM Tania Sachdev was one of the members of the large Indian contingent in 2012. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Nigerians & two friends: (L-R) Charles Campbell, Iyobebe Owolo Hanson, Precious Acheru, Efemuai Odafe Benedict, Uche Agu, Daaim Shabazz, Lolomari E. George, Robert Asibor, Vanita Young and Paul Obiwame. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Nigerians & two friends at 2014 World Open (L-R) Charles Campbell, Iyobebe Owolo Hanson, Precious Acheru, Efemuai Odafe Benedict, Uche Agu, Daaim Shabazz, Lolomari E. George, Robert Asibor, Vanita Young and Paul Obiwame.

Strong GMs used to be able to show up at the World Open and be reasonably sure they’d take home a prize. Today there is not enough incentive to justify such a long trip if one has to compete against juniors with fully-indexed databases, GM coaches and their 3500-rated engines.

Yoshiru Habu at 2006 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

There used to be the air of camaraderie between GMs and other players. In the past ten years, rarely do you see GMs enter the skittles room and analyze because everyone will discuss at the board briefly and then go input the game in the database as part of the preparation for later rounds. It was an absolute marvel to see two Grandmasters conducting a postmortem analysis. With so much emphasis on computer preparation, there seems to be less interaction.

In years past, the interaction was fairly easy and you had a chance to meet some interesting people. In 2006, Yoshiru Habu played in the World Open. If you don’t know who he is, he is a many time World Champion of shogi. In fact, that is precisely how Maurice Ashley described him when he mentioned playing Habu in another tournament. “He’s the Kasparov of shogi.” At that tournament, I asked him for an interview, and he graciously accepted.

Yoshiru Habu at the 2006 World Open

So has the magic been lost? Well, that is not a “yes” or “no” question. Let’s say the magic is displayed a bit differently. Before engines became an essential tool of tournament players, the vast experience of a Grandmaster-level player was enough to wade through the venomous Swiss system.

“You can’t play this way anymore. You can’t bluff a computer. Everybody works with a computer now, and defense techniques are so improved. It’s no wonder that my peak came at a time when computers were not strong yet.”

~Alexander Shabalov

There was a time in the U.S. when many of the top players were veteran emigres from the former Soviet Union, and they dominated many of the open tournaments for nearly two decades. There were many perfunctory draws given, but a new generation of players arose. Hikaru Nakamura was one such brash player who came with a “kill or be killed” mentality in the mid-2000s. No easy draws! As there was more reliance on computer preparation, many from the old guard had problems adapting.

Alexander Shabalov at 2019 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Now everyone has a chess engine, but there are other ways players are trying to find balance in chess. I recently read an article about Alexander Shabalov and his preparation for the U.S. Senior Invitational. Everyone who has been playing in U.S. tournaments for at least the last ten years will know “Shabba” and his collection of attacking gems. However, he has had to seek a different path to regain the magic.

His regiment involves immersing himself in a sensory deprivation tank for deep meditation and yoga sessions. Shabalov was known for his effective play in Swiss systems and adopted a swashbuckling, tactical style in the tradition of Latvian legend and former World Champion, Mikhail Tal. Here is what he said:

“You can’t play this way anymore,” Shabalov said. “You can’t bluff a computer. Everybody works with a computer now, and defense techniques are so improved. It’s no wonder that my peak came at a time when computers were not strong yet.”

“It’s a young person’s game now,” Shabalov said. “Because of computers, you don’t need a coach anymore.”

“I wish I was born 50 years later,” said Shabalov. “Now is a really exciting time to be a young chess player because the sky is the limit. There are no restrictions. You might be born in a godforsaken place, but you can still teach yourself how to play. One of the strongest players in the United States, Wesley So, is from a very poor family in the Philippines. He became the No. 2 chess player in the world.”

Amazing and insightful. Of course, you still need more than a computer to become a strong player, but the example of So is appropriate. What is intriguing is that you have a former U.S. Champion talking about the changes of tournament play in the U.S. and he is 100% correct.

Young players have also become incredibly stout defenders. During the 2015 World Open, Marc Esserman was showing a game he played months earlier against Awonder Liang. Esserman wrote the famous book on the Morra Gambit, Mayhem in the Morra. As Liang showed in their encounter, such mayhem at the expense of black is not going to come easily.

In the aforementioned game, Marc Esserman essayed the Morra Gambit against 12-year old Awonder Liang months earlier at the Philadelphia Open. Black declined and the game turned into a c3 Sicilian. White still got a vicious attack and it appears black is being mated by Rf3-h3xh5. (diagram 1) What would you play to stave off the attack? Looks grim. Marveling at Liang’s defensive skills, an animated Esserman banged down the computeresque 26…Rg8! (diagram 2) It was not a one off move since the young phenom had to foresee this attack developing. (GAME)

I have witnessed a number of norms earned at World Open including one by IM Stephen Muhammad who seemed to shine at the World Open tournament. Of course, Emory Tate would always produce at least one memorable game during the World Open (see 2007 World Open game). These days, it is the youth who are challenging GMs and gaining attention for their World Open Magic. Jeffery Xiong shocked Grandmasters to win the 2015 Chicago Open and was the co-winner of this year’s World Open tournament with Le Quang Liem.

I have also watched other players grow from scholastic players into young adults. I remember seeing both Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana at various World Opens sharpening their fighting skills. Now it is horde of young players like Xiong. One is amazed that players no longer fear or defer a point to Grandmasters. At the recent World Open I saw IM Joshua Sheng battle Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon in Q+Q+3P vs. Q+R+B+N+P. The game attracted a huge crowd and Sheng looked as cool as a cucumber.

IM Joshua Sheng

Tense battle… Sheng on the move, but Bruzon bearing down!

A large crowd watches the action.

The game was drawn!

What does this mean? Chess magic is still in Philadelphia on 4th of July weekend. There are some issues that need attention. Firstly, the noise level is too much. With half of the tournament consisting of scholastic players, there needs to be more of an effort to control the noise right outside the tournament hall. The playoff game between Jeffery Xiong and Le Quang Liem was played amidst a noise-filled hall with a tournament director shouting instructions for the blitz tournament.

Secondly, there needs to be enforced guidelines for parent/coach interaction with their children/students during competition. Unlike scholastic tournaments, parents are allowed to remain in the tournament hall, and stand by the boards. These relationships are crucial to the child’s development, but in competitions, there has to be some boundaries.

There was an unfortunate situation at 2016 Philadelphia Open of a parent following a player into the bathroom they suspected to be cheating. This parent allegedly peeked into the stall! When the player emerged, they questioned them about a phone. Strangely, his child was not the opponent and he had no official capacity to question the boy. Let’s ensure that these parent-player or coach-player interactions meet acceptable guidelines.

Coach Tyrell Harriott giving words of wisdom to his player, Isiah.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

It may very well be that the World Open is a totally different tournament with the amount of junior players it has now. It has a different feel, but that’s fine. We want children to play, but we also want more adults playing. Let’s ensure that we keep the tournament adult-friendly as well. That way legendary players like Larry Gilden and John Fedorowicz will come back to play next year.

What is beautiful about the World Open is that memories are formed and history is being made. Everyone has the chance to bring their magic to the World Open. Whether that is a beautiful game, a strong result, a handsome prize or simply meeting a lot of great people. However you define your mission, let us make magic!

See you next year!

Tournament Website:
PGN Games:
World Open (Drum Coverage): 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001

Round #3:
Tournament heats up… top seed Bassem Amin goes down!


It was “Fire on Board” at the 2019 African Championships as the top two boards saw titanic struggles lead to decisive results. Amin-Ballahcene and Hamdouchi-Adly represented three different generations of chess.

GM Bassem Amin battling upstart GM Bilel Ballahcene
Photo by Tunisian Chess Federation

Last year Bilel Bellahcene transferred his affiliation from France to Algeria and played top board at the 2018 Chess Olympiad. He was actually born in Strasbourg, France and was one of their top juniors winning five junior titles and the under-16 World Blitz Championship. Along with Hamdouchi’s return to Morocco, the African field has gotten more competitive.

GM Bilel Bellahcene
Photo by Kim Bhari

Bellahcene sat down to play black against African ace Bassem Amin who sits on an 2707 Elo. The game started as a French, but then transposed into a type of Closed Sicilian. The Algerian played energetically and a middlegame skirmish ensued. After 33…Rg7 34.Qh1 black played 33…Nxe5!? to get at white’s exposed king.

The beauty was that black had a passed b-pawn which tied up white’s army, so the Egyptian sacrificed an exchange for an absolutely crazy position. When the position clarified, black had an extra exchange and pawn. Ballahcene then broke all resistance after sacrificing back the exchange for a pawn, thus netting two pawns. The rest was trivial.

In Hamdouchi-Amin, the game begin 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6!? known as the Nimzovich Sicilian. The Egyptian most likely sidestepping preparation and the deep experience of his opponent. The game ended up with several imbalances and in the middlegame, black decided that it was time to seek initiative on the kingside, but the Moroccan sought to simply by trading queens. Black uncorked 38…Ne3+! forcing white to backtrack. With mounting pressure, white could no longer hold the position together. After the cute 49…Rxf2+! 50.Rxf2 Ne3+ black was able to get a winning initiative.

GM Hicham Hamdouchi facing the younger African Lion GM Ahmed Adly

Adly has always been a difficult opponent because he plays very enterprising chess where he takes you away from main lines and outplays you. When he sees the initiative, he comes with full force and it’s hard to stop the momentum. With his win and Amin’s loss, the field is wide open. There is still a matter of upsets down the road as the hyenas are prowling among the lions.

In other action, the other three GMs got -1 for the day as both Kenny Solomon and Adham Fawzy were held and Essam El-Gindy lost. Albeit, IM Adlane Arab weighs 100 more Elo than Solomon, so it was a fair result for both. In a GM upset, Tunisia’s Zoubaier Amdouni (2248) toppled El-Gindy (2423) as the Egyptian GM remains winless in three games.

To demonstrate how wide open this tournament is, Bellahcene and Adly are on 3/3 and the next 15 players are within a point of the lead. IMs Fy Rakotomaharo and Andrew Kayonde both won their games and stand at 2.5/3. They will face each other in the next round. The fourth round should also be interesting as both Amin and Hamdouchi will try to rebound from losses.

Round #3 (Selected Games – Open)

Round #4

GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) – GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria)
IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia) – IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
IM Stanley Chumfwa (Zambia) – GM Bassem Amin (Egypt)
IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) – GM Hicham Hamdouchi (Morocco)
FM Simplice Degondo (Ivory Coast) – IM Adlane Arab (Algeria)


Tops boards yield decisive results!
Aishat Ibrahim (Nigeria) vs. Jesse February (South Africa)
Photos courtesy of Tunisian Chess Federation

Another round of bloody chess in the women’s field. Out of 11 matches only one ended peacefully… between two Tunisians. The rest of the players were in a fighting mood. Many of the top women in Africa have already won the continental title, but that does not stop them from having the hunger needed to perform well. With Egypt’s Mona Khaled having made way for the newer generation.

Shrook Wafa continued her march with another win over her compatriot Ayah Moaataz. Sabrina Latreche beat an ambitious Lorita Mwango who was coming off of a win over Amina Mezioud. So Wafa and Latrech are the only players with 3/3. Mezioud recovered by beating the defending champion Shahenda Wafa. There is still lots of time to make up ground. Upsets are lurking in the tournament hall.

Round #3 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #2:
Tense battles in Open Section… Lorita Mwango breaks through!


One of the truths about African chess is you never really know how strong a player from the continent is. The idea that Africans play in so few international tournaments is lost on the fact that the continent is awash is talent. In more recent times, strong players in the first round of Olympiad tournaments have found out the hard way.

For the African Championships, even some African GMs discover hidden landmines and upsets are inevitable. Nigeria’s Chukswunonso Oragwu (2191) faced Hesham Abdelrahman (2417), 2016 African Champion and was able grind out a win to collect the first GM scalp of the tournament.

GM Hesham Abdelrahman being hunted by FM Chuks Oragwu
Photo by Amira Marzouk (Algeria)

Several GMs have already ceded draws and Essam El-Gindy (2423) was held for the second time. Kenny Solomon (2375) split the point with his compatriot Calvin Klaasen. The rest of the GMs scored wins. Here is one from the former African (and French) Champion, Hicham Hamdouchi and Adham Fawzy’s miraculous escape:

There were rating upsets as well with draws occurring between players with 200-point difference. Zambia’s Prince Mulenga (2279) lost to Winston-Onyiah Sasha (1968) and Ethiopia’s Mesfin Leykun (2160) held Mahfoud Oussedik (2440).

Round 3 will finally feature GM clashes as Bassem Amin will face Bilel Bellahcene and Hicham Hamdouchi will face Ahmed Adly.


Zambia’s Lorita Mwango (right) pressing forward against Amina Mezioud
Photo by Amira Marzouk (Algeria)

Lorita Mwango (1931) has done it again! The Zambian has continued to upset the tables in Africa and upset the 3rd seeded Amina Mezioud (2128) of Algeria. She is now on 2/2 with three other players. Defending champion Shahenda Wafa (2175) was also slowed by Lina Nassr (1982) who ably held her to a draw.

Round #2 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

Round #1: Tournament starts off with a few nicks

Venue for the 2019 African Individual Chess Championships


In general the top seeds prevailed… except for one result. IM Rodwell Makoto got a taste of home cooking with a loss to an unheralded Tunisian Jmila Omar. Nevertheless, it is a long tournament and it is much better to suffer these in the beginning when the overall result is still in doubt. In fact, there will mostly likely be more upsets in early rounds when players may not be as alert and recovering from travel.

GM Bassem Amin readying to play Prince Daniel Mulenga of Zambia. GM Ahmed Adly poses for a photo and GM Hicham Hamdouchi waits for Tunisian IM, Achraf Hbacha.

All of the 2500+ players won their games without incident, but there were a few rating upsets with Fawzy (2476) being held by Angolan International Master David Silva (2246). Tunisia’s Yacine Barbaria (2210) held IM Mahfoud Oussedik (2440) and Nigeria’s Chukwunonso Oragwu (2191) split the point with GM El-Gindy (2423).

Here is the upset win of the round…


The opening move is made at the board of Algeria’s Amina Mezioud’s board.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Hesham Elgendy

The women’s field was about almost perfect in terms of the expected results. All eleven games were decisive with the rating favorite coming out victorious. The next round will be a lot more competitive and most likely contain an upset or two. The games for the second round will result in an accelerated pairing with many of the contenders playing each other. Sometimes it is good to play the strongest players first.

The women’s field is quite small, but eleven federations is a positive development. In the continuing discussion of equality in chess, it appears that there is a lot to be done raise the interest level of girls and women. It is a worldwide issue, but perhaps many girls now find the game appealing.

Round #1 (All Games – Women)

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

This has been an outstanding year for African chess thus far. With successful subzonals held, new zone format and the groundbreaking Grand Chess Tour held in Abidjan, there is hope that this just may be the “African Century.” The momentum continues in Tunis, Tunisia where the 2019 African Individual is being held. It is the home of the first Grandmaster from the African continent in Slim Bouaziz (1993).

The field this year is the strongest in many years with seven GMs and 13 IMs. While Arkady Dvorkovich’s initiative to spread chess to developing regions can be applauded, what is happening on the continent is simply and natural evolution during a time when information acquisition and online competition is widely available.

GM Bassem Amin
Photo by David Llada

Since Bassem Amin won his 5th title last year, Egypt has gained another Grandmaster in Adham Fawzy and Algeria has a young GM in 21-year old Bilel Bellahcene. Bellahcene won the 4.1 zone with a 9-0 score! Another young player to watch in Madagascar FIDE Master Fy Rakotomaharo who won the 4.3 zone with an 8/9 score.

One of the returnees to the championship is 11-time Moroccan champion Hichem Hamoudouchi who was once the continent’s strongest player. Hamdouchi moved to France, switched his federation, got married to WGM Adina-Maria Bogza and became French national champion in 2013. He later moved to Qatar and changed his federation back to his native affiliation. He bolsters a powerful lineup with Egypt’s Amin and Ahmed Adly, his successors in carrying the African mantle. Hamdouchi was the first player on the continent to eclipse 2600 and Amin was the first player to pass the 2700 mark. Egypt’s Essam El-Gindy and South Africa’s Kenny Solomon round out the field of Grandmasters.

CIV Invitational - Round 1 - IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia)

IM Andrew Kayonde of Zambia looks to join the World Cup field
Photos by Alina L’Ami

With this year being a World Cup qualifier, 44 hopefuls have assembled in Tunis for the last two spots. Bellahcene (winner of subzonal 4.1), Adly (winner of subzonal 4.2), Rakotomaharo (winner of subzonal 4.3) have already qualified. Twenty-two year old IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria), who won subzonal 4.4 has also qualified. The World Cup will take place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from 9 September to 4 October 2019.

Eighteen federations have sent players with host Tunisia fielding seven, Nigeria with six and Zambia with four in the Open Section. The event should see quite a few upsets as this is one of the few opportunities for players to face GM-level competition on Africa soil.

The women’s section has 22 players from 11 federations with host Tunisia carrying five players. Egypt’s Shahenda Wafa will defend her crown as the top seed with her older sister Shrook Wafa, a two-time champion. Both Egypt and Algeria occupy the top seven slots and have dominated the continental championships in the past 15 years.

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women's Champion

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women’s Champion

With Zambia’s Lorita Mwango seeded 8th at 1931, she will look to upset the tables as she did a few years back with several upset wins. Jesse February of South Africa and 4.4 zonal champion Toritsemuwa Ofowino of Nigeria have high hopes.

Note: There is no official website, but several websites (i.e., Africa Chess Media and Kenya Chess Masala) will be covering the action with The Chess Drum. There is also the African Chess Confederation (ACC) Facebook page.

Drum Coverage:
Chess-Results: (Open, Women)
PGN Games: (Open, Women)

The 47th World Open ended in an exciting tiebreak with Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem winning over Jeffery Xiong. Both ended the tournament with a sterling 7.5/9. Five players following on 7/9 were: GMs Hrant Melkumyan, Ray Robson, Aleksandr Lenderman, Saven Andirasian and Fidel Corrales Jimenez. More than 1000 players trekked across the U.S. to compete in this marquee tournament.

Le Quang Liem faces Illia Nyzhnyk while Jeffery Xiong faces IM Andrew Hong. GM Isan Ortiz watches the action. Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Illia Nyzhnyk actually bolted out to the lead with 4/4 and 5.5/6. He then suffered consecutive losses including one to his friend and teammate Le Quang Liem. The two played last year when the Vietnamese player had the advantage only to blunder into mate by exposing his king. Nyzhnyk went on to win the 2018 World Open title. As fate would have it, Le exacted revenge by taking advantage of Nyzhnyk’s exposed king!

Xiong kept pace with an important win over IM Andrew Hong, who was having a strong tournament. Robson, Lenderman, Andriasian and Jimenez all won in round 7.

Fidel Corrales beat Vasif Durarbayli
putting him in joint first after seven rounds.

Le-Xiong would be a gripping Ruy Lopez. Ortiz watches as he waits for Jimenez.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

In the penultimate round, Xiong and Le faced on board 1. The game was a Ruy Lopez their encounter earlier that day in a gripping struggle that saw Le seize an initiative only to let it slip. In a post-tournament interview with USChess Online, Xiong stated that he was fortunate to save the game. In other action, Corrales won his fifth game in a row over fellow Cuban Grandmaster Isan Ortiz and had pulled into first place going into the last round with 7/8. Both Le and Xiong were on 6.5/8.

U.S. Hall-of-Famer, GM John Fedorowicz
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The last round was bloody with six decisive results on the top boards. Jimenez lost to Xiong knocking him out of contention while Le took care of Quesada. One game that had a bit of intrigue was Ray Robson playing John Fedorowicz. Chess fans may remember that James Tarjan, another American legend of the 70s, made a recent comeback and beat Vladimir Kramnik at Isle of Man. Fedorowicz was the next of the “Old School” to square off against the younger generation of players. He won his first World Open in 1977 as an 18-year old when first place was $3,000.00.

This is definitely a battle between generations and “Big John” or “Fed” was a legendary player of the 70s and 80s rising in the same manner that his young opponent did… through the scholastic ranks. Both were part of an era of players… Fedorowicz was one of the products of the “Fischer Boom” and Robson part of the new computer age in chess. Both are Olympiad medalists with Fedorowicz winning a team silver in 1990 Novi Sad and team bronze in 1986 Dubai. Robson won silver in 2018 Batumi and the historic gold in 2016 Baku.

Their game was a Sicilian, a nostalgic opening very much in vogue in the 70s and 80s. One can clearly see the impact of computer preparation in Robson’s play. Fedorowicz never fully equalized even after sacrificing pawns for activity. It was a rather clean win for Robson. Despite the loss the U.S. Hall of Famer acquitted himself quite well. He scored wins over Aleksandr Lenderman and Aram Hakobyan. His 6/9 was a fantastic result given his inactivity.

It seems interesting that in the past it was the former Soviet emigres who were winning the top places in the major events. Now they are dominated by foreign players who are attending American universities. Not to mention that the open section is crowded with hungry scholastic players who are looking for IM and GM norms.

Not long ago Jeffrey Xiong was in that crowd. Now at 18, he has entered the upper echelon of U.S. players now at #6. He caused a sensation in 2015 by winning the Chicago Open (as an IM) and is now was the co-winner of the 2019 World Open. Both he and Le finished on 7.5/9 and were set to play the tiebreaker to see who would get the title and the additional $500.00.

Le Quang Liem and Jeffery Xiong chat before tiebreaker.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

As the crowd assembled around the board, there was an apparent delay in starting the match. Le and Xiong stood by the board in a rather amicable conversation about the previous game. Dr. Wayne Xiong was on hand to watch his son battle. Xiong had the better tiebreaks so he choose to take the white pieces. After the tournament director explained the rules to both players, the players settled in their chairs and here is what happened.

Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

The tournament was festive as usual with more than 1000 players. Unfortunately, there were complaints about the noise levels. In fact, watching the video you can hear the crescendo of noise in the background. At one point Xiong shook his head perhaps reacting to the buzz of children in the background. The tiebreak was held concurrently in the same room with the blitz tournament. In addition, the regular rounds also had noise issues and cell phones of non-competitors went off on occasion. Also in the back there was a lot of noise just outside the doors where people were congregating.

Market Street, Downtown Philadelphia

As far as parents and coaches are concerned, it is understandable that they escort children and students to the board, see the opponent, make sure their child/student fills out the score sheet, and give their last pep talk. However, if they linger around, they can get in the way of the other players trying to find their boards. After the round has started, many non-competitors remain around the boards. Perhaps there needs to be announcements to non-competitors in open tournaments to ensure the environment is kept free of congestion and distractions.

The World Open is changing before our eyes. In the days of the Adams Mark Hotel, the players were much older. Now approximately half of the tournament is scholastic players. There will have to be changes in how the tournament is managed to keep up with the changing demographics and expectations and demands of the diverse crowd.

For now, the World Open is still a popular tournament with plenty of side events and maintains a festive and family-friendly atmosphere. It is where chess dreams sometimes come true. Norms, scalps and personal best performances are often achieved here. Despite the heartbreaking sights of homelessness and mental illness in downtown area, the iconic city still remains a great host. The Magic of the World Open still remains.

Section Winners (Nine Rounds)

Open: Le Quang Liem, Jeffery Xiong, 7.5
Under-2200: Rocky Pabalan, 8.5
Under-2000: Joshua Lewis-Sandy, 8.0
Under-1800: Rama Yalavarthi, 8.0
Under-1600: John Myles Flynn, 8.0
Under-1400: Daniel George, Arav Patel, Guy Carwell, 7.5
Under-1200: Sebastian Dstair, 8.0
Under-900: Ekeoma Osundu, Soham Patel, 8.0
Unrated: Yonathan Sosa: 8.5

Tournament Website:
PGN Games:
World Open (Drum Coverage): 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001

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