2019 World Chess Cup starts today… Africa rejuvenated

This has been a banner year for African chess. The Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz hosted in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire was a smashing success. The 2019 African Championship in Tunisia was the strongest ever and the recently-held 2019 Africa Games was all the rave. These three events have been a culmination in a year of promise and hope on the continent.

African players will trek to the Siberian region of Russia with a rejuvenated spirit in hopes to make an impression. A refreshing confidence has been seen in recent years. Who can forget the confidence of Zambia’s Andrew Kayonde when facing world-class opponent Vassily Ivanchuk at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. In a gripped battle, Ivanchuk was still trying to win a game from an equal position. Not to be denied, Kayonde said, “I know he is Vassily Ivanchuk, but I’m also the Zambian Champion!

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco
Photo by Jeux Africains Rabat 2019

In what has come to be one of the main staging grounds for chess, Khanty-Mansiysk will host the 2019 World Cup and six African players will be on hand. Traditionally, African players had been overmatched and went looking for experience. In recent years, the continent has not only sent stronger players, but have produced some tough matches on the higher boards.

Years ago, there were some chatter about Africans not being deserving of six slots in the World Cup given the level of the players. Such comments are becoming less favored. In the past, Africa would sent a mixture of IMs and FMs. This year four Grandmasters and two International Masters from the African continent will join the field.

Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

Grandmasters Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt)
Photo by James Mwangi

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
Photo by Amruta Mokal

This year, six African players will be competing of which three are Egyptian. In 2015 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, GM Bassem Amin was first African player to advance to the second round. He qualified by virtue of his second place finish in the African Championships. His compatriot GM Ahmed Adly won the event, but had already qualified after winning the 4.2 Zonal. GM Essam El-Gindy, the tournament’s eldest player, will take that spot instead. GM Bilel Bellahcene of Algeria won the 4.1 Zonal while IM Fy Rakotomaharo of Madagascar won 4.3 Zonal. Lastly, IM Daniel Anwuli of Nigeria won the 4.4 Zonal.

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

Young talents IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) and IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) will be in Khanty-Mansiysk looking for upsets. Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

While African players are generally outrated in the World Cup, Amin will be the favorite his first match. The others will face players had all been in the top 10-30 at one time or another. Here are the pairings.

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
Round #1 Pairings for Africa
1 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
IM Daniel Anwuli
NGR
2 GM Bilel Bellahcene
ALG
GM Hikaru Nakamura
USA
3 GM Ahmed Adly
EGY
GM Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
4 GM Levon Aronian
ARM
GM Essam El-Gindy
EGY
5 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
IM Fy Rakotomaharo
MAD
6 GM Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
GM Bassem Amin
EGY
Official Pairings

This is a tremendous opportunity for African players to break through. They are not going as “tourists” merely to say they have participated. They are going for glory and to defend their national honor.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

7 Comments

  1. 2019 World Chess Cup
    September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
    Round #1, Game #1
    1 IM Daniel Anwuli
    NGR
    0-1
    GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    FRA
    2 GM Hikaru Nakamura
    USA
    ½-½
    GM Bilel Bellahcene
    ALG
    3 GM Ivan Cheparinov
    GEO
    1-0
    GM Ahmed Adly
    EGY
    4 GM Levon Aronian
    ARM
    ½-½
    GM Essam El-Gindy
    EGY
    5 IM Fy Rakotomaharo
    MAD
    0-1
    GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
    AZE
    6 GM Amin Tabatabaei
    IRI
    ½-½
    GM Bassem Amin
    EGY
    Official Pairings

    Interesting matchups for the African players…
    El-Gindy gets near upset!

    IM Daniel Anwuli facing off against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    Photo by khantymansiysk2019.fide.com

    Daniel Anwuli faced Maxime Vachier-Lagrave but quickly went astray in the opening after a dubious pawn sacrifice. However, the Nigerian tried to confuse the super-GM by going for complications after 16.Rxf6!? Anwuli had inadequate compensation for the exchange, but it was returned by the Frenchman. At this point, white’s pawn structure was in shambles and MVL wove a mating net after the black king sprinted up the board.

    Levon Aronian took tremendous risks and was clearly worse against Essam El-Gindy. Photo by khantymansiysk2019.fide.com

    Essam El-Gindy had the closest chance to win for the Africans. In fact, it seemed like his opponent Levon Aronian was going to suffer a huge upset loss. Generally with elite players, they are more stable in their play. However, Garry Kasparov made an observation. Today’s elite players play too many games. A week after finishing the Sinquefield and the Champions Showdown, the Armenian was at it again.

    After 23.g4 h6 24.h4, he began to lose the thread of the position. With the white king tucked away on h1 behind a rook, black started to get some counterplay. There was some interesting play with exchange being offered by both sides, but it appeared that the white king was too exposed to survive after 42…Qg4! The Egyptian wasted precious time and tried pushing the a-pawn to stretch his opponent’s defenses. White consolidated instead and there was nothing left.

    Fy Rakotomaharo had a tough time containing Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s superior understanding. White made no obvious missteps by his knights had no entry points. Black’s active pieces won the day. In Nakamura-Bellahcene, the American rolled out the Catalan, but have reversed a move order. White played 16.e5!? and the game appeared to steer in black’s favor. Commentators were surprised at the resilient play of the Algerian… seemingly not realizing that he is a Grandmaster. After jostling of pieces around the board, a draw was agreed. Bellahcene granted a short interview after the game.

    Video by FIDE

    Africa’s two top players had a rough beginning. Ahmed Adly was slowly crushed by Ivan Cheparinov while Bassem Amin seemed to be ceding the two-bishop advantage to Iranian phenom Amin Tabatabaei. Amin had to fight hard for a draw. In the final position, there were opposite-colored bishops and despite the possibility of winning a pawn, Tabatabaei agreed to a draw.

    Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
    chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

  2. 2019 World Chess Cup
    September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
    Round #1, Game #2
    1 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    2-0
    Anwuli, D
    NGR
    2 Bellahcene, B
    ALG
    1-1
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    3 Adly, A
    EGY
    ½-1½
    Cheparinov, I
    GEO
    4 El-Gindy, E
    EGY
    ½-1½
    Aronian, L
    ARM
    5 Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    2-0
    Rakotomaharo, F
    MAD
    6 Amin, B
    EGY
    1-1
    Tabatabaei, A
    IRI
    Official Pairings

    Rough Day for Africa, but two players go to tiebreaks

    Before the World Cup, there were hopes that some of the African players would advance into the second round. Of course, this would be a steep hill to climb as most of them were facing elite competition. Just as sure as Radaslaw Wojtaszek (2739) lost his match to a young Norwegian (not named Carlsen), it shows that upsets are possible. Johan-Sebastian Christiansen toppled the Polish player and posted an impassioned tweet.

    Only one African player can write a similar story as Bilel Bellahcene faces Hikaru Nakamura in the tiebreaks. Bassem Amin will be slightly favored over namesake Amin Tabatabaei. Bellahcene has not played any outrageous lines thus far, but may try to do so in the quicker time controls. Nakamura is one of the premier players in quickplay and accepted a quick draw to move to tiebreaks. This strategy worked for Sergey Karjakin in 2015 when he won the Cup and went on to face Magnus Carlsen for the world championship in 2016. Of course, Nakamura has not been in the best of form as of late so there is some risk.

    In today’s contests, Nigeria’s Daniel Anwuli had an uphill climb to level the score against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The game was a tense battle out of the Ruy Lopez and the Frenchman quickly grabbed space and the two bishops. Black’s position was a bit cramped, but in a flurry of exchanges it appeared that black had counter play after 27…Nc5 28.cxb5 Nxb3 29.Rxc8 Nxc1 30.Rxc1 Qxb5. However, white had a strong passed a-pawn that had to be watched closely. That pawn ended up making it all the way down to the seventh rank and black was not in time to protect queening square on b8. On 43.Qc8 black resigned in lieu of 43…Bc7 44.Ba5! MVL posted the following tweet…

    The young Nigerian should be proud to know that he showed determination and his games were competitive. He will be a force in African chess if he continues on this path.

    African champion Ahmed Adly faced Ivan Cheparinov but failed to get anything with the white pieces. He went for a Catalan and held a slight edge with strong central pawns and two bishops, but black was able to solve problems tactically. The position was equal from that point on and there was no way to press for an advantage. In fact, it was black who started pressing for a win. After 39.Qf3? black was winning after 39…e4! Black was on +5 after 45.Rb1 since 45…Bd6 would win at least the exchange and white exposed king would have spelled doom. However, black decided to go for the draw and advance.

    For Fy Rakotomaharo, he wanted to end the tournament playing a solid result and went for an unbalanced position. However, white’s position was too solid to make any use of his active pieces. After 20…f5!? white consolidated and when the “Malagasy Radar” went for complications 26…g5 27.Nf5 g5 28. Nf5 Nxg5 28.Nd5! his position collapsed and he ended up in mating net. It was a good experience to play such strong competition. Fy will return to France were he is undertaking university studies and hopefully he will get to play strong competition during his sojourn in Europe.

    Essam El-Gindy trying to equalize the match against Levon Aronian. Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

    Essam El-Gindy trying to equalize the match against Levon Aronian.
    Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

    In Essam El-Gindy’s game against Levon Aronian, his white game was very ambitious as he set up a front pawn center. A dynamic position occurred and white lunged forward with 18.g4. This move broke the structure and gave black swift counterplay. Aronian had seen deeply, gave up his strong knight for a bad bishop because after 24…Nxd3! 25.Qxd3 black plays 25…Rhg6! with a strong attack. If 26.h3 then black sacrifices the queen with 26…Qxh5! El-Gindy’s center then collapsed and he gave up three central pawns for the exchange. Too much. Aronian eventually solidified and parried white’s attempt to start a mating attack with his king, but lost all of his pawns and had to resign. The Egyptian missed his chances in the first game, so the Armenian will advance.

    Amin has a good chance to advance today against Tabatabaei, but the more interesting match may well be Bellahcene vs. Nakamura. Look for the Algerian to unsettle the world’s top bullet player with some unorthodox lines to gain time. Perhaps a 1.Nh3 is on the menu?

    Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
    chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

  3. ULTRAWOW! its surprising naka playin so weak, i visted the st louie club and caught rd eight and he wuz doin the same thing there, saw vishy and all theses other dudes didnt see any of this ” OVER THE BOARD JENIUS CHESS ” their gms been talkin about on the internet, lol. Oh Daaim ya boi Negash has gotten stronger we played on ICC and i cant toy with him anymore!ahaha, Now my hope is he can go crush thier traditional gms “ova da bored” so i wont have to waste my time again like i did to them on ICC, UM TRYNA DRINK MY BEER AND WATCH AMERICAN IDOL! They gotcha boi Kodi Lee out there! oh yeah fides world chumpion wuz practicin in st louie too, he saw me in my fancy black suit posted on this site! LOL!!! PEACE AND LOVE DRUMMAS!

  4. 2019 World Chess Cup
    September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
    TIEBREAKS
    1 Bellahcene, B
    ALG
    1½-2½
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    2 Amin, B
    EGY
    1½-2½
    Tabatabaei, A
    IRI
    Official Pairings

    Amin beaten by Amin; Bellahcene given a “knightmare”

    It all ended today for the African participants as both remaining participants flamed out of the 2019 World Cup. Both Bassem Amin (Egypt) and Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) got to the tiebreaks in different ways. Amin played Iranian phenom Amin Tabatabaei in two hotly-contested games (Italian and Grunfeld) that both ended quietly.

    Bassem Amin advanced in 2015 and would try to repeat his success.
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (FIDE).

    In the tiebreaks, Amin opted for a King’s Indian, but something went horribly wrong in his preparation. After 15.b4 white was ready to break through on the queenside while Amin’s attack was a step slow. White mobilized and played 25.f4!? taking advantage of so many tactical motifs. The Egyptian tried keeping lines closed, but things worsened after 27…g4? 28.Bxg4 Rxg4 29.Rxg4 Bxg4 30.Rxg4. At this point, black’s position was a wreak and Tabatabaei finished the game off cleanly.

    In the second tiebreak, Amin needed a win. He may have gotten his chance after 24.g4 winning a piece for a couple of pawns. Certainly, his king was not safe and black had the two bishops, but Amin’s advantage kept growing. In the double-edged position, white had a dangerous a-pawn racing up the board. In addition, black’s position was become overextended.

    Bassem Amin had a chance to seize the advantage after 47…f4? with 48.Qc3! or 48.Qd4 when black’s exposed king comes under fire.

    After 47…f4? the computer evaluation grew to +4! Why such a big plus? White was a clear piece up and black’s center was collapsing. In severe time pressure, Amin blundered with 48..g6?? throwing away his advantage with one move. With seconds ticking, Tabatabaei returned the blunder with 48…Kxg6??

    At this point each player was relying on their increment and mistakes were piling up for both sides. Black had another chance to win, but he was most likely being cautious. On 62.Bxb5?? black could have taken the full point after 62…Qa1+ 63.Kh2 Qc1! pinning the rook and threatening the deadly Rg2+. The pendulum swung back and forth and a queen ending ensued. Bassem had an extra pawn, but his king was exposed and he couldn’t escape the checks. Here is the tense moment with the Egyptian trying to escape…

    So it was… Africa’s #1 player was ousted.

    In the other match Hikaru Nakamura was content in going to tiebreaks where he is the favorite in quickl play. The first was absolutely amazing. In a Berlin Defense, the game held a balance for 50 moves. The American’s king’s knight jumped around the board probing the position. There was nothing white could do to change the position. Black continued to gain time and simply moved his knight around posing tactical problems.

    Finally, black penetrated the position as white lay helpless. What was amazing was the knight’s ability to switch control of squares and coordinate with the rook to create mating threats. White’s rook and bishop became passive. Persistence paid off and after 84…Re2+ 85.Kg1 Kg6 86.Rd4 Nf5 87.Rd3 Nh4 and the Algerian gave up. The black knight had moved 38 times during the game and its job was complete.

    In the second game, Bellahcene got lost in the complications and ended up with severely exposed king. After 25.Qg4+ Kh8 26.Qxe6 the American held on and didn’t let go. When a draw would’ve been sufficient, Nakamura pressed for a win a pawn up and opposite-color bishop ending. Ultimately, the Algerian resigned.

    Bilel Bellahcene switched his federation last year to Algeria
    and hopes to be a future force in African chess.
    Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

    The six Africans went to Khanty-Mansiysk in search of honor and received it. Perhaps it is disappointing that none of the Africans advanced, but the games were well-fought and Africa has only just begun the journey of player development. This year was one to give Africa more exposure and it is hopeful that further resources will assist in a generation of players that will contend for a world championship some day.

    Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
    chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

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