Africa rounds out the year showcasing its young talent as the African Junior Championship opens on October 25th. The hotbed of draughts (10×10 checkers) on continent, West Africa is one of the regions looking to increase its profile in chess.
Ghana has had a very active 2015 hosting the subzonal championships in April and attracting 54 players. That tournament was won by Nigeria’s IM Daniel Anwuli who was once a participant in the African Juniors. This tournament will be headlined by GM Adham Fawzy the top-seed who incidentally won the 2018 edition in Kampala, Uganda. WIM Anika Du Plessis of South Africa won the Girls competition.
GM Adham Fawzy
Photo by https://ajedreztricolor.com.ve/
The Egyptian will be looking to defend his title in Accra and one of his closest challengers will be his brother Kandil, an International Master. He is the third seed. Madagascar will make a strong bid with IM Fy Rakotomaharo who won the 4.3 subzonal tournament with an impressive 8/9 score. Second-seed Rakotomaharo will be looking to affirm his status as one of the brightest talents to emerge in recent years.
Ghana Chess Federation President Philip Ameku has been blazing the chess trails and has succeeded in putting Ghana in a leadership position in the region. This will be the first time that the event has been hosted in West Africa. It is an opportune moment for players in the region to make an impression. In an interview with Africa Chess Media, he stated:
I saw this as a unique opportunity for the Ghanaian and of course West African chess players, because if you observe, you would realize that federations from our zone especially, find it difficult travelling to Southern Africa or Northern Africa to participate in tournaments. Therefore hosting this tournament is a way of giving our players that kind of exposure and opportunity.
In fact, the Ivory Coast is sending seven players, all of who received training earlier this month from GM Maurice Ashley. Ghana also received the world-famous Grandmaster. Perhaps the Grand Chess Tour event and the accompanying West African tournament can be seen as a type of catalyst for this year’s success.
Philip Ameku (President, Ghana Chess), Angela Ayiku (Ghana), Christiana Naa Merley Ashley (Vice President, Ghana Chess), Daaim Shabazz (The Chess Drum) and Ogunsiku Babatunde (Africa Chess Media) during the Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The spirit of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah lives on! Photo by The Chess Drum
— Daaim Shabazz (@thechessdrum) May 12, 2019
In fact, the problem with travel and the vastness of the African continent may be why there is not maximum participation. While events like the 2019 All-Africa Games put chess in the spotlight, continental events still struggle to get a majority of the federations to send players. On the bright side, the African Championships held this year was the strongest in history and this tournament will prove to be a valuable training ground to get to the next level.
In fact, the Ivory Coast is sending seven players, all of whom received training earlier this month from GM Maurice Ashley. Ghana has twice hosted the world-famous Grandmaster and is setting in motion expansion of chess in the ECOWAS region.
Ivory Coast completed the training with GM Ashley and will be prepared to make an impression in Ghana. Photo courtesy of FIDEC
Eleven nations and 41 players will compete at the tourney. Interestingly enough, many of the top federations around the continent did not send players. A surprise omission would be South Africa. Nevertheless, there will be fierce competition and players will be looking to increase their rating, earn norms and perhaps earn a higher FIDE title.