Fire on Board in Casablanca!
That is the one word that will describe the action today in Casablanca. While most of the world were preparing for the Sinquefield Cup at the St. Louis Chess Club, thousands were tuning into chess24 to follow the All-Africa Games. In addition, Arkady Dvorkovich was on hand to make the ceremonial move before the day’s action started. It has been his plea to spread the joys of chess globally and he mentions Africa frequently. In fact, many of the journalists have given plaudits to the current administration for their attendance in Morocco.
Mr. Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji
"The inclusion of #chess into the official program of the African Games is a big step forward. I would like to thank all our partners, the whole team, and each player, each captain for their contribution," – #FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich at the #AfricanGames in Morocco today. pic.twitter.com/zyG0EFQpAr
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) August 26, 2019
Of course, chess had previously been included the All-African Games as recently as 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique, 2007 in Algiers, Algeria and 2004 in Abuja, Nigeria. The Chess Drum gave the events coverage, but social media had not developed at that point. There was not widespread coverage in the chess media.
GM Ahmed Adly (Egypt) vs. IM Stanley Chumfwa (Zambia)
2011 All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique
Many things have changed since 2011… besides the venue of colorful jackets. There is a new FIDE President and his staff has bought into his message of making chess excellence more attainable. There was also the appearance and endorsement of General Ahmed Nasser who serves as the President of Association of African Sports Confederations.
Arkady Dvorkovich chatting with General Ahmed Nasser while Kema Goryaeva (left) and Egyptian Chess Federation President Dr. Hesham Elgendy.
Introduction of General Nasser
General Nasser making ceremonial move at the board of the two Egyptian sisters, Shrook and Shahenda Wafa.
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji
At the #AfricanGames2019, there are now 25 federations competing in the rapid events. Cote d'Ivoire ??, Libya ??, Mauritania ??, Sierra Leone ??, and Uganda ?? have been added to the list of nations vying for medals. https://t.co/V8GQcm6fry @thechessdrum
— Daaim Shabazz (@thechessdrum) August 26, 2019
Now onto chess…
Today’s games were absolutely thrilling. There were lots of twists and turns as the format meant everyone was playing for their own glory. The posture of the players seem a lot more intense. In the first round of the open, all of the favorites won without exception. In the women’s field there was one upset as Caxita-Magne was a very unpredictable affair.
In a Center Counter, white was actually winning right in the opening as black spent more time than usual trying to untangle her position. In fact on move 12, white has the killer 12.a4! (+4.59) and black will be fortunate to last five more moves. By move 25, white had lost most of her advantage and probably spent time trying to find the knockout blow.
Unfortunately, it was black who had the initiative. Under time pressure, white hung a piece, then black hung one back. The game settled into a R+Q vs. R+Q and five pawns. However, black’s passed d-pawn was ominous and white failed to stop its march. So there it was… a 500-point upset.
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji
The second round was a bit more tense as the games were more competitive. Bilel Bellahcene continued his offbeat openings with 6.h4!? against Abimbola Osunfuyi’s Najdorf Sicilian. The game was an exciting slugfest, but the Algerian GM waded through the maelstrom of complications finishing with a 34.Rf8! shot.
Ahmed Adly played a master game against the other Nigerian, a motivated Oladapo Adu. That game came out of a “hippopotamus,” an opening increasingly favored by the Grandmaster. In this game he simply had a better understanding and it was a marvel to watch.
In the women’s event, most of the favorites won, but there was an interesting game in Nassr-Haile. The Ethiopian was outrated 300 points, but played a fantastic game conjuring up a lightning attack. Nassr took quite a number of risk in allowing 23…Qxa4 going after an exchange. It costed her two pawns… one of them a passed a-pawn.
As white was trying to recover pawns, she allowed the black queen and knight to coordinate a devastating attack. In the end, Nassr had to return the exchange, but Haile proceeded to gobble all of white’s pawns. It was truly an instructive comeback. In these shortened time controls, it is evident that playing a bit too risky is unwise even if you’re the heavy rating favorite. Great win for Haile!
More interesting games in round three. One of the best played games of the third round was Shrook Wafa’s positional masterpiece against Onkemetse Francis. At one point, it was hard for black to move any pieces. This immobilization allowed white to slowly position her pieces in an aggressive stance and then launching an attack at the right time. Notice how white’s knight sat on c5 to disrupt black’s army.
While Adly and Amin were coasting to 3/3, Arthur Ssegwanyi of Uganda got a stroke of fortune when he mated Hicham Hamdouchi in a roughly equal position. Moroccan tried to get a mating attack but forgot about an important zwischenzug which mates him with a pawn.
With a four-way tie for first, the Egyptian GMs took care of business, but the other Ugandan Harold Wanyama was gathering momentum. He won again pushing his score to 3.5/4. Bellahcene continued his unorthodox play. During the mixed team, the Algerian played 1.Nh3 (winning against Adu) and 1…Na6 (losing against Oatlhotse).
In the second round of this tournament, he tried 6.h4 against the Najdorf (winning against Osunfuyi), an idea having come into vogue at the GM level. Now he plays another offbeat line with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.b4!? wing gambit which went 3…cxb4 4.d4 d5! It is similar to 1.e4 c5 2.b4?! cxb4 3.a3 d5! The opening caught IM Adlane Arab by surprise. He misplayed it and lost in just 22 moves.
In the women’s section, the Wafa sisters won smoothly and would be set to play each other in round five. Rapid chess at 15’+10″ is nerve-wrecking. We often arrive at winning positions only to see it fritter away. What must Onkemetse Francis be thinking about her fourth round game. She was a clear knight and pawn up and allowed her opponent to draw the game with no more than a prayer and a hope. Ouch.
Chess can be brutal sometimes. Missed mates are bad, but letting a hard earned win slip away is the worst feeling because of the energy invested.
FM Abimbola Osunfuyi (Nigeria)
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji
In the last round for the day, the top seeded Egyptians (Amin and Adly) agreed to a quick draw in the open section. However, the Wafa sisters showed that they are competitive and played one of the craziest games of the tournament. There were tactics everywhere and three results were always possible. It just so happened that Shahenda Wafa left her queen enprise during the time scramble and Shrook simply snapped it off. Truly bruising battle!
Kayonde and Bellahcene was also “Fire on Board” as the Algerian seemed to have some initiative. After a few mistakes Kayonde pounced and took over the initiative and getting a winning position. The marvel of this game was that both kings were totally exposed to the pieces zipping around the board. Of course, one has to snare the full point. As we have seen many blunders at this fast time control, anything could happen. This time Kayonde kept his composure and won. By the way, Wanyama won again and he is now in a tied for first on 4.5/5. He will face Adly tomorrow.
Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2019/08/24/12th-all-africa-games-rabat-morocco/
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/