Black Stars shine at World Open

The World Open has been the stage for realizing that chess has many faces. In 37 years, this tournament is typically a time of great celebration for players of African descent. There is no official side event designated for this celebration, but this is a tournament that attracts players from around the world and many Black players find the conditions inviting. The defacto “reunion” is arranged by Philadelphia players who are often hosts for out-of-state players and generally provide much needed hospitality.

In the 2009 edition, there were a number of players in the under-2400 section while young star Kassa Korley was vying for an IM norm in the Open section. Under-2400 section has IM Emory Tate (USA), IM Oladapo Adu (NGR), FM William Morrison (USA), FM Farai Mandizha (ZIM), FM Norman Rogers (USA), NM Chikwere Onyekwere (NGR), NM Dr. Okechukwu Iwu (NGR), Kimani Stancil (USA) and Antoine Hutchinson (USA). At one point, there were six players on consecutive tables.

Drum Majors (L-R): Okechukwu Iwu, Oladapo Adu, Farai Mandizha, Emory Tate, William Morrison, Norman Rogers. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Drum Majors (L-R): NM Dr. Okechukwu Iwu, IM Oladapo Adu, FM Farai Mandizha, IM Emory Tate, FM William Morrison, NM Norman Rogers.

One may ask why this is such a big deal since players of African ancestry have been playing at Master level for decades. Currently there is a gradual push to enter the top sections and this is buttressed by a number of talented young players. Of course, Black players do not make up a large percentage of players in the top section, where typically there are 1-2 players and no Grandmasters. However, this surge is needed is chess is to continue to show its universal appeal. When one thinks of the Sudan, there is only one issue that comes to mind, but during this World Open that may have changed. Sudanese player Kamanyola Awan Bior scored 8/9 in the under-1400.

(L-R): Daaim Shabazz, Glenn Umstead, Kamanyala Bior and Emory Tate. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

(L-R): Daaim Shabazz, Glenn Umstead, Kamanyala Bior (winner of under-1400) and IM Emory Tate.

The young cadre of young talent was present as players like Josh Colas, Adonis Turner, Darrian Robinson battled in the under-2200 section. Colas seems to have an insatiable appetite for chess and Robinson is poised to become the first African-American female Master. Twins Jehron and Nigel Bryant were seen at the tournament and the former is already approaching Expert level.

The most promising talent appears to be Kassa Korley (pictured right with Shabazz) who shined in the open section and barely missed making an IM norm. Now at 16, Korley is solidly at the Master class and is holding his own against titled players. Perhaps this time next year, he will be an International Master… he has the talent and the drive to do it. He comes from a solid family and will only continue to get better.

Hopefully in the future, there will be more participation in the top sections from the African Diaspora. There is no shortage of Black players in the gambling blitz sessions in the smokey, testosterone-charged rooms. These players have pride in showing their fast hands, but how does that translate into good play? History shows that such fame is short-lived and does little to establish a good foundation for consistent play over the board during tournaments.

Chikwere Onyekwere playing Dr. Kimani Stancil in under-2400 section. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

NM Chikwere Onyekwere playing Dr. Kimani Stancil in under-2400 section.

Certainly Morrison, Mandizha and Adu and phenomenal blitz players, but they have also established a foundation for playing good chess based on strategy and not merely tactical blows. While Tate is a tactical wizard, he never fails to show his understanding of weak squares and themes like opposition. He is also famous for rook lifts and “long moves”. Rogers is an intriguing player. He has a mixed style, but hinges more on creative opportunities rather than straight tactics or strategy. These players all have something unique to offer chess and the sport is better for knowing that there is growth in segments that often go overlooked. What stories will we see in 2010? Will more stars shine? We’ll find out!

Daaim Shabazz analyzing with Darrian Robinson after their game in round #8. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Daaim Shabazz analyzing with Darrian Robinson after their game in round #8.


  1. Hello ChessDrum Readers,
    How come none of you is leaving comments on this blog page of a staple of African chess, the world open. The best news for the Nigerian contigent in my opinion is Okechukwu Iwu’s improved performance. Congrats though to Kola Adeyemi on his $4000, that hints we strong unrated African players on green prospects at the lower cadres of the world open. Watch out! Chikwere Onyekwere what is happening to your chess, you are definitely better than that. Cheers William Abiye. Cheers all.

  2. OK… thanks for pointing out Kola’s win. African Disapora did well in under-2400. In the under-2200, there were a few notable results led by Abiye Williams’ 6½/9; Sylvester Smarty and Jerald Times got 6/9; Peter Roberts got 5½/9; Franklyn Gibson of the Bahamas, Jeffrey Johnson and Calvin Marshall had 4½; Daaim Shabazz and Josh Colas had 4/9. Scholastic standout Darrian Robinson had 3½/8. There were a few more, but most notable were Paul Obiwame and Adekunle Ogunmefun withdrawing without completing the schedule.

    Full results are at the link below…

  3. Kassa was playing between the ropes in the last round of the World. He was on the top 10 boards. I didn’t pay much attention to his games during the event, should have, because Dr. Ok, IM Morrision, IM Tate, FM Rogers and other established masters capture my attention. Drummers have you seen this video about Kassa? Very interesting. IM Adu and Dr. Ok had a giant struggle, maybe one of them will annotate their game and send it to the Drum. Why is it that brothers are always paired against each other? When at most there are only 6 of less brothers in a section which seed over 100 players? Oh! the brother who won the under 1400 section is a Philly player. He would play in McDonalds all the times with other street players. When the street players found that he won the money they all are saying that I could have won that section, lol.

  4. Glenn,

    That game appears in the Reflections piece I did here…

    Adu actually went over the game with me and I recorded his analysis. I hope to make a gamecast video, but been really busy.

    As far as I could see, there was no brother vs. brother issues this tournament. Of course there were a few matchups, but not any more than usual. You have to figure that these players having the same scores will eventually be paired. In one round there were six Black masters playing on consecutive boards and none were playing each other (photo above). Of course William played Pete, Chikwere played Dr. Kimani and Adu played Dr. Okey, but there wasn’t anything peculiar.

    The video on Kassa was one I featured in a profile I did on him last year. That was shortly after I had first learned about his talent at the 2008 World Open.

  5. Congrats to all the the “brothers and sisters” who made “time, circumstance and oppportunity” collide at the World Open, as I have predicted almost 15 years earlier, given time water will seek its own level …and given opportunity we will dominate all althelte endeavors in time! Also special shout out to Glen Westcott a local Buffalo chessplayer who I had the pleasure of working with for 3 weeks his comment was if we had started work a month ealier he might have come in 1st place instead of a threeway tied for second in his section but the $4000 dollars was greatly appreciated!

  6. congrats to all the brothers and sisters who play in chess events all over, and yet, there are many more who have dreams of being a master or better and never get that opportunity. if dreams are what we live on then many african american players will have those and nothing more. i say all this because i have dreamt of playing in such events like the World Open and the US Open. but being financially stuck and with no believers even in my own family dreams will always be my trophy. imagining that i can play against the best that chess has to offer. i…………i am sorry for blogging my sad state but there are many players who are like me who cant get the opportunities that many others get and enjoy and for a chess warrior that believes in himself that hurts.

  7. solomon,

    This is a problem for many of us at the World Open. It is certainly expensive and the chances of recouping investment is slim since the field is competitive. Entry fees are from $250-$400 depending on when you enter; plane fare is on average of $250-$350; hotel is $100/night; food and other expenses are another $200. If you add this up you are spending roughly $1500-$1800 to play in a tournament and that is merely flying to another state!

    There is another discussion about expensive tournaments in Africa, but many may wrongly assume that because this is America that people can afford these prices. It is a luxury that many of us cannot afford in a country where the cost of living is very high. We don’t get conditions (hotel and lodging), but we find a way to compete. Unfortunately, I saw players sleeping on the street and in the hotel lobby to avoid paying for hotel. The best option is to get a roommate in a cheaper hotel. Some of us are fortunate enough to stay with other players in Philadelphia.

    I will say that you may try to reduce expenses by traveling with a friend. If you live within 700 miles, drive with others. Enter early and play in one of the shorter schedules to cut down on the length of stay. You can also pack your own food since the room have refrigerators. This is what many players do and they are able to cut the cost down to roughly $700-$1000. That is still an expensive tournament, but it is a great event.

  8. this is wonderful for most players like some of my friends who have played in several events. i am the only player stuck because he is financially responsible for college tutition for his wife and mortgage i truly envy all those brothers and sisters who make strong effort to develop their chess skills. even as we speak i can not attend the US Open here in my own city this year and who knows when it will ever return. yes i know i seem to be bemoaning my own stance but i wonder sometimes how many other brothers who feel that if only………..does this seem wrong or is it just missed opprtunities? i hope that one day i will be able to meet brothers like yourself and others who play and maybe just test my strength and see if…………..thank you for allowing me to speak keep up the good work.

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