2019 Rapid & Blitz (Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire)

Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

The Grand Chess Tour has begun!

Ten of the world’s top players have assembled in Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d’Ivoire, to launch the first event of the season. World Champion Magnus Carlsen will headline the 2019 Rapid and Blitz field after having had a blistering first half of 2019. This event is also important because never before has a sitting World Champion competed on African soil. A 13-year old Carlsen played in the 2004 FIDE Knockout in Libya and returns to Africa as the face of chess.

Magnus Carlsen with Ivorian chess fans.
Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

The Federation Ivoirienne Des Echecs (FIDEC) will be hosting the event with its President Dr. Essoh Essis as the host. This event is of great importance as it gives the chess world exposure to Africa and provides Africa exposure to elite chess. Such is part of the initiative of making chess appeal to a wider audience. The Grand Chess Tour will also host events in Croatia and India.

The Rapid and Blitz will take place over five days with the first three covering three rapid games (25 minutes with 10-second delay) and the last two covering a nine blitz games (5 minutes with 3-second delay).

2019 Rapid and Blitz participants
Photo by Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

2019 GCT Rapid & Blitz
May 8th-12th, 2019 (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2869, 2954
2 Nakamura, Hikaru GM USA
2824, 2934
3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
2800, 2933
4 Ding Liren GM China
2760, 2773
5 So, Wesley GM USA
2801, 2744
6 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
2785, 2778
7 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
2781, 2816
8 Wei Yi GM China
2698, 2641
9 Topalov, Veselin GM Bulgaria
2781, 2682
10 Amin, Bassem GM Egypt
2617, 2662
Official Site

Commentary Broadcast Links

The GCT will stream official commentary broadcasts in both English and French to YouTube and Dailymotion. The following links apply:

YouTube English Commentary (GM Yannick Pelletier, IM Tania Sachdev, GM Alejandro Ramirez & GM Maurice Ashley):

May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3: https://youtu.be/1MIr_bAzVDM
May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6: https://youtu.be/1l7frbLWSZg
May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9: https://youtu.be/XBDCXih6n1k
May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9: https://youtu.be/omQQc8Kzl4M
May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 & Playoffs: https://youtu.be/IQm4q90LhxU

YouTube French Commentary (GM Edouard Romain & GM Laurent Fressinet):

May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3 https://youtu.be/4yAWe67yYik
May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6 https://youtu.be/s09-QGxfi2c
May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9 https://youtu.be/LPzfTPqAHis
May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9 https://youtu.be/L42hMGTmLIo
May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 & Playoffs: https://youtu.be/BbHnzS3vYbU
Dailymotion (All days and rounds):

English Commentary: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x76z1jy
French Commentary: https://dai.ly/x77byvh

Video by CCSCSL


  1. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Wednesday, 8 May 2019

    Round 1

    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Karjakin Sergey ½-½ Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Carlsen Magnus 1-0 So Wesley
    Topalov Veselin ½-½ Wei Yi
    Amin Bassem 0-1 Ding Liren

    Magnus Carlsen started the day with a win over Wesley So, one he achieved by using his bishop to overpower the American’s knight, forcing So to resign on move 40. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made a positional pawn sacrifice against Hikaru Nakamura, but ended up down a pawn in a rook endgame, which the American converted easily.

    Bassem Amin, the wildcard of the tournament, made his debut in the Grand Chess Tour against Ding Liren and achieved a good position out of the opening with his preparation. Unfortunately for the Egyptian GM, the complications in the middlegame favored the Chinese player, who eventually prevailed and joined the leader.

    Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi played a wild line in the Sicilian, featuring numerous piece sacrifices, but in the end the sharp play only yielded a draw by perpetual. The quiet affair between Veselin Topalov and Wei Yi ended in a draw in 33 moves.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Round 2
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime ½-½ Ding Liren
    Wei Yi 1-0 Amin Bassem
    So Wesley ½-½ Topalov Veselin
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 0-1 Carlsen Magnus
    Nakamura Hikaru ½-½ Karjakin Sergey

    Magnus Carlsen won a brilliant game against Ian Nepomniachtchi, thus taking the sole lead in the tournament. The World Champion sacrificed a pawn in order to further advance his connected passed pawns, one of which later became a queen. It is quite an unusual sight to see three queens on the board at such a high level!

    Bassem Amin suffered his second loss in a row, this time against Wei Yi, due to his king not being able to find a safe home without suffering material loss. Hikaru Nakamura tried until move 103 to win with his extra pawn in a knight ending, but Sergey Karjakin defended relentlessly. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So drew Ding Liren and Veselin Topalov respectively in very balanced games.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Round 3
    Karjakin Sergey ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Carlsen Magnus ½-½ Nakamura Hikaru
    Topalov Veselin ½-½ Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Amin Bassem 0-1 So Wesley
    Ding Liren 0-1 Wei Yi

    The big match-up of the day was between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. There was one moment in the game when Nakamura had to calculate a complicated piece sacrifice which would have given him a big advantage. The US Champion opted for a safer choice, which would have lead to trouble for him had Magnus found the precise continuation. The back and forth battle eventually ended in a draw.

    In the longest game of the round, Wei Yi was able to defeat Ding Liren in a minor piece endgame, thus joining Carlsen in the lead. Bassem Amin failed to retrieve the pawn he sacrificed against Wesley So, thus ending the day with three losses. Ian Nepomniachtchi had a great opportunity to bounce back from his round 2 loss, but blundered into a perpetual against Veselin Topalov.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s pet opening, the Najdorf, once again proved to be a great choice, as he drew Sergey Karjakin without any difficulties.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Video by CCSCSL

  2. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Grand Chess Tour meets Didier Drogba!

    When one thinks of the Ivory Coast, several things come to mind including their world-famous cocoa, but one unmistakable characterization is that the land of 23 million is a football-crazy nation.

    During the lead up of the Grand Chess Tour, there were a lot of promotional content including photos of Grandmaster Maurice Ashley interacting with the local school children. The photos were touching.

    GM Maurice Ashley playing local school children under the watchful eye of FIDEC President Dr. Essoh Essis. Photo by Lennart Ootes.

    Those who know Ashley will know that he knows how to have a good time and in an impromptu moments decided to “damn the dirt” and play football with some of the boys.

    So this article is supposed to be about Ivorian and former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, right? Well… after seeing these promotional photos and clips, a player from Vietnam posted the innocent question on chess.com

    Good question! Perhaps it was a joke or a serious inquiry, but nevertheless, football fans would want to know.

    Didier Drogba

    The retired Chelsea striker ended a stellar career when he announced his retirement last November, but what was he doing these days? Apart from living the comfortable life of a world-class athlete, how often does he get to relax in his home country?

    When I told Babatunde Ogunsiku (Africa Chess Media) about the Drogba question on chess.com, we shared a laugh and headed to the ECOWAS team tournament being held at the Pullman. This is tournament of the 16-country group formally called the Economic Community of West African States. Four nations were competing… Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and the host Ivory Coast.

    Babatunde Ogunsiku

    After taking photos of the tournament, Babatunde approached me and excitedly said, “Drogba is HERE!!” Of course, this comment can’t be taken seriously as Drogba wouldn’t be at the Pullman, would he? Babatunde pointed to a table, I turned the corner and it certainly looked like him. Could it be? It was!

    We shared the news with Essis who had been upstairs handling tournament affairs. “Is he here NOW?” said Essis with a surprised tone. When we confirmed it, he immediately when down to see the national hero. Sure enough… we had found Drogba!

    Essoh Essis chatting with Didier Drogba
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    Regardless of what becomes of this meeting, Drogba will now be associated with chess… to the extent of entering “chess” and “Drogba” in a search engine. At this time, what took place in the conversation is being keep under hushed tones, but of course, it would be great if he could make an appearance. Essis was in a serious discussion with who appeared to be a publicity agent.

    We could only imagine the expression of Magnus Carlsen if Drogba was to make the first move! Also imagine how many Ivorian children would sign up to play chess if they even imagined Drogba had anything to do with chess!

  3. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Drogba sighting… Topalov waxes poetic…
    Carlsen still leads… just another day in Abidjan

    Yesterday was a day of back stories. While Magnus Carlsen was still dominating the field, news had already circulated that Didier Drogba was spotted at the Pullman Hotel. This was a complete surprise as the rest of the chess world was focused on ten of the world’s top players. Now an Ivorian icon was also on the scene! Dr. Essoh Essis, the organizer of this event and current federation president, had a chat with Drogba and his publicity agent. Will Drogba make an appearance? That remains to be seen.

    While Drogba was not an underdog in professional football, Bassem Amin certainly was considered a long shot to compete for the top prize. In fact after losing his first four contests, there were the online naysayers staying that Amin was nervous, the field was too strong or that he was giving the field with too much reverence. He certainly delivered a response!

    Lastly, Veselin Topalov was milling about in the press area and was checking out the artistic prints. He was joined by some of the attendees including Philip Ameku, President of Ghanian Chess Association. Topalov weighed in on the history of chess, most notably the right to move first. Recently Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri helped to launch a campaign called, “#MoveforEquality” that showed Carlsen playing 1.e5. Yes… black moves first.

    Topalov spoke candidly about the history of how the rules had changed (queen’s increased power, the original colors, black moving first as late as the 19th century). He believes the colors should be irrelevant and that the arbiter should flip a coin to see who moves first. It was a fascinating exchange.

    ~The Chess Drum (Daaim Shabazz)

    Thursday, 9 May 2019

    Round 4

    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1-0 Wei Yi
    So Wesley ½-½ Ding Liren
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 1-0 Amin Bassem
    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Topalov Veselin
    Karjakin Sergey 0-1 Carlsen Magnus

    The day kicked off with a bloody round with four decisive games. Magnus Carlsen emerged as the sole leader by defeating his 2016 world crown challenger, Sergey Karjakin. The World Champion’s knight pair unleashed an attack on Karjakin’s king. His co-leader, 19-year old Wei Yi, was not able to keep pace.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s bishop pair was too powerful in the Petroff endgame, as his king marched up the board, collecting the Chinese player’s pawns. Hikaru Nakamura leapfrogged Wei Yi by managing the middlegame complications against Veselin Topalov better than his opponent and winning a clean game.

    Bassem Amin is still trying to find his footing, as he suffered his fourth loss in a row. A careless mistake on move 25 changed the structure in the center in an unfavorable way for the African Champion. Ian Nepomniachtchi was unforgiving and finished his opponent off with tact in 32 moves. Two of the most solid players of the event, Wesley So and Ding Liren, drew their game without any adventures in 37 moves.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Round 5
    Carlsen Magnus 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Topalov Veselin ½-½ Karjakin Sergey
    Amin Bassem 1-0 Nakamura Hikaru
    Ding Liren 1-0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Wei Yi ½-½ So Wesley

    After keeping the tension in a complicated Najdorf for a long time, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave self destructed when he decided to go pawn hunting. Carlsen was unforgiving of his opponent’s greediness, taking advantage of his opponent’s stranded rook. The World Champion scored his second victory in a row, moving to 9/10. The hero of the round was Bassem Amin, who played a spoiler, coming back from a lost position to defeat none other than Hikaru Nakamura; this turn of events left Nakamura at 6/10, thus allowing Carlsen to extend his lead to three points. Wei Yi joined the second place tie by drawing Wesley So with the white pieces. Ding Liren moved up in the ranks, tying Nakamura and Wei Yi for second place, after Ian Nepomniachtchi blundered in a position where he could have forced a draw. The game between Veselin Topalov and Sergey Karjakin was quite uneventful and ended with a threefold repetition in 30 moves.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Round 6
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime ½-½ So Wesley
    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½-½ Wei Yi
    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Ding Liren
    Karjakin Sergey ½-½ Amin Bassem
    Carlsen Magnus ½-½ Topalov Veselin

    Hikaru Nakamura bounced back from his previous round loss with a quick win over Ding Liren. According to Nakamura, the culprit was the Chinese superstar’s poor time management. Ding blitzed out a tactical sequence, missing a key move, and had to resign a few moves later. In the postgame interview, the US Champion explained his loss to Bassem Amin as a by-product of Magnus Carlsen winning all his games and thus putting pressure on others to keep pace. He did feel that the gift he received from Ding balanced out his topsy turvy game from the previous round. The rest of the games ended in a draw, including the one between Carlsen and Veselin Topalov, thus not changing anything in the standings.

    ~Grand Chess Tour (WGM Tatev Abrahamyan)

    Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Video by CCSCSL

  4. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Friday, 10 May 2019

    Round 7

    Topalov Veselin 0 – 1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Amin Bassem 0 – 1 Carlsen Magnus
    Ding Liren 1 – 0 Karjakin Sergey
    Wei Yi ½ – ½ Nakamura Hikaru
    So Wesley 1 – 0 Nepomniachtchi Ian

    Round 8
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 – 0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Nakamura Hikaru ½ – ½ So Wesley
    Karjakin Sergey ½ – ½ Wei Yi
    Carlsen Magnus ½ – ½ Ding Liren
    Topalov Veselin 0 – 1 Amin Bassem

    Round 9
    Amin Bassem 0 – 1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Ding Liren ½ – ½ Topalov Veselin
    Wei Yi 0 – 1 Carlsen Magnus
    So Wesley 1 – 0 Karjakin Sergey
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 0 – 1 Nakamura Hikaru

    Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Video by CCSCSL

  5. Pan African!

    Philip Ameku (Ghana), Angela Ayiku (Ghana), Christiana Naa Merley Ashley (Ghana), Daaim Shabazz (USA) and Ogunsiku Babatunde (Nigeria)

    The enchanting Peace Samson

    Peace Samson and Toritsemuwa Ofowino

    Daaim Shabazz interviewing Philip Ameku

    Nigeria’s Babatunde Ogunsiku (African Chess Media)

  6. Interview with Philip Ameku, Ghana Chess Association

    Ghanaian Chess Association President Philip Ameku brought a contingent of players from Ghana after successfully hosting the 4.4 zonal event in Accra, Ghana. That event was won by Nigerian FIDE Master Daniel Anwuli. Ameku wanted to expose his players to the professional players competing in the Grand Chess Tour event being held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. This event would feature the World Champion Magnus Carlsen and a cadre of nine other top players. Ameku was milling about when he was approached by The Chess Drum and consented to a short interview session. The venue was the five-star Pullman Hotel and the backdrop was downtown Abidjan with dusk looming.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  7. Grand Chess Tour-Rapid & Blitz 2019-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Saturday, 11 May 2019

    Round 1

    Wei Yi 0 – Nakamura Hikaru
    Carlsen Magnus 1 – 0 Amin Bassem
    So Wesley 1 – 0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 1 – 0 Ding Liren
    Karjakin Sergey 1 – 0 Topalov Veselin

    Round 2

    Karjakin Sergey 1 – 0 Wei Yi
    Topalov Veselin 0 – Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Ding Liren 0 – So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 – 0 Carlsen Magnus
    Amin Bassem ½ – ½ Nakamura Hikaru

    Round 3

    Wei Yi 1 – 0 Amin Bassem
    Nakamura Hikaru 1 – 0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Carlsen Magnus ½ – ½ Ding Liren
    So Wesley ½ – ½ Topalov Veselin
    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½ – ½ Karjakin Sergey

    Round 4

    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½ – ½ Wei Yi
    Karjakin Sergey ½ – ½ So Wesley
    Topalov Veselin 0 – Carlsen Magnus
    Ding Liren ½ – ½ Nakamura Hikaru
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 – 0 Amin Bassem

    Round 5

    Wei Yi 0 – Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Amin Bassem 1 – 0 Ding Liren
    Nakamura Hikaru 1 – 0 Topalov Veselin
    Carlsen Magnus 1 – 0 Karjakin Sergey
    So Wesley ½ – ½ Nepomniachtchi Ian

    Round 6

    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½ – ½ Carlsen Magnus
    Karjakin Sergey ½ – ½ Nakamura Hikaru
    Ding Liren ½ – ½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    So Wesley ½ – ½ Wei Yi
    Topalov Veselin ½ – ½ Amin Bassem

    Round 7

    Carlsen Magnus ½ – ½ So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 – 0 Topalov Veselin
    Nakamura Hikaru 1 – 0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Wei Yi ½ – ½ Ding Liren
    Amin Bassem 0 – Karjakin Sergey

    Round 8

    So Wesley 0 – Nakamura Hikaru
    Carlsen Magnus 1 – 0 Wei Yi
    Karjakin Sergey 1 – 0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 1 – 0 Amin Bassem
    Topalov Veselin ½ – ½ Ding Liren

    Round 9

    Nakamura Hikaru 0 – Carlsen Magnus
    Amin Bassem ½ – ½ So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 – 0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Wei Yi ½ – ½ Topalov Veselin
    Ding Liren 1 – 0 Karjakin Sergey

    Grand Chess Tour-Rapid & Blitz 2019-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Video by CCSCSL

  8. Grand Chess Tour-Rapid & Blitz 2019-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Sunday, 12 May 2019

    Magnus Carlsen came, saw and conquered. Another tournament, another notch on his belt. This time he vanquished the field in Africa. Days ago Carlsen made a very controversial statement that caused a bit of buzz.

    I’m playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, so it’s almost like my default thought process is that my opponent is an idiot till proven otherwise!

    While Carlsen is riding a wave of success, others seems to be grasping a straws to stop his 2019 onslaught. On the last day, both Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura could not gain any momentum. Carlsen would clinch with a win in the 16th round and would later reclaim his top ranking on the blitz rating list.

    Round 10

    Wei Yi 0-1 Nakamura Hikaru
    Carlsen Magnus 1-0 Amin Bassem
    So Wesley 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 1-0 Ding Liren
    Karjakin Sergey 1-0 Topalov Veselin

    Round 11

    Karjakin Sergey 1-0 Wei Yi
    Topalov Veselin 0-1 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Ding Liren 0-1 So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1-0 Carlsen Magnus
    Amin Bassem ½-½ Nakamura Hikaru

    Round 12

    Wei Yi 1-0 Amin Bassem
    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Carlsen Magnus ½-½ Ding Liren
    So Wesley ½-½ Topalov Veselin
    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½-½ Karjakin Sergey

    Round 13

    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½-½ Wei Yi
    Karjakin Sergey ½-½ So Wesley
    Topalov Veselin 0-1 Carlsen Magnus
    Ding Liren ½-½ Nakamura Hikaru
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1-0 Amin Bassem

    Round 14

    Wei Yi 0-1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Amin Bassem 1-0 Ding Liren
    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Topalov Veselin
    Carlsen Magnus 1-0 Karjakin Sergey
    So Wesley ½-½ Nepomniachtchi Ian

    Round 15

    Nepomniachtchi Ian ½-½ Carlsen Magnus
    Karjakin Sergey ½-½ Nakamura Hikaru
    Ding Liren ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    So Wesley ½-½ Wei Yi
    Topalov Veselin ½-½ Amin Bassem

    Round 16

    Carlsen Magnus ½-½ So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1-0 Topalov Veselin
    Nakamura Hikaru 1-0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Wei Yi ½-½ Ding Liren
    Amin Bassem 0-1 Karjakin Sergey

    Round 17

    So Wesley 0-1 Nakamura Hikaru
    Carlsen Magnus 1-0 Wei Yi
    Karjakin Sergey 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
    Nepomniachtchi Ian 1-0 Amin Bassem
    Topalov Veselin ½-½ Ding Liren

    Round 18

    Nakamura Hikaru 0-1 Carlsen Magnus
    Amin Bassem ½-½ So Wesley
    Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1-0 Nepomniachtchi Ian
    Wei Yi ½-½ Topalov Veselin
    Ding Liren 1-0 Karjakin Sergey

    Grand Chess Tour-Rapid & Blitz 2019-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Video by CCSCSL

  9. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Carlsen wins Abidjan Rapid & Blitz!

    After the election in the past FIDE election, there was an assertion that the international chess body would be more inclusive. While the Grand Chess Tour is not related to FIDE, the general atmosphere has been spurred by these sentiments. Africa is one region that has been slow in developing an enduring chess culture, but when it was announced that the Grand Chess Tour was moving to Cote d’Ivoire, it set off a sort of celebration.

    This buildup of this tournament was epic given that it would be the first such tournament on African soil and also the first time a sitting World Champion had competed on the continent. The event was met with great anticipation and there was even a parallel tournament to ensure the highest level of interaction with the elite chess players.

    2019 ECOWAS Team Championship
    See coverage by Africa Chess Media

    The first event of the Grand Chess Tour was in very different venue, but the result was the same… Magnus Carlsen won. In what has been a dominating year for the World Champion, Carlsen was coming off of a list of wins aptly documented by Norwegian journalist Tarjei Svensen.

    While there was little interaction between the players and the locals before and during the event, there were always the impromptu autographs, selfies and happenstance encounters. Carlsen meant business disappeared soon after his games were over. The rapid segment gave Carlsen a comfortable cushion going into the blitz segment. Fortunately for him, both Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura were having problems closing the gap. In the end, Carlsen clinched the tournament with two rounds left.

    With the title already decided, Carlsen watches Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave fight for second. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Several players will be competing in the FIDE Grand Prix event beginning the 17th in Moscow and others will be competing in the next Grand Chess Tour event in Zagreb, Croatia. The Abidjan edition was an organization success. FIDEC President Dr. Essoh Essis and his team deserves credit for making the historic event memorable.

    Magnus Carlsen receives the beautiful trophy from
    the Minister of Sports Paulin Danho
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    Video by Africa Chess Media

    Commentary Broadcast Links

    The GCT will stream official commentary broadcasts in both English and French to YouTube and Dailymotion. The following links apply:

    YouTube English Commentary (GM Yannick Pelletier, IM Tania Sachdev, GM Alejandro Ramirez & GM Maurice Ashley):

    May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3: https://youtu.be/1MIr_bAzVDM
    May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6: https://youtu.be/1l7frbLWSZg
    May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9: https://youtu.be/XBDCXih6n1k
    May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9: https://youtu.be/omQQc8Kzl4M
    May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 & Playoffs: https://youtu.be/IQm4q90LhxU

    YouTube French Commentary (GM Edouard Romain & GM Laurent Fressinet):

    May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3 https://youtu.be/4yAWe67yYik
    May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6 https://youtu.be/s09-QGxfi2c
    May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9 https://youtu.be/LPzfTPqAHis
    May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9 https://youtu.be/L42hMGTmLIo
    May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 & Playoffs: https://youtu.be/BbHnzS3vYbU
    Dailymotion (All days and rounds):

    English Commentary: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x76z1jy
    French Commentary: https://dai.ly/x77byvh

    Coverage also at africachessmedia.com

  10. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Essoh Essis on GCT Rapid & Blitz event

    The first event of the Grand Chess Tour is officially over and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire will have in its history and world class chess event. There will be trivia questions such as the players who played, the hotel where it was hosted and that famous icon who was visiting the hotel during the event! All in all, it was a well-run event and earned plaudits from the participants and guests.

    Dr. Essoh Essis

    Dr. Essoh Essis

    Dr. Essoh Essis, the President of Federation Ivoirienne des Echecs was the chief organizer and had a team of tireless workers including South Africa’s Graham Jurgensen, the technical director who essentially saw to it that many organizational details were handled.

    While the numbers on viewership have not been compiled, the event was well-received in social media and the usual stellar coverage was provided by major chess outlets. ChessBase, chess.com and chess24 provided ample coverage and many other platforms like chessbomb and lichess carried the games live. The Chess Drum was able to conduct a number of interviews with Philip Ameku, Veselin Topalov, Maurice Ashley and Oladapo Adu.

    Following is the interview with Essis. He discusses the Rapid and Blitz event, his encounter with Didier Drogba, future of Ivorian chess, its social impact and future plans of his own. Enjoy the treat at the end!

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  11. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    20 years after GM title, Ashley discusses African path

    GM Maurice Ashley
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    Côte d’Ivoire was Maurice Ashley’s 7th African country, all in a relatively short period of time. This would be the first visit to a Francophone African country and the Jamaican-born GM would put his French skills to use. Ashley took up French in high school with a desire to travel to France where his father is an artist. His fluency was good enough to land coaching positions with the Ivorian and Madagascar Olympiad teams in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

    After being a guest at the 4.4 subzonal tournament in Ghana, Ashley headed to Abidjan for the highly-anticipated Grand Chess Tour. It would feature World Champion Magnus Carlsen and nine other top-level players. The brevity of the tournament did not deprive fans of immense excitement, and of course Ashley was up to the task of calling the games. Carlsen was in form once again as he won his 5th tournament in a row reasserting the dominance that had eluded him in 2018. This victory serves to sent a message to those who may have thought he was losing his edge at age 28.

    Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

    Magnus Carlsen greeting Nigerian International Master Oladapo Adu (winner of ECOWAS blitz) at the closing ceremony while Maurice Ashley, Graham Jurgensen (Technical Director), François Cernejeski (Managing Director-Pullman Hotel), Claude Paulin Danho (Côte d’Ivoire Minster of Sport) and Dr. Essoh Essis (President, Fédération Ivoirienne Des Echecs) look on. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    Ashley interviewed Carlsen who noted the enthusiasm and stated that there was a bright future in West Africa. After Ashley got with all his interviewing for the tournament, he sat down with The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz to give his impressions of the event, its impact on the continent and initiatives to keep the momentum going in Africa. This interview took place after the Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz event at the Pullman Hotel in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  12. The Chess Drum chats with Nigeria’s Adu

    Nigeria has plans to break through to produce their first Grandmaster and an official campaign was launched in February. One of the hopefuls in the Africa’s most populous nation is International Master Oladapo Adu. A long-time national team member, Adu spent a number of years in the U.S. before returning in 2016 to nurture chess talent in his country. Over the past few years, he has created his own chess academy and has designs on helping the next generation of chess players.

    Daaim Shabazz presenting “Triple Exclam” to Oladapo Aduat Grand Chess Tour event in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.Photo by The Chess Drum

    Nigeria has enjoyed some success at the Olympiad level, with the men and women winning category prizes in 2012, earned titles and of course IM Odion Aikoje winning an Olympiad gold medal in 1998. A team bus trekked to Côte d’Ivoire for the Abidjan Rapid & Blitz and to participate in the ECOWAS Team Challenge that was being held concurrently. Nigeria took the top two places and Adu won the blitz event. The Chess Drum got a chance to chat with Adu about his activities, his impression of the events in Abidjan and future plans for chess in Nigeria.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

  13. Grand Chess Tour - Rapid & Blitz 2019 - Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

    Reflections on 2019 Abidjan Rapid & Blitz

    Going back to Africa!

    Before traveling to Francophone (French-speaking) Africa for the first time, I had to brush off my French instruction books from grad school to brush up on vocabulary, cognates, listening, phrases, and passe compose’. I discovered that there were a lot of videos on YouTube and went through a number of them. My colleague from Haiti also offered to help me practice. Nevertheless, my comfort level was not high. J’ai tout oublie’!

    Tuesday, 7 May 2019
    (Tallahassee to Jacksonville to Atlanta)

    “Flight Paths” by Steve Waldeck

    After surviving a tense week of grading papers/exams and compiling final grades at Florida A&M University, I prepared to leave Tallahassee the next day. I had to drive 2-3 hours to Jacksonville International Airport. Any delay could cause me to miss my first leg.

    While driving, I was listening to French language sites and also to zouk music from the French Caribbean. It’s always risky to take a flight in another city, but I made it to catch my 7:59 flight. After dropping my car off at the parking company, I check in. This would be the beginning of my Tallahassee-Jacksonville-Atlanta-Paris-Abidjan journey.

    My 42-minute Jacksonville-Atlanta flight was uneventful, but I always like walking in the train tunnel in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport. They have a number of wonderful exhibits including a fascinating work of art called, “Flight Paths,” a sensory buffet of colors and nature sounds. Stunning. The exhibit is between Concourses A and B and one of my favorites.

    Tuesday, 7 May 2019
    (Atlanta to Paris)

    My Atlanta-Paris flight was rather smooth although a bit delayed. We took off at around 8:30 and I settled in. Besides wondering about my specially-ordered meal, I’m always intrigued at the entertainment selection. There were a number of choices of course. I started watching “Aquaman,” but couldn’t get through it so I settled on “Crazy Rich Asians” which I enjoyed.

    Fortunately, the meals came and since I special-ordered, I was served first. It was a polenta dish with lentils and carrots, peppers, artichokes and what appeared to be sauteed kale. This was one of the best vegan meals I’ve had on a flight. Surprisingly well done!

    I started watching “Arctic,” a movie about a man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) who crashed his plane in the desolate snow plains of Iceland. As a result, he was in a desperate fight for survival. With limited time and resources, he had to figure out how to cope in the bitterly cold conditions while hoping someone would find him.

    A rescue helicopter did pick up his beacon but it crashed, killing the Thai pilot. He salvaged valuable equipment from the helicopter, but it left him to care for a severely injured female co-pilot. After days of caring for her and assessing her strength, he decided that she would most likely die of an infection before any help arrived so he packed her in a sled and began a trek across the rugged plains in search of the base he spotted on a map found in the crashed helicopter.

    As my flight was about to land in Paris, he and the injured woman were taking refuge in a cave after hours of hiking in blustery weather. While trying to feed his weakened compatriot, a polar bear had sensed their presence and tried to claw his way into the cave. He scared it off with a flare and primal screams. Would the bear return as they attempted to find the base? The thought weighed on me as I exited the plane.

    Wednesday, 8 May 2019
    (Charles De Gaulle International Airport – Paris, France)

    I have never been to Paris proper, but have only had connecting flights. DeGaulle has made quite a few improvements to the airport over the years. In the Air France concourse there were plenty of shops including the usual upscale and duty-free kinds. I had a couple of hours to wander around and began eating snacks I bought in Jacksonville. I also charged my phone and got on the airport’s free Wi-Fi.

    “Paris will not forget you.”

    Beautiful wall garden. I had to get a closer look.

    I actually met a manicurist from Vietnam who spoke better English than French. After telling her that I visited Vietnam in 2014, she told me she long to return to Hanoi, her hometown. It had been hard for her and French people can be unforgiving about their language.

    So I went back to the gate to hear announcements. We then lined up only to be told the flight would be delayed due to a storm. It was raining heavily. In about 15 minutes we lined up again and boarded the plane.

    Wednesday, 8 May 2019
    (Paris to Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)

    Now almost all of my interactions were in French. I couldn’t find “Arctic” on the Air France system, but watched an interesting African movie called “Maki’la” about young women living on the unforgiving streets of Kinshasa, Congo. Interesting.

    We got to Abidjan and before I could get through customs, I had to stop to get my visa. There was a man directing us. After about 20 minutes, I had gotten my new stamp. I went over to the baggage claim and watched the carousel go around. After about 40 minutes of waiting, I went to the office and discovered my bag was still in Paris! I would have to collect it tomorrow evening. Fortunately, I carried toiletries, another shirt and under garments. I was picked up by Dr. Essoh Essis who had been waiting an hour while I was trying to get my bag. I was also greeted by Private Kouakou who got me a SIM card for my phone.

    My bag was still in Paris!

    Not off to a good start. It was very hot and humid in Abidjan… even at night. Not to mention that there was a change of plans in my accommodation. For the first night, I would be staying with the Nigeria team in the Residence Hotel. After a huge helping of local rice with and a pepper condiment, I checked out the room. It was clean and neat but it probably would be fortunate to get two stars.

    Nigeria in the house!

    This would be my office for the first night.

    There were no toilet seats, but at least I had Internet. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Babatunde Ogunsiku of Africa Chess Media helped me get online and let me use his adapter to charge my phone. I stayed up checking chess reports and slept relatively well in the very firm mattress. Tomorrow would be a big day for me.

    Thursday, 9 May 2019
    (Pullman Hotel – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)

    Charles Lorng came by the hotel telling me they were moving me to another place. I had mentally prepared myself to be in the hotel with the Nigerians, but the Résidence Hôtel la Grace was a definite upgrade. I thought it may have been better to stay with the Nigerians, but the hosts picked me up each afternoon. After I got checked into the Residence, we stopped at Delices Restaurant for lunch. After struggling to find a vegan option, I had alloco (plantains) and some spicy tomato stew over rice.

    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    Throughout Abidjan, I took pictures of numerous billboards. Absolutely stunning. No words needed. More billboards later, but one thing that was certain was that this was the home of international soccer star Didier Drogba and you were made aware of it. Billboards of him were everywhere.

    Drogba may be king, but Côte d’Ivoire is also a land of queens!

    As we were heading to the Pullman Hotel, I told Babatunde about something I saw on chess.com about Maurice Ashley’s video playing soccer. Someone had posted a comment asking where Drogba was. Funny. When we got to the hotel, I went down to see the ECOWAS Team event. Besides Nigeria, Ghana and Togo had sent players.

    Didier Drogba

    After taking pictures I moved inside the hotel where I saw Babatunde who said, “Drogba’s here.” Tu plaisantes? I didn’t see him laughing or smiling, but he must be joking, right? He motioned over toward the dining area and there was a tall man seated having lunch, baseball cap turned backwards. It certainly looked like Drogba. I inched closer… it WAS him! Imagine that… Drogba in the same hotel as the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, an ardent soccer fan.

    Babatunde and I went upstairs by the production room and we saw Essoh Essis. We informed him that Didier Drogba was in the hotel. He had an incredulous look on his face and said, “Here’s here NOW?!?” We rushed downstairs and he immediately approached the table. What was said? Essoh, the chief organizer of the Grand Chess Tour event and the President of the Ivorian Chess Federation (FIDEC) wanted Drogba to make the ceremonial move in one of the rounds. What is more interesting was that apparently Drogba told Essoh that he always wanted to learn to play chess. Imagine the boost for chess in country if Drogba was seen playing. Unfortunately, Drogba was unable to participate in the event but it was a very interesting way to begin the day.

    Essoh Essis chatting with Didier Drogba
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    As word gets around that Drogba was in the building, I find a spot to work. Initially, there was no media room for the event so we essentially just found a convenient spot near the action. Just outside the production room seem to be the best option. Alessandro Parodi of chess.com held down this location the entire tournament. Later on, Graham Jurgensen made a meeting room available to journalists. It was a tremendous upgrade. Far too often, conditions for journalists are an afterthought. We have to fix this issue.

    The round was ready to start. I covered the first Sinquefield Cup in 2013 and remember there being only four players. Now the Grand Chess Tour had expanded to a much larger format and also hosted the tournament for the first time in Africa. Bassem Amin of Egypt was the wildcard representative and I greeted him. He was very gracious despite the 0/3 start. “We finally meet,” he said. I had seen Bassem at several Olympiad tournaments and had been covering him since he won his first African Junior Championship in 2004.

    Maria Emelianova speaking with Egypt’s GM Bassem Amin
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    Day two was interesting as Carlsen was in fine form. Hikaru Nakamura suffered an improbable loss to Amin and stated that there was pressure in trying to keep pace with the World Champion. Despite this loss, Nakamura was only two points behind Carlsen.

    Click on Facebook icon in upper right!

    The environment was very positive and upbeat, but the players were not always accessible so it was difficult to gauge their overall mood about the environment. Veselin Topalov was seen earlier in the pool so at least one Grandmaster was enjoying the amenities.

    The hotel lobby had a section set up for viewing the action.

    Friday, 10 May 2019
    (Pullman Hotel – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)

    To be honest, I was busy milling about and trying to decide which interviews I was going to do. I was meeting the other players from West Africa including Philip Ameku, the President of the Ghanaian Chess Association. After taking a number of photos, I conducted the following interview of Ameku.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    Philip Ameku (Ghana), Angela Ayiku (Ghana), Christiana Naa Merley Ashley (Ghana), Daaim Shabazz (USA) and Ogunsiku Babatunde (Nigeria)

    Peace Samson (Nigeria), Onokpite Kennedy (Nigeria), Toritsemuwa Ofowina (Nigeria), Daaim Shabazz (USA)

    Carlsen would remain on top of the rapid segment three points infront of Nakamura with Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave trailing close behind. That night a group of players, organizers and journalists went to the Bushman Cafe for dinner. I enjoyed my conversation with Veselin Topalov who spoke about a wide range of topics including who should move first in chess. I later interviewed him and he covered the topic in more detail.

    Saturday, 11 May 2019
    (Pullman Hotel – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)


    An increasing trend has moved toward quicker formats. There is a debate on whether blitz and rapid is more attractive to viewers. I believe it depends. If you are a decent chess player, it can be. If you don’t play chess or a low-level player, it will not be any more fascinating other than the fact that the physical emotionalism is easier to understand. You will not know what is happening on the board, but at least you have an inkling of who’s winning and losing from the expression. Is this enough? Of course not.

    All of us (100%) learned to play chess in the classical form and we became attracted to it. If we consider slower formats “boring,” maybe we should recall why we pursued chess. In classical you have time to listen to someone explain the plan, see the tension build, attempt to understand it and see it evolve. You can even guess the moves, see why your choice is good or bad, and interact with others on the ideas. The question remains, what is the best way to tell this story?

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s surge was impressive
    slightly closing the gap on Magnus Carlsen.

    Honestly, I didn’t get a chance to follow the blitz games very much. From a journalist viewpoint, you cannot do recaps after every round, so you have to settle for tweeting or posting photos of the action. At the end of the first day, Carlsen had lost a half-point as MVL got 6.5/9, 2.5 points back. It probably was too much to think of anyone overtaking the World Champion.

    Oh… a group of us went to the Parker Place reggae club where they were commemorating the life of Bob Marley. The reggae ambassador died in Miami May 11, 1981. I was one of the fortunate few of the chess group who stayed long enough to see Essoh Essis perform “No Woman, No Cry.” Nuff respeck!

    Taking in Ivorian reggae vibe!

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    Sunday, 12 May 2019
    (Pullman Hotel – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)

    Last day. The event had been an organizational success and I was glad I made the trip. I managed to interview Veselin Topalov along with Maurice Ashley and Oladapo Adu. Carlsen held onto the lead as expected, but he was none too happy losing both blitz games to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL).

    Nevertheless, neither Hikaru Nakamura nor MVL could gain any ground as they suffered crucial losses. MVL dropped games to Nakamura, Wesley So, and Sergey Karjakin. Nakamura had a good second half, but had a few draws and lost the finale to Carlsen. In the end, Carlsen won by a 3.5 point margin clinching with two rounds remaining.

    Click on Facebook icon in upper right!

    The evening ended with a short closing ceremony and lots of selfies. Carlsen was mobbed for interviews, but I decided to grab Topalov for a session. It was a refreshing interview and he even complimented me on my outfit. It was a very positive environment and my colleague Babatunde Ogunsiku (africachessmedia.com) got the interview with Carlsen.

    Monday, 13 May 2019
    (Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire)

    The tournament was over and Carlsen had won his 5th tournament in a row. While most were catching flights to other destinations, I would get to see my Ivorian friend from graduate school, Dr. Jean Yapi. We attended Clark Atlanta University both for MBA and Ph.D. in International Affairs and Development. Those were very important times in my intellectual development.

    I plan to write a book just about these experiences, but suffice it to say, my educational grounding has provided me with the tools to become a successful academic. At this institution, I met dozens of students who were from the African continent seeking to make a difference in their respective countries. Jean was one of them.

    Jean Yapi and I are on the left at the graduation of our friend Biram Fall,
    an erudite scholar from Senegal. Nearly 30 years ago!

    Jean told me who glad he came to Atlanta after spending 10 years (ages 15-25) in Paris. Many times he was the only person of African descent in his class and it was easy to become isolated. After completing his studies in the U.S., he returned to Côte d’Ivoire. For the past 20 years he had been learning about his own country.

    When he took me to the old capital, Grand Bassam, I could tell that he enjoyed it as much as I did. It was a very nostalgic town with remnants from the past still standing. We visited the Musee National des Costumes (Grand Bassam), the former administrative and residential location for the French colonial government. It is appropriate that they have replaced it with indigenous traditions.

    Click on Facebook icon in upper right!

    The costumes of the various ethnic groups had very specific meaning. In fact, in order to wear certain types of clothing you had to show a level of erudition or wisdom. Another exhibit showed the ritual involving a girl coming into womanhood, a practice that seems to disappearing in all but the remote areas. One of the most fascinating was the “Royal Hammock” on which the Akan king would be carried. What was most interesting that the carriage was shaped like a coffin as a reminder that he has to be a just ruler, or else… well, you can imagine.

    Final Thoughts

    This was an important trip in my career of travels and evolution as a global citizen. One of the things one has to do to become a global citizen is to travel, but also engage in language immersion. This trip helped me to reignite my quest for fluency in another language. During graduate school, I chose French because it is spoken widely in Africa and my Ph.D. research was dealing with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS). It is through understanding of different languages do we learn to see the world in a holistic way. I teach my students that we often evolve through five stages…

    1. Global Disconnect
    2. Global Awareness
    3. Global Understanding
    4. Global Competency
    5. Global Fluency

    Coming to this event was part of my professional development was of course I came due to its historic importance. My impression was that the event was run well and the production team did a stellar job. I enjoyed the event, but was surprised that I met none of the Ivorian ladies who were in Batumi for the Olympiad. Nevertheless, FIDEC will have some challenges going forward as they will endure the strains of a young federation. It was a great event and we can thank Dr. Essis and his team for making the event a rousing success. Felicitations!

    Best Memories of the Abidjan were… (not ranked)

    • The hospitality of Charles Lorng… he has great passion and he took care me while I was in Abidjan! Thanks for everything! Thanks for tolerating my French!
    • Essoh’s performance at the Parker Place reggae (see video above)
    • Essoh Essis performing a Marley favorite.

    • Speaking with Babatunde Ogunsiku about the need for an international journalists organization. He has started a WhatsApp group.
    • My conversations with former World Champion, Veselin Topalov. He gave very dynamic insights on various topics which were similar to the way he plays chess. He agreed to an interview!
    • Socializing with the West Africans from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana.
    • Riding around with Simplice Degondo, the Ivorian #1 player. He told me an uncle taught him to play initially.
    • The mangoes!! Best I’ve ever had… and the largest.
    • Seeing my classmate Jean Yapi from graduate school (after 20 years) and visiting Grand Bassam, the first capital of the Ivory Coast
    • Meeting Bassem Amin of Egypt formally
    • The billboards of Côte d’Ivoire. Initially, it was my impression that Ghana had the most beautiful billboards I had ever seen, but those in Abidjan were also stunning. They conveyed hope, happiness, self-esteem, family values, pride, patriotism and beauty.
    • Billboards in Côte d’Ivoire
      (Click on Facebook icon in upper right!)

    • The Didier Drogba joke! “Where is Drogba?” We found him! 😀
    • Finishing the movie “Arctic” on the Paris-Jacksonville flight. Outstanding movie!
    • Watching Peace Samson and Christina Ashley play blitz
    • The view from the The Pullman Hotel… very nice!
    • The waiter with whom I had a conversation in French. He said my French is pretty good. He was either too generous or I had become an expert at using DeepL Translator and a French book I received from a Haitian friend in 1989!
    • Or course… interviewing Maurice Ashley and leaving Abidjan on the same flight. It’s one of the few times that we had time to talk during a tournament.

    Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

    Worst Memories of Abidjan were…

    • My bag not arriving in Abidjan when I landed. I waited 40 minutes until I found out it was still in Paris
    • Missing blitz tournament and not playing a single game
    • Not getting a chance to visit the Grand Mosque in Abidjan

    Interview with Dr. Essoh Essis, President of FIDEC

    Video Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

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