King Solomon reigns at 2014 African Championship!

It has been a long journey for Kenny Solomon. Following in the footsteps of his older brothers, he charted a course to chess excellence. His destiny would be etched in history when he learned chess at the age of 13. His story has been captured in countless interviews including one appearing in the South African Press Association.

IM Kenny Solomon
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

In another interview with The Chess Drum back in 2003, he stated… “My goals are plain and simple… to become a GM and then take it from there.” Nearly a decade later, he earned his first GM norm at the 2012 Open Internazionale “Città di Padova” and then earned a double GM norm at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. This qualified him for the title if he reached the 2500 ELO mark. The road has been a bit bumpy for the South African as he has found the ELO points hard to come by having added a family as part of his responsibilities.

Nevertheless, at the 2014 African Individual Championship, Solomon won on tiebreaks over GM Ahmed Adly giving him his first continental title and qualifying him for the World Championships cycle. Solomon defeated Adly in their head-to-head battle in round five. Adly on the other hand, lost another game to FM Calvin Jong Klaasen of South Africa and had to win all other games to earn his qualification. IM Ali Farahat of Egypt came in third on 6.5/9.

GM Ahmed Adly (left) was upset twice, but still got 7/9 and qualified for the world championship cycle. Here he is shown winning against Nigeria’s John Fawole.

There was a bit of confusion over whether Solomon had earned his GM title. He has the required three norms, but FIDE requires a 2500 rating to confirm the title. In the past, winning the African Championship would earn the IM title (outright) and a GM norm. However, there was a condition stated at the opening ceremony that the winner would receive the full GM title for winning outright. Had Solomon won clear first he would have forgone the last 100 ELO points and earned the title. This would have been the first such occurrence in the African Championships (Note: Solomon confirmed that FIDE will confer the title.)

Solomon gave his wife credit for the motivations to play in the tournament. As far as his immediate plans are concerned, he told AfricaChess.net.

I will return home and rest for some days, as it has been a tough tournament then I will participate in Gibraltar in January. I will be traveling home today (Tuesday 23 December) from Windhoek to Johannesburg then to London then Venice.

In the women’s championship, WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt), WIM Anzel Solomons (South Africa) and WFM Epah Tembo (Zambia) took honors. Shrook tallied 7.5/9 to defend her title from last year’s tournament. She will compete in the Women’s Chess Championships in March 2015. In an interview with Oliver Shalala, she had this to say…

From the time I got the WGM title in Tunisia [during the last African Chess Championships], I have been proud to be the second WGM in Egypt. [The other WGM is Mona Khaled who has a rating of 2125] But I want more. I wanted to play in the African Junior Chess Championships in Angola earlier this month in the Open section. A win there would have given me an IM title. I want to be an IM and then a GM eventually.

WGM Wafa Shrook dominated the field to defend her title.

Unfortunately, the overall tournament was considerably weaker than the 2013 version and had only one GM, but was well-represented with 14 nations competing (Sao Tome & Principe, Ghana, Libya, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Algeria, Seychelles, Malawi, Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa). This is indeed a good sign for future participation. However, the game scores were filled with errors as players did not take care to record the moves correctly. There must be an adherence to this FIDE rule to avoid any problems.

The Chief Arbiter for the event was International Arbiter Gunther van den Bergh (South Africa) with FIDE Arbiters Simbarashe Murimi (Zimbabwe), El-Shaddai Aluteni (Namibia) and Webster Muyabi (Zambia).

* * *

MEDALS

MEN

GOLD- IM Kenny Solomon (South Africa)
South Africa

SILVER- GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt)
Egypt

BRONZE – IM Ali Farahat (Egypt)
Egypt

WOMEN

GOLD – WGM Wafa Shrook (Egypt)
Egypt

SILVER – WIM Anzel Solomons (South Africa)
South Africa

BRONZE – WFM Epah Tembo (Zambia)
Zambia

Standings (Men, Women)
Games (Men, Women)

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

21 Comments

  1. Very nice post. Kenny’s case should be made an excepting since he has got 3 GM norms already. winning on tie break should not be an issue for him. FIDE Laws are made for chess players , not chess players for FIDE laws. Kenny plays at GM strength when he is settled.

    1. Well… they would have to make exceptions for many. Amon Simutowe earned about five GM norms before he got the title, but he struggled to get the 2500. He had to keep forward until he got the ELO. It was not meant to be easy. I believe the rule says clear first. It is also that way for the IM title and there are no exceptions.

      I wouldn’t advocate making exceptions after the rule has been stated. African players would never be respected. What I would advocate is a rule change where a player would earn the GM title after earning a certain number of norms (maybe six)… even if the rating is below 2500. Getting titles at a singular event (e.g., subzonals, world youth) is less prestigious than the three norms and/or Elo requirement. This is especially true when the player has no norms or rating at all. Kenny has the norms… he will get the ratings if he charts a plan.

  2. Have a good day Dr. Daaim, as usual short, brief and up to date articles. As an Egyptian, I am really disappointed with Ahmed Adly, he looses when he should not and when we except that he will loose, he shows us the best of his fighting chess – really and totally unpredictable Adly.
    As for the tournament I have just downloaded the games pgn files from Chess-results, going through the Open section games I found them horrible, there were awful mistakes!! I am not talking about techniques and blunders ! but about incomplete games !! Many comments by the up-loader of the games such as “we need to consult both players as the X-piece can not move to that square as his x-pawn occupying it” I do not know what is going on? Is it hand writing problem or miss-writing the notation codes.
    For instance the Solomon – Adly game is incomplete itself:
    [Event “African Individual Chess Championships 2014”]
    [Site “Safari Hotel, Windhoek, Namibia”]
    [Date “2014.12.17”]
    [Round “5”]
    [White “Solomon, Kenny”]
    [Black “Adly, Ahmed”]
    [Result “1-0”]
    [ECO “A00”]
    [WhiteElo “2380”]
    [BlackElo “2591”]
    [EventDate “2014.12.13”]
    [Board “3”]
    [PlyCount “70”]
    [EventRounds “9”]
    [EventCountry “NAM”]

    1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 Ne4 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. Qb3 c6 8. Nxe4 dxe4 9. Nd2 e5 10. d5 f5 11. g4 Nd7 12. gxf5 Nf6 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Bh3 O-O 15. Rg1 a5 16. O-O-O Ba6 17. Qa3 Qf7 18. Rg5 Bxc4 19. Rdg1 Bxe2 20. Rxg7+ Qxg7 21. Rxg7+ Kxg7 22. Qc3 Kh8 23. Qxe5 Rae8 24. Qc3 a4 25. Nf1 Rd8 26. Ne3 Rd6 27. Bg4 Bb5 28. Qe5 Rg8 29. Bd1 Kg7 30. Bc2 Kf7 31. Bxe4 Rd7 32. Bxc6 Bxc6 33. Qe6+ Kg7 34. Qxc6 a3 35. bxa3
    {Notation Not clear Need to consult both players from
    move 36.} 35… Ra7 1-0

    This is really weird the top seated players should have better control of their handling of the game.
    Likely, I did not notice the same fault in the Women section pgn file, that is to say the girls handled their notation on their score sheets better than the boys :-)…
    Any ways congratulations to Solomon and Shorook (means sunrise by the way) who has just kept the Egyptian Chess pride..
    I will go through more games and will keep informing you….

    1. It is obvious that 28…Rg8 was not played, leaving a Rook en prise. Probably 28…Rfd8 was played, when the score makes more sense. Bad data capturing is at fault here!

  3. Yes… it is disappointing to have incomplete games. Apparently there were problems with the recording. It’s inexcusable and the Arbiter should have insisted on a correct score. I had planned to show this Solomon-Adly game, but there are so many moves missing.

    I would say that with Adly’s military service obligation it may not given him all the time he needs to focus on chess. Not certain. However, I have noticed that sometimes he loses early in tournaments. He lost to Kenya’s Ben Magana some years ago in the first round and then had to win several in a row (which he did).

    However, I believe Adly is a unique talent, but he is now 26 or 27. The time for him is now. He will have a chance in the FIDE Knockout. Let’s see if he can go through. I don’t believe there has been a player from the African zone to get past the first round.

  4. Congratulations to Kenny Solomon. I met him years ago in New York and was immediately impressed by his playing style. Keep up the good fight my brother.

  5. Hello Chess-drummers,

    On the issue of recording, I think it has more to do with the person entering the moves than the players themselves. If you take a look at all the tournament games you will realize that they all end with EXCUSES such as “need to consult with the players” etc.

    It is NO secret that most of the top GMs have a bad handwriting yet their games still get annotated without a glitch.

    Is it possible that many strong & experienced players such Solomon, Adly, Jere, Ali, Cawdery, etc still fail to record their games?? I DOUBT!!
    Did both the two players fail to record as early as move 18? BOTH?? I DOUBT!!

    PS: Daaim,
    On another note, The website (https://www.thechessdrum.net/) needs a lot of revamping.

    Best wishes for the festive!

    Bang’o Waza’banga

    1. Bang’o,

      I suppose the issue is why there are incomplete scores whether it was due to bad handwriting or data entry error. It makes no difference since we still do not have the right game score.

      You’re right. At about 30,000 pages, the site needs a lot of revamping. Overhauling is in the works, but not quite as trivial as one would think.

      What would you suggest?

  6. From Continental President Lewis Ncube

    Also please note that the top three places in each section of this edition qualified for the 2015-2016 African Chess Confederation Grand Prix Circuit. The qualifying event for the 2015 World Cup will be held in Egypt from May 1 to 12, 2015.

  7. This is from Kenny Solomon…

    Hi Daaim ,It is written on th Fide website that gold equals first after tiebreak! and gold equals Gm title! Fide confirmed they will award me the Gm title!

  8. I see an article on him as South Africa’s first GM. Contrats!
    Daaim, do you feel that his route to the title will be somewhat devalued? It looks like his African Championship win was his 4th GM norm, but he’s still shy of the elo and its a special case win. I would expect a lot of players to privately disagree with FIDE’s rules on this and that they will wait for him to reach elo before they really give him his congrats–especially since the field in this year’s African Championship wasn’t as strong as usual. It might help his case with some folks that not too long ago he was within 39 points of the magic number.

  9. Of course I saw the article. It was published two weeks after the event. After the tournament, there was a question whether Kenny would get the title because the initial thought was that it had to be CLEAR first. Kenny told me himself that FIDE will confer the title despite his current 2399 Elo.

    Not sure if this one of the new FIDE rules in the July 1st amendments. Under FIDE Title Regulations (section 1.2) you will find the description (https://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=174&view=article). I understand it was announced at the opening ceremonies. The problem is if an untitled player or low-rated player had won this tournament, he would have gotten the GM title. There are already some scathing and sarcastic comments circulating at the ChessBase article.

    Fortunately, I believe Kenny is a class-act. I met him in 2001 and I observed his play at the 2001 Wilbert Paige. In that tournament, his nine games went an average of 60+ moves and I was impressed by his fighting spirit. I told him privately that he would become a GM. He seemed to have his doubts at that time as a 21-year old. Eleven years later he had earned the required GM norms.

    One of the issues is that chess community may perceive that Africans get their titles with lower standards. I saw Simutowe struggle to get his Elo to 2500. He ended up with 5-6 GM norms before he got 2500. Part of this is because there are few opportunities for African players to play in competitive tournaments with strong Elo players. It is very difficult and expensive to travel abroad for tournaments. Hopefully there will be an infrastructure built so that Africa can have their choice of tournaments and will attract strong players to the continent.

  10. I saw some of the comments there. One said ‘so all i have to do is qualify for that tournament and win it and I get GM title? ha ha awesome!’ though it is a lower standard, it would be quite a feat if you’re not already a GM or a GM-elect or a strong IM! Solomon had a performance rating of 2550 and this was a weaker field than usual! I’d like to see that commentator/keyboard warrior get a performance rating of 2550 LOL

    1. Congrats to young King Solomon!, and thanks Patzer for leading me to the comments, didnt KNOW they had it!!! lol

    2. I believe that norms and titles should be based on performance with the strength of the competition taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we have International Masters in Africa with ELO ratings of 1900. I kid you not.

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