2023 Kenya Chess Open is historic!

The Kenya Chess Open was one of the strongest local tournaments attracting seven Grandmasters. Timur Gareyev (USA) won the tournament with a stunning 8.5/9 in a tournament that attracted 445 players but went viral for a different reason. More on that later.

GM Timur Gareyev vs. Zambian IM Gillian Bwalya at 2023 Kenya Open
Photo by Kim Bhari

The free-spirited Grandmaster from Uzbekistan is known more for his blindfold exploits and also for skydiving while playing chess. Gareyev has been in Uganda giving lectures and blindfold exhibitions as part of a chess education initiative.

Back in January, he mentioned to The Chess Drum,

Got FIDE official contact to receive some chess sets for good projects. Will likely take 1-2 months for approval & work on delivery. Other than that got 50 of them to take along currently!

~Timur Gareyev on initiative in Uganda

There were a lot of plaudits being heaped onto the Chess Kenya Federation for organizing the event. They teamed with Terrain Chess Africa as the hosts. There were statements being posted about how local players would scalp the highly-fancied players. However, the Grandmasters turned out to be worth their reputations.

Bernard Wanjala (President of Chess Kenya) is pleased to be receiving this assistance. Photo by Chess Kenya

Bernard Wanjala (President of Chess Kenya) is pleased with the outcome.
Photo by Chess Kenya

Selected Photos of Kenya Chess Open (Kim Bhari)

In the Kenyan Open, the U.S.-based Uzbek player was in top form as he only yielded one draw to GM Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan. Only a +8 performance by Gareyev could top Safarli’s 8/9 score. It was quite a breakthrough to get seven Grandmasters to Kenya to provide opportunities for local and regional players.

Players from 22 countries came with host Kenya entering 359. It is an example of what Africa can do as far as providing an attractive venue for chess. It is a matter of time before the continent hosts its first Olympiad.

Final Standings (Open)

1GMGareyev TimurUSA2602
2GMSafarli EltajAZE26018
3IMSamant Aditya SIND2496
4GMPonkratov PavelRUS2580
5FMWanyama HaroldUGA2303
6FMMulenga Prince DanielZAM21887
7GMFawzy AdhamEGY24957
8IMSsegwanyi ArthurUGA23757
9GMHesham AbdelrahmanEGY24117
10GMSriram JhaIND23107

Full Results, Games

The Mystery Muslim

There was an interesting situation that overshadowed the perfect 9/9 performance of Germany’s Josefine Heinemann. What apparently was a Kenyan woman in Muslim garb was cutting her way through the field beating both a former Kenyan champion and Uganda’s top woman, also a Muslim. Who was this mystery Muslim woman?

Shakira Ampaire of Uganda against “Millicent Awuor
Photo by Chess Kenya

That question started to surface when no one could recall such a name from previous national events. However, the arbiters proceeded with caution, but they noticed that the player remained isolated and did not interact with any of the other players, not even opponents. This is strange given the social nature of chess.

“The reason was due to financial needs but I deeply regret my action and [am] ready to accept all consequences.”

~Stanley Omondi

It turns out that Awuor was not a woman, neither biological nor transgender. Arbiters decided to investigate after noticing a few cues including body language and avoiding personal contact. Upon interrogation, they requested identification after which it was revealed that he was Stanley Omandi, a university male student. A Kenyan man had decided to vie for a share of the 500,000 KSh prize in the woman’s section. The arbiters released the following statement:

The event was largely successful but there was one incident of impersonation in the ladies category. A male chess player had disguised himself as Millicent Awour and registered in the ladies category. The player was disqualified from the tournament and his results altered in favor of his opponents. The matter has been forwarded to the Chess Kenya Disciplinary Committee.

~Arbiter’s Report

Heinemann goes unscathed… barely!

Kenya’s Wanjiru Kimani plays WGM Josefine Heinemann of Germany 
in Round 1 of the Kenya Chess Open. Photo by Chess Kenya

Kenya’s Wanjiru Kimani plays WGM Josefine Heinemann of Germany
in Round 1 of the Kenya Chess Open.
Photo by Chess Kenya

Unfortunately, the controversy overshadowed the performance of Josefine Heinemann who steamrolled her way through the field beating both Wafa sisters (Shrook and Shahenda) on the way. However, she came within a hair of losing as Joyce Ndirangu almost took down Heinemann with a blaze of sacrifices. It would’ve been a fantastic result. Chess can be brutal sometimes.

While the foreign players dominated the event, it provided East Africa with an opportunity to play strong players. This is a sample of what the continent can do as its 54 countries are hoping that this will be Africa’s time to shine.

Final Standings (Women)

1WGMHeinemann JosefineGER22749
2WGMWafa ShrookEGY2138
3WGMWafa ShahendaEGY2099
4 Nakabo PeninahUGA18097
5WCMNdirangu Joyce NyaruaiKEN16627
6WIMLaubscher AnzelRSA1762
7 Sana Omprakash KayyarUGA1412
8 Dutt LakshitaMAW1257
9WFMMongeli SashaKEN16956
10WCMAmpaire ShakiraUGA17026

Full Results, Games

According to the Arbiter’s Report,

Safaricom PLC was the event’s connectivity partner of total value of Ksh. 1,000,000 (5G internet connectivity and airtime worth Ksh. 105,000/=). This made it possible for the event to be streamed live across social media platforms and games played on DGT boards being followed globally uninterrupted. KCB Group – They gave a cash sponsorship of Ksh. 500,000/= which was used to boost the prize fund. Kenya Academy of Sports – They provided the chess sets that were used during the course of the tournament.

Arbiters (Kenya Chess Open)

  1. IA Anthony Kionga – Chief Arbiter
  2. FA Moses Maina – Deputy Chief Arbiter
  3. FA David Lekopien
  4. NA Faith Wairimu
  5. NA Amos Karanja
  6. NA Francis Michuki
  7. NA Christian Nderi
  8. NA Ether Karanja
  9. NA Victoria Nakiirya

TV Coverage on KBC Sports

Video by KBC Sports

Uganda’s Harold Wanyama celebrating with Timur Gareyev! 😀

Josefine Heinemann and Timur Gareyev, winners of Kenya Chess Open 2023. Photo by Chess Kenya

Josefine Heinemann and Timur Gareyev, winners of Kenya Chess Open 2023
Photo by Chess Kenya

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