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.
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
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 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
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.
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!
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)
BRONZE – WIM Eyah Mooataz (Egypt)