The Chess Drum’s Highlights of 2018!

Each year we give the highlights, and in the even-numbered years of chess, the Olympiad tournament holds top billing along with the World Championships (determined in tiebreaks after 12 consecutive draws). Defending champion Magnus Carlsen won in tiebreaks over challenger Fabiano Caruana to invoke the question of “Who’s next?” That question will be answered in 2019.

Speaking of championships, there were TWO women’s world championships (match, knockout). In one year, Ju Wenjun showed that she is now the strongest player in the women’s field. She also helped lead the Chinese team to Batumi, Georgia for the Olympiad. Both Chinese teams won the gold and the presence of many rising nations show that chess is becoming a true global sport.

World Champions Ju Wenjun and Magnus Carlsen pose at 2018 World Rapid and Blitz in Russia fresh off of their championship victories. Photo by Lennart Ootes

In addition, there was the election of Arkady Dvorkovich who has pledged to increase the global footprint of chess by hosting tournaments in various regions of the world. The Grand Chess Tour has picked up this theme and announced that there will be two new events including one in India and one in Ivory Coast! The African nation impressed chess fans with the hugely successful CIV Rapid & Blitz and will enter the world stage in organizing a first-class event.

Mashala Kabamwanishi of Democratic Republic of Congo scored 9.5/10 at the 2018 Chess Olympiad. Wonderful result! Photo by Congo Chess Federation

In this year of the “Black Panther,” Africa is attempting to raise its profile after sending 47 federations to the FIDE Congress during the Olympiad. It was this contingent that helped President-elect Dvorkovich to the Presidency and we can look to see more visits and support to the continent. Speaking of the Olympiad, we have to mention the fantastic performance of Mashala Kabamwanishi of the Congo who scored 9.5/10 in his first international showing.

Some of the interesting moments of 2018 covered here were Hikaru Nakamura’s trip to South Africa and playing the hustlers in the park. After that trip, he famously sponsored two young African talents after visiting the South African Junior Championships. They played in three tournaments in Europe and were trained by fellow South African GM Kenny Solomon.

Other moments were the launching of Africa Chess magazine which hosts the site We met 5-year old girl Basirat Ariyike who was part of the “Chess in Slums” initiative targeting the poorest communities near Lagos. Finally, we met 12-year old Tremil Anderson, a telegenic YouTube sensation.

We also saw Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson blazing the trail for his “ChessBiz” initiative. Just before participating in the just-ending World Rapid & Blitz, he announced a 2019 tour. Kassa Korley, an International Master now representing Denmark, scored his first GM norm and we are looking for more to follow in 2019.

Maurice Ashley was actually the coach of the Ivorian team at the 2016 Olympiad and will most likely be in Africa to call the GCT event in the Ivory Coast. Incidentally, Ashley was the coach of the Madagascar Olympiad team for 2018 Olympiad. While he has begun training national teams and staying busy commentating top-level events, he had a chance to make an appearance on the “Trevor Noah Show” recently. Take a look…

The Olympiad was the highlight of the year for The Chess Drum and Sagar Shah of ChessBase India requests an interview and allowed me to explain the vision for the site. Going on its 18th year The Chess Drum holds to continue to provide a voice to those in the African Diaspora to eventually contribute to a Pan-African renaissance.

Video by ChessBase India

Lastly, there were a number of players passed on and we paid homage here. Alfred Carlin (obituary), a native of New Orleans passed away after a short illness after working with Herminio Baez in the Dallas area. Ironically, Baez would pass away unexpectedly a month later (obituary).

Samuel Barton went by the street name of “Sandman” and was well-known in New York circles as a street hustler or gamesman (obituary). We also lost a giant in Judge George Leighton who reached the ripe age of 105. Judge Leighton was respected and loved in the Chicago area and practice law into his 90s (obituary).

(January 18, 1952 – August 9, 2018)

Peter Roberts of Harlem, New York died unexpectedly and was found in his home unresponsive after going missing for a few days. He was a big supporter of The Chess Drum and we will miss his presence at the World Open tournament (obituary). Lastly, USCF Life Master James Gwyn, Sr. passed away in September after earning the distinction of becoming a National Master at age 55! (obituary) We honor their memories and hope to build from the goodness they left behind. It is a pleasure from provide them with this platform.

Hope you enjoyed 2018! Here are some of the moments to revisit…













Chess journalists @ 2018 Chess Olympiad (Batumi, Georgia): Haydn Gill (Barbados), Daaim Shabazz (USA), Jacinta Odongo (Kenya), Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica)

The Chess Drum, LLC is a publisher of chess news content and literature. The organization’s website has continued to demonstrate the universality of chess by covering a variety of topics through news stories, essays, interviews, and photos since 2001. Visit The Chess Drum at and follow the beat on Facebook and Twitter!

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