Bahamas Bahamas Bahamas

Nature takes no prisoners when it comes to expressing it relentless power. The latest evidence has taken place in the western hemisphere and it goes by the moniker of “Dorian.” The hurricane whipped up tremendous energy and has devastated large parts of the Bahamas while largely sparing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These islands got residual damage such as flooding and power outages, but what was unleashed on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama was pure hell. The slow-moving hurricane hovered over the Grand Bahama for nearly two days with 180-200 mph (290-322 km/h) winds.

New Providence the capital had flooding and service outages, but the northern Bahamas (Abaco and Grand Bahama) was devastated. People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them.

~ Elton Joseph, President of Bahamas Chess Federation

The Bahamas is a group of 700 islands that include some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Most will know about Nassau and Freeport, but Abaco and Grand Bahama are also frequent attractions for tourists from around the world. The beautiful waters striking all shades of blue make it a perfect place for jetsking, parasailing, snorkeling of simply a peaceful walk on the the white sandy beaches.

Google Maps (Abaco & Grand Bahama)

The Beauty of the Bahamas

Birds of a feather…flock together!

Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

However on Sunday, September 1st, Dorian begin to crash into the Bahamas, arriving as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. The slow-moving hurricane dumped torrential rains onto the islands and the winds sucked the roofs off of houses, carried cars and debris miles away from their origins. In Abaco and Grand Bahama, the scene resembles an absolute war zone. Unfortunately, the death toll cannot be tabulated until the waters subside when health and sanitation will become critical needs.

By some estimate, Abaco and Grand Bahama islands were said to be more than 90% destroyed. The Chess Drum contacted Elton Joseph, President of the Bahamas Chess Association, who reflected on sad situation. “People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them,” said Joseph.

There are a number of relief aid agencies collecting supplies to send to the islands. Initial efforts made by first-responders were thwarted because the airports were underwater. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis gave an assessment on the situation of what he called a “monster hurricane.” The images are heartbreaking. Let us learn from the tsunamai (2005) and Haiti (2010) disasters and not tarry!

Video by MSNBC

The Bahamas has an active chess community and most recently participated in the Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. According to Joseph, there was minimal effect in the New Providence area (within the capital of Nassau), a place known to most tourists. It is the hope of the chess community that the Bahamas, its citizens and the chess players will begin recovering from this destruction and come back a stronger nation.

Karelina Polina, the 2019 Bahamas Junior Champion posted on her Facebook page the day after Dorian made landfall…

Hurricane Dorian Support:
Red Cross:

Ding Liren after winning 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The chess world is still buzzing about Ding Liren’s win of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. He had to overcome World Champion Magnus Carlsen who has looked unbeatable all year long. This is a landmark win for many reasons.

Firstly, it shows his competitive toughness; secondly, Ding remains a good chance to make the Candidates tournament to qualify for the World Championship; lastly, it may be evidence that the chess world may be witnessing the emergence of the next batch of contenders.

In the recent years, we have heard so much about rise of Asian players from Viswanathan Anand to most recent sensations like Iran’s Alireza Firouzja. Ding Liren mostly flew under the radar and was merely one of several Chinese players who were 2700ish. Wei Yi was the player most commonly thought be the singular talent to challenge for the world title in the near future.

Rise of the Chinese Dragons

We have been witnessing the rise of China as a chess power for the past 20 years. The Chinese women had always been a force since the 80s and boast six Olympiad gold medals and six World Champions (Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan, Tan Zhongyi and the reigning champion, Ju Wenjun). Xie Jun is now the President of the Chinese Chess Association!

For the men, the emergence of Bu Xiangzhi was perhaps a sign that China would begin to produce world-class talent. Bu once held the world record for the youngest Grandmaster at 13 years, 10 months and 13 days. The 2003 editorial Why China Will Soon Dominate Chess,” was gaining some credibility, but it had been a long time since Liu Wenzhe shocked the hall at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1978. It was on the largest stage that he uncorked a sparkling queen sacrifice over world class Jan Hein Donner. The world began to take notice.

On these pages, several articles were penned about the Rise of Asian Tigers and the emergence of young talent such as Wang Hao, Wang Yue, Li Chao, and Yu Yangyi. Ding Liren perhaps hit the chess radar when, as an untitled 2400-Elo player, he won the Chinese Championship.

Ding Liren, then 16 and 2400, enroute to his first Chinese title in 2009!
Photo by Sina Chess News

He was part of a succession of 2700-level Chinese players who began to grace the chess media for the first time. Xu Yuhua was one of the first Chinese players to grace the cover of a New in Chess in 2006. Wang Yue appeared a couple of years later.

In 2014, Chinese “men’s” team won its first Olympiad gold medal and a silver in 2018 in Batumi. Ding Liren has slowly emerged as the leader after others like Bu Xiangzhi, Ni Hua, Wang Yue, Yu Yangyi all took turns appearing as the face of the emerging chess power. Ding appeared as the cover story of New in Chess in 2015 and gave a poignant interview. He spoke of yet another rising star in China.

“Maybe I’m just a little stream or a little hill in front of him and it’s just a matter of time for Wei Yi to pass me.”

~Ding Liren in 2015 interview with New in Chess

Very dignified comments in deferring to the super talent. However, it doesn’t appear that Wei Yi will be overtaking Ding any time soon given the latter’s fine form in the past few years. In fact, Wei Yi’s development has stabilized in the past four years, but he is only 20.

Ding Liren at the 2011 World Team Championship.
Photo by Fan Lulu

Fast forward to 2018, it is clear that the humble and soft-spoken Ding has made a separation having eclipsed the 2800-mark for the first time. His recent win at the Sinquefield Cup and the defeat of Carlsen in blitz tiebreak has the chess world buzzing. Is he the next challenger? If so, he has proven that going to tiebreak would not be the obstacle that it was for Fabiano Caruana. He has mild demeanor, is hard to beat and is absolutely fearless. The closing moments in the tiebreak tells all.

What’s Next for Ding?

Now at 26 years old, Ding is entering his prime and appears to be heading to London for the Grand Chess Tour final. However, there are still many suitable candidates anxious for a shot against Carlsen. One of the drawbacks to such a circuit is the fatigue of seeing the same players compete year after year. These players are now so well prepared against each other that we see only a handful of decisive games in a tournament.

We recall the reaction when Carlsen-Caruana match had 12 consecutive draws and had to resort to quick-chess to determine the champion. One thing for sure, Ding will have no problem going into tiebreaks if this should occur. This may prove to be an important psychological point going into a championship match. It should be an exciting final and the candidates match will prove to be an important stage for Ding Liren.

Official Site:
PGN Games: (classical, tiebreaks)
Hartmann, John, “Ding Liren wins 2019 Sinquefield Cup,” 30 August 2019, Chess Life Online

The New Orleans Film Society presents its lineup for the 2019 New Orleans Film Festival. This arena is to showcase the talent of filmmakers and to bring to light many fascinating stories that would otherwise go untold. Chess is one such activity that has as many stories as there are players.

There is a film that features Pontus Carlsson’s visit to New Orleans last October promoting his “Business with Chess & Kids” campaign. Carlsson’s vast chess experience and extensive travels given him a platform to promote the benefits of chess. In the documentary featured, he recommends “at least two years of chess.” He doesn’t emphasize that they should be Grandmaster, but that the benefits from playing two years can translate in a training ground for personal development. The video has appearances of National Master Rene Phillips. Watch the trailer!

New Orleans Film Festival:

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Egypt still Valley of Kings and Queens!

Bassem Amin sings Egyptian anthem.
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Going into the popular blitz segment, everyone knew the Egyptians would be tough to beat. However, Africa has many strong blitzers throughout the continent and the Internet has made it more popular than ever. Who would be able to unseat the Kings and Queens of African chess? Would it be the Algerians? Zambians? Nigerians? Moroccans? Perhaps there would be a legend created from an less-fancied chess nation. Questions abound. Well.. Bassem Amin would have all the answers.

To be honest, Amin has proven himself to be in a class by himself having once eclipsed the 2700 mark. In blitz, while speed of moves is important, chess knowledge is paramount. It is so much easier to get into a good flow when one knows exactly what to do. Amin’s 9/9 mark was only blemished by the fact that he couldn’t try for a Bobby Fischer 11/11. He would have to settle for a Robert Gwaze 9/9. Authorities shortened the event the previous day from eleven rounds to nine rounds.

Of course, Ahmed Adly would be a prime contender to win the “triple crown” and has competed in World Blitz Championships with the best in the world. In this tournament, Adly was slowed by Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu losing badly in round three. This would force him to take chances in order to get onto the medal stand. He would be nicked for a draw in the very next round by Morocco’s Mohamed Tisser. Adly would go on to win five in a row including wins over Hicham Hamdouchi and Bilel Bellahcene. Impressive comeback.

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Babatunde Ogunsiku of Africa Chess Media asked about the shortening of the blitz tournament. His rational being that it would be useful to give contenders an optimal change at getting the last medal. It just so happened that in the final standings seven players were on 6/9! Nevertheless, Bilel Bellahcene’s last two wins over Rodwell Makoto and Harold Wanyama got him on the podium with 6.5/9. The other contenders were busy beating each other (and losing to Amin). Another two rounds would have made for a tense conclusion.

Blitz games are difficult to assess and analyze because of the nature of the games, but of course the strongest players tend to show their experience. The top four players were all Grandmasters. It appears like the future of competitive chess has a bright future in Africa.

Three events… three gold medals. Shrook Wafa is the only chess player at the All-African Games who can make that claim. She did so in style dropping only three games out of 27 (+22-3=2). Two of those were to Lina Nassr of Algeria, who won a silver (mixed team) and bronze (blitz). Her sister Shahenda Wafa also bagged two medals scoring an impressive 8.5/9 in the team event and silver in the blitz.

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

It appears that the balance of power is still firmly in the north, but there are a few cracks in the foundation of North African dominance. While Egypt and Algeria are still the class of the continent, players from countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe scored a number of rousing upsets including Linda Shaba’s impressive win over Shahenda Wafa to end the tournament.

Click to watch!
Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)

Linda Shaba. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Zimbabwe’s Linda Shaba
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

The New FIDE. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

The New FIDE at the 12th All-Africa Games
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

In the end, it was an outstanding event with good conditions and the camaraderie seemed to be everpresent. The photography by Mohamed Bounaji helped convey the spirit of the event. With the attention of FIDE, perhaps there will be an initiative to support African chess development. The typical “Chess in Schools” that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov promised every election campaign is necessary, but not sufficient for cultivating the talent for elite level.

Thirteen years ago, article appeared on these pages titled, Can Pan-Africanism Work in Chess? There were some suggestions about regional collaboration and using Africa’s genuine appeal for Grandmasters to play in top-level tournaments. After a successful Grand Chess Tour tournament in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, there is proof that it can be done. Are we ready to make this the African Century?

Open (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

Women (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

National Anthem

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess24: Mixed Rapid (Team), Individual Rapid (Open, Women), Individual Blitz (Open, Women)
Photos (FIDE):

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Egypt Double Gold in Rapids!

National Anthem

It goes without saying that Egypt remains the “Valley of the Kings and Queens” in chess. In today’s action, they continued their onslaught on the field with Ahmed Adly and Shrook Wafa taking the Open and Women’s titles. However, one could argue that it is no longer a forgone conclusion that Egypt will waltz onto the medal stand and haul the medals back to a triumphant crowd in Cairo.

Shahenda Wafa faded in the crucial rounds. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

In the women’s section, we saw a dominant performance by Shrook Wafa creating a bit of distance by first winning the game against her sister, Shahenda Wafa. This result came as a surprise to some, but these two would rather compete than to agree to prearranged, 10-move draw, which is antithetical to the spirit of competition.

Even after the loss to her elder sister, Shahenda was still in the second position after six rounds, but then lost to Nigeria’s Toritsemuwa Ofowino which opened the door for several players. Ofowino, Algeria’s Sabrina Letreche and the optimistic player from Zambia, Lorita Mwango were in hot pursuit.

Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsemuwa Ofowino. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsewuma Ofowino (Nigeria)
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Going into the last round, Shrook Wafa was only one-half point ahead of the field, but had superior tiebreaks. Ofowino’s consecutive wins against Shahenda Wafa and Sabrina Letreche meant someone would need to beat Wafa in order to catch her. That did happen when Wafa lost with the white pieces to Lina Nassr in a massive upset. The Algerian simply outplayed Wafa in every phase of the game in a Sicilian.

White’s play was questionable and 17.f4 is not in the spirit of the position. Black could’ve won the exchange with 17…Qb6+ (first), but after the text 17…Ng4, black pushed white into a defensive posture. Black established a positional grip by playing 19…a5! and then placed her Godzilla knight on e5. White’s position was in shambles and after 22.Ng3?? engines gave Nassr +7.32 since it loses material to 22…Rb3!

Click to watch!
Wafa-Nassr, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

Wafa continued on hoping that time would become a factor. Shrook did attempt a snap mate after 29.Qh4 threatening Qh7+! That threat was parried with 29…h6 and black’s position was granite solid. As Shrook tried getting at the black king with 34.f6, Nassr had conjured up a mating net of her own. White had to donate material to stave off mate. All that was left is for the Egyptian to resign and watch the outcome of Mwango-Ofowino. The game between two of the leading Anglophone chess nations was intense!

Tension had built up to a fever pitch when in an equal position, Ofowino played 24…Nxb2?? There is nothing that would explain this other than chess blindness. It was a clear piece for nothing. The game went 79 moves, but the result was academic. Despite the loss, the Egyptian breathed a sigh of relief after the tertiary tiebreaks determined she was the winner. Mwango would secure the silver and Letreche would get the bronze over Ofowino.

WFM Lorita Mwango... Untold Stories of Africa

Zambia’s WFM Lorita Mwango
Zambia Zambia Zambia

Highly-regarded in Zambia and respected in the African women’s circuit, Mwango has proven to be one of the elite players on the continent. She came into the individual rapid having won her last four games in the mixed team event. This momentum helped her to gain confidence and remain a medal contender. Zambia is celebrating!

Algeria’s Sabrina Letreche had lost both of her games to Shahenda Wafa and had a subpar performance in the mixed team, but roared back in the individual rapid closing with a win and getting the bronze. Shrook Wafa has been the star of the women’s event and has suffered only two losses in 18 games thus far (+14-2=2). She adds to her prodigious medal count in her esteemed career. It may very well be that women will have to compete in the open section more frequently to gain the confidence to reach the international titles of FM, IM and GM. It would be great to see at least a few of them competing against the continent’s best.

Lorita Mwango (Zambia), Shrook Wafa (Egypt) and Sabrina Letreche. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Lorita Mwango (Zambia), Shrook Wafa (Egypt), Sabrina Letreche (Algeria)
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Women (Rapid Chess)

As far as the open section, Ahmed Adly showed his form by decimating the field with +8 only ceding a draw to Bassem Amin. In watching his play, one can see the difference in levels of understanding as the Egyptian routinely outplayed his opponents from all types of positions. Of course Amin is always a threat to win in Africa and got a 8/9 against the rapid field.

The surprise of the tournament may have been FM Harold Wanyama who had announced his retirement a few years back only to return only months later with renewed vigor. He ended the rapid on 6.5/9 including a win over Moroccan veteran Grandmaster Hicham Hamdouchi.

Click to watch!
Hamdouchi-Wanyama, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-open)

Wanyama brought up a very sound point when he stated the lack of financial opportunities in African chess. Hopefully under the new administration, there will more investment in the vast continent that possesses no shortage of talent.

Harold Wanyama about to receive his bronze medal from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. FIDE Vice President Mohamed Al-Modiakhi looks on. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

FM Harold Wanyama about to receive his bronze medal from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. FIDE Vice President Mohamed Al-Modiakhi looks on. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Open (Rapid Chess)

Open (Rapid Chess)

Women (Rapid Chess)

Click for full standings

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage:
Chess: (Schedule)
Photos (FIDE):

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

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

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

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.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 1)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 1)

Rapids underway!
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.

Click to watch!
Adu-Adly, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-open)

Lidet Haile (Ethiopia)
Photo by Kema Goryaeva

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!

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 2)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 2)

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.

Click to watch!
Shrook Wafa-Onkemetse Francis, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

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.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 3)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 3)

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.

Click to watch!
Francis-Haile, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-women)

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.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 4)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 4)

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.

Open (Rapid Chess – Round 5)

Women (Rapid Chess – Round 5)

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage:
Chess: (Schedule)
Photos (FIDE):

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Despite upsets, Egypt take gold!

Zimbabwe vs. Nigeria fought to a thrilling 2-2 draw. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Zimbabweans Rodwell Makoto and Emarald Mushone chat before their first round game against Eritrea. They would win their games, but the were more proud of the wins they got in round six. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

What a finish in the first chess event ending with the Egyptians edging the field and winning the gold. In round six, Egypt were winning their matches comfortably, but had a scare after both Ahmed Adly and Bassem Amin lost in round six! This sent shock waves throughout the hall and the continent. Perhaps the Egyptians were feeling too comfortable and got a rude awakening.

One can see that competition is getting a bit more stiff on the continent as evidenced by the number of upsets during the tournament. Providence Oatlhotse of Botswana beat Bilel Bellahcene while Tunisia’s Amir Zaibi also beat Bellahcene and Hicham Hamdouchi.

Nevertheless the Egyptians came back with a vengeance. In fact, it would be the Wafa sisters (Shrook and Shahenda) who piled up huge scores, 8/9 and 8.5/9 respectively. Shrook Wafa’s loss was to Lorita Mwango of Zambia who seems to be quite a dangerous player in continental play. The Zim ladies Linda Shaba and Colletta Wakuruwarewa maintained stable play. In fact, Shaba got an upset win over Mwango in the battle of the only “Z” nations on the planet.

Games from Round 6

Malawians were lead by two FIDE Masters FM Joseph Mwale who tallied 6/9 and FM Gerrard Mphungu who compiled a strong 6.5/9. Mwale beat Zambian International Master Stanley Chumfwa in the process. According to online reports, Mwale is based in South Africa and serves as a professional coach there.

Malawi vs. Nigeria. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Malawi vs. Nigeria

Mali vs. Namibia. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Mali vs. Namibia
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

The rapid portion is filled with twists and turns as we saw during the event. Providence Oatlhotse had a 100-move draw with Hamdouchi (3rd round) during which pieces shuffled behind walls of pawns. It was a bit humorous to see such a game. There was a R+N vs. R than was a draw (Osunfuyi-Silva) and another that was a win (Wafa-Mayar)! Kudos to Phemelo Ketho for saving the rook ending against Mohamed Boudriga two pawns down. It ended with the famous stalemate trick!

What was also amazing was the number of picturesque checkmates delivered over the board. Some of them are obviously embarrassing, yet instructive. With the “Puzzle Rush” craze in the chess world, some of these games may be candidates for inclusion. Below are some of mates seen during the mixed segment (names withheld). Some were mate-in-one slips and others were combinations ending in mate. Mate happens.

Puzzle Rush @ 2019 All-Africa Games!

As one would imagine with the accelerated time control, mistakes are more common. However, there were some powerful games played including the above Amin-Mushore where the Zim player held his composure after the Egyptian threw all of his pieces at his king. That was a great moment for the untitled player. Zim’s results allowed Algeria to move within a point of the lead, but they never made up any ground. Ethiopia had quietly crept into medal contention.

After the scare, Egypt obliterated Botswana 4-0 on Ahmed Adly’s beautiful attacking game against Oatlhotse. The win only took 17 moves and was an impressive display of power. The loss must’ve motivated the Egyptians. Algeria remained close on match points, but they had already lost to Egypt and were far behind on board points. Zimbabwe kept punching hard, beating Angola as Mushore beat Angola’s young IM David Silva.

Games from Round 7

In the penultimate round, Algeria was hoping that Zambia would halt the march of Egypt, but their IMs were no match. Adly even played the “hippopotamus” setup to keep Chumfwa off balance. Ultimately, the Zambian well astray thinking he would have enough compensation for a sacrificed piece. Meanwhile, Amin crushed Kayonde with a barrage of tactics to collect the point. Algeria won again to keep pace, but Egypt had all but clinched the gold.

Games from Round 8

While it is true that Malawi had moved up into 6th place, Egypt was looking to win in style. The two losses in round six may still sting. Since the draw with Zimbabwe in round six, Egypt had three wins on 11/12. Algeria punished Ethiopia 4-0, but they’d have to be satisfied with silver. Before the loss, Ethiopia had moved into 4th place. Bronze will still up for grabs.

Zimbabwe was a mere point ahead of Ethiopia and Tunisia. With both teams losing, Zim only needed a draw to clinch… which they achieved. Nigeria was just out of the medals, but ended strong.

Games from Round 9

Most of the teams struggled with consistency and were unable to gain momentum. If we look at the bottom of the charts, several of the teams had hard times. Cape Verde has relatively young players with little experience. Countries like Central African Republic, Mali and Eritrea will build in this experience before the continental championship and Olympiad next year. It was great to see them in action!

Cape Verde: Honorina Morais, Loedi Gomes, Joel Pires, Luis Moniz. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

Cape Verde
Cape Verde Cape Verde Cape Verde
Honorina Morais, Loedi Gomes, Joel Pires, Luis Moniz
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

As we move on to the rapid individual, there will be more focus since one lives and dies by their own effort. It will be interesting to see the transition from a team event to an individual event. Perhaps bitter fights are ahead of us tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Final Standings
Mixed Team (Rapid Chess)

National Anthem

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Drum Coverage:
Chess: (Schedule)
Photos (FIDE):

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Games off to a sizzling start

There are not enough superlatives to describe the organization of the 12th All-Africa Games thus far. Mehul Gohil of Kenya gave the event full marks and sent loads of photos showing the excellent conditions. “Maputo in 2011 was wonderful. This is even better,” he said. Of course, what would a first-hand experience be without any photos to capture the moment?

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Beautiful colors!!
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Kenya’s Mehul Gohil with Nigeria’s Lekan Adeyemi
Photo by Mehul Gohil

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Lekan Adeyemi making the ceremonial move at Ahmed Adly’s board.
Photo by Kema Goryaeva/FIDE

Action started with the mixed team event. Five rounds with each team fielding two men and two women. The first round was a wash with the favorite winning the matches by large scores. Only Nigeria failed to get the 4-nil verdict giving up draws on the top two boards. It was good to see teams from Mali, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Cape Verde. These are small and relatively new federations.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Mali brought a team including one FIDE Master.
Photo by Mehul Gohil

It would be interesting if Africa got all 54 nations to join FIDE. Twenty teams made the trip with Egypt the top seed. With Bassem Amin and Ahmed Adly on the top two boards, the the Wafa sisters, other teams would find Egypt a tough challenge.

Both GM-led Algeria and Morocco got wins, but one thing apparent is that competition is getting tougher. While the score piled up the games were surprisingly competitive. In the second round, the matches were closer and only one team scored a “clean sheet” with Sao Tome Principe beating Central African Republic 4-0. The other matches were more or less competitive, but there was a controversy that held up the pairing for round six.

On the fourth board of Morocco-Tunisia, the game Closed Sicilian look promising as white won an exchange, but black had compensation. Then the game became tense and errors started to pile up. White ended up losing the exchange and it appeared that black was firmly on top.

After 44…Nh4+, Mayar attempted to play 45.Rxa3 when Marzouk claimed a win.

Unfortunately black went for 34…cxb3? 35.Rc8+ thinking she would promote her pawns, but after 35…Kg7 36.Qxa3! bxa3 white was hanging on. Black had clear compensation for the exchange with a mass of pawns, but the fleet rook begin to pick off pawns. In the end, white was a clear rook up when in time pressure she left her king hanging and controversy ensued. According to Mehul Gohil of Kenya, both players were below a minute on clock when the Tunisian made the illegal move.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

The controversial match…
Mayar-Marzouk is the second board to left.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

We can see the rook on a3 in the disputed game.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

The arbiters try to sort it out.
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

There was a question as to what the penalty should be and the round was delayed until it was sorted out. The journalists could not get any information on the ruling, but in the end, the Tunisian got the verdict and salvaged a draw on the illegal move. Unbelievable! Tunisia earned a 2-2 draw.

Games from Round 2

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Sao Tome Principe’s Juazilmira DE OLIVEIRA B RITA
Photos by Mehul Gohil

In round three, Algeria would try to test Egypt, but all they could manage was a draw on board one with Ahmed Adly and Bilel Bellahcene splitting the point. Morocco edged Botswana and Providence Oatlhotse held Hichem Hamdouchi in a game that ended with a funny locked position. Oatlhotse would score a GM-scalp against Bellahcene later on.

Angola-Nigeria engaged in a pitched battle as they are two of the most talented countries south of the Sahara. Oladapo Adu tried to employ a hedgehog, but Pedro Aderito played an early e5 and got an edge. Amidst the complications, the Angolan seemed to get a winning position, but later got his rook trapped! Blitz kills. The Nigerian reeled in the point giving Nigeria the margin of victory.

Games from Round 3

Round four had some interesting games. African champion Shrook Wafa converted a R+N vs. R against Firdaous Mayar of Tunisia. The game was completely drawn, but the Moroccan fell into a trap and lost her rook to a fork. What a horrible tournament for Mayar who also lost the controversial game in round two.

Another game that needs a look on how to press the initiative was Bellahcene-Adu. That game started 1.Nh3!? but after a dozen moves, white had a normal position. The Nigerian fell asleep at the wheel and was hit by 19.Nxd5! White sacrificed the queen and it was instructive to see the two rooks dominate the open d-file. A nice shot at the end was elegant.

One of the tricky parts of the mixed event is the unpredictability of the bottom boards. Many of the teams have inexperienced players and the tension is much greater than anything they may have faced. Also some of the games have been played all the way until checkmate which is interesting because on the lower boards you get see some wonderful mating patterns! Check out Mesfin-Kourakouba, Haile-Gamba, Kone-Morais!

Games from Round 4

In the last round of the day, Egypt continued its dominance with another +3 win against Tunisia. Nevertheless, they have only a two-point lead over the field. Algeria beat Botswana, but as mentioned Bellahcene lost on board one! The Algerian started his black game with 1.d4 Na6!? I suppose his successful use of 1.Nh3!? had given him confidence, but this reality was soon shaken.

Providence Oatlhotse got a nice win over GM Bilel Bellahcene’s 1…Na6. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

The Algerian got a normal position, but the structure is not one of the most ambitious for black. White kept the edge, but after 20 moves of maneuvering, black sacrificed an exchange. Immediately the evaluation goes to +1.26 meaning that the engines were not impressed. It turns out that black didn’t have full compensation especially since his bishop was restricted by his own pawns. The Botswana player held the exchange, kept the black queen at bay and ended the game with the nice 87.Kh1!

Zimbabwe scored an upset win over Morocco with Rodwell Makoto holding Hamdouchi. The game ending with an improbably five pawns against a rook! The Zim player had actually got a crushing kingside attack, but the wily Grandmaster held on for dear life. He had to sacrifice material to survive. At one point, white had two pawns for the rook… then three… then four… then five! The final position is amazing. Mohamed Tissir was brutally crushed by Emarald Mushore while the women traded wins. The shock of the round had to be Angola’s +3 drubbing of Zambia.

Egypt ended the first day of play with a two-point lead, but they have also piled up the board points with a total of 18. Algeria has 13.5. Should be an interesting day tomorrow!

Games from Round 5

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess: (Schedule)
Photos (FIDE):

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

The 12th All-Africa Games started in Morocco on the 19th of August with the Opening Ceremonies. The quadrennial games will be held in several cities and feature 301 events in 26 sports. All fifty-four nations are participating. The official site gives some history.

First organized in 1965 in Brazzaville, the 12th African Games will take place from 19 – 31 August, in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. After 50 anniversaries, this edition is a real opportunity to look back at the results and the highlights of a multi-sports tournament that Morocco will embrace on its land.

The 2019 African Games are marked by the participation of 6000 athletes, from 54 African countries, competing in 26 sport codes. Also the Rabat 2019 African Games will be a qualification step for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, for several sports. Thus, for the first time in the history of this important continental event, 18 different sports are expected to be qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics, which comes to take these Games to a new level.

Events will be held in seven Moroccan cities, namely: Casablanca, Rabat, Sale, Temara, Khémisset, Mohammedia, and El Jadida.

Opening Ceremonies

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Photos by Jeux Africains Rabat 2019

Thus far the media has been up to par as the event is receiving wide coverage in social medi circles and the official website has been on the mark thus far.

The chess portion saw twenty teams open play today in the 15’+10″ rapid segment. While most of the sporting events will take place in Rabat, the chess festivities will take place in Casablanca and feature rapid and blitz in five events: mixed team rapid, men’s and women rapid, men’s and women’s blitz.

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Lekan Adeyemi making the ceremonial move at Ahmed Adly’s board.
Photo by Kema Goryaeva/FIDE

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess24: Mixed Rapid (Team), Individual Rapid (Open, Women), Individual Blitz (Open, Women)
Photos (FIDE):

Chess Girls DC

Robin Ramson has undertaken an important initiative in the DC and for the past six years she has trailblazed the idea of getting more girls into chess. In fact, Ramson had been organizing these events before it received widespread support. The idea is to use chess as a tool to build confidence and to hone critical thinking skills that will be transferable to any endeavor. Ramson touts the social aspects of chess rather than the competitive. In fact, that may be one of the differences in how girls/women see chess as opposed to boys/men.

Robin Ramson presenting upset prize to Haring participant. David Guimand and Dewain Barber also pictured. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Robin Ramson of Chess Girls DC presenting upset prize to Haring participant.
David Grimaud and Dewain Barber also pictured.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ramson brought her daughter Sarah to Orlando, Florida to watch the scholastic tournaments and to take part in the U.S. Open workshops and meetings as a DC delegate. The Chess Drum was able to catch up with her and get an interview. She talked about her experience as a delegate, her vision and ended discussing the future of Chess Girls DC. She will be hosting a fundraising event for her chess organization and her event a week from today at the Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Listen to Robin Ramson!

Chess Girls DC & Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation
Scholarship Gold Tournament
Friday, August 30, 2019

Register at

Contact: Robin Ramson
telephone: (202)438-6377
e-mail: | website:

# # #

Indonesia’s Irene Sukandar with Chess Girls!

John Fedorowicz is a product of the famous “Fischer Boom,” and relishes the opportunity to talk about the good ole days. The Bronx native has played in most every major U.S. tournament, but made his debut in the Senior Tournament of Champions this year. He jokingly said, “I like playing the old guys.”

GM John Fedorowicz at the 1986 Chess Olympiad in Dubai, UAE
Photo by Bill Hook

Before the last round of the 2019 U.S. Open, The Chess Drum was able to sit down with “The Fed” for a chat. In the interview, Fedorowicz was in his usual jovial mood when he recounted a range of topics including his late start in chess, his development in New Jersey chess, his time in Europe and his assessment of today’s chess scene. There were several people watching the captivating interview and “The Fed” was very gracious… even taking a question from a bystander. Absolutely delightful.


Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Vincent Bazemore, Jr.
Photo from Vince’s Voice

The Chess Drum regrets to inform the chess community of the passing of 39-year old Vincent John Bazemore, Jr. on May 27th, 2019. The United States Chess Federation announced his passing at the Delegate’s Meeting at the 2019 U.S. Open. He was born September 10th, 1974 in Fredericksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. According to his obituary, “he graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School, in St. Thomas, and then moved on to live in Idaho, Utah, Florida, California and finally, Texas.”

“Vince” had resided in Aubrey, Texas for many years with his family and worked in the insurance industry before fighting against legal troubles surrounding a securities fraud charge. He was accused of orchestrating the scheme and ultimately convicted on all counts by a Northern Texas District Court on July 2013, and also lost a 2016 case in the U.S. District Court of Appeals.

In November 2018 (while in custody in California), Vince tragically suffered a brain hemorrhage which partially paralyzed him and rendered him unable to speak. After a major surgery, doctors discovered that he had developed Stage 3 brain cancer with 6-12 months to live.

His former wife (Angelee Bailey) and family were proactive and established a Facebook campaign called “Vince’s Voice Project.” The idea was to give him a voice and raise awareness of his treatment while in custody. For more than a year, they fought for his custody and had to endure returned mail, denied/abbreviated visits, and misinformation about Vince’s condition.

On January 19th, 2019, they posted on Facebook…

Today we found out that the FBOP has moved Dad. They flew him from a regular hospital in California to a prison hospital in North Carolina. We are all shaken, we had no idea. For someone that is recovering from brain surgery, unable to speak, paralyzed and suffering from brain cancer, I can only imagine how scary this all is. We are still praying this government shutdown ends so our Dad can get his compassionate release. We are so close.

Video by WFAA-TV (Channel 8-DFW)

After the valiant fight by the immediate family, a presiding judge finally signed a judicial order and Vince was finally released March 2019. Due to the development of his orange-sized tumor and his physical condition, he was not a candidate for further treatment. Despite the grim prognosis, the family was grateful that he could spend his last days in Texas.

Vince had the support and care of loved ones until his last moments and died peacefully in Texas. As part of the Facebook tribute, very touching photos were shown including one with two of the children playing chess. He was survived by his wife of 14 years Angelee Bailey, and children, Kennedy Bailey (stepdaughter), Christian Bailey-Hyde (stepson), and Kingston Bailey (son).

He was also survived by his father Vincent Sr., stepmother Shirley Bazemore of Clermont, Florida, brother Philip Bazemore, sisters Jeanice Wehner, Janine Jean-Pierre and Deborah Bazemore. He also leaves in his memory Tamlyn Bayless, mother of his son Tayvin Bayless. Vince was preceded in death by mother Rubertina Bell and brother Rudolph Bazemore.

Vincent Bazemore Jr. with (L-R) Angelee Bailey, Christian Bailey, Kennedy Bailey, Deborah Bazemore, Vincent Bazemore Sr. and Shirley Bazemore

Vince and son Kingston in a playful moment
Photos from Vince’s Voice

As far as his chess is concerned, Vince played his earliest tournaments in Utah but also competed in major events such as the National Open, Chicago Open, and North American Open. He was very active in Texas and Utah until 2012 when his legal battles became acute. His last U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) rating was 2070 and was a Life Member (member card).

Vincent Bazemore giving a simultaneous exhibition.

Sharing his pride and joy during simultaneous exhibition

Marvin Dandridge watching Sedrick Prude and Vincent Bazemore analyze.

Sedrick Prude and Vincent Bazemore analyze
during the 2008 Chicago Open. Marvin Dandridge watches.
Photo by Frank Johnson

One thing is for sure… “Nyzhnyk” is not easy to spell and “Illia” is not easy to beat. The Ukrainian national has been in good form lately as he scores another strong result. He was in the running at the Chicago Open in May, but had to settle for joint second with eight other players. The winner of the 2019 National Open in June and the 2018 World Open last July, this is his latest in a string of successes.

Illia Nyzhnyk receiving Cup from Chief Tournament Director, Anand Dommalapati. Photo by John Hartmann

In this tournament, he was in the cluster of frontrunners before falling off the pace behind Lazaro Bruzon and Dariusz Swiercz who were 5/5. When the two leaders drew in round six it opened the door and Nyzhnyk got a key win over GM-elect Justin Sarkar. That resulted in a three-way tie for first and a logjam of players in pursuit. GMs Kamil Dragun, Victor Mikhalevski, and Elshan Moradiabadi were a half-point out going into round seven.

The plot thickened after round seven as Grandmasters Nyzhnyk, Bruzon, Dragun, Swiercz, Mikhalevski, Moradiabadi, Timur Gareyev, Robert Hungaski were in the hunt. International Masters Daniel Fernandez and Bryce Tiglon (Denker Champion) were all on 6/7. One surprise was Emily Nguyen (joint 2nd in Denker) being just 1/2-point out after drawing with Alexander Shabalov (U.S. Senior Champion). In fact, she may have been a bit better in the game.

Top Boards of Round 7

The penultimate round would create some separation as Nyzhnyk forged ahead with a win over Fernandez. The Webster student beat the former University of Texas-Dallas in an English.

Four games ended in draws on the top boards meaning that all eight players were on 6.5 and would be joined by Shabalov, blitz phenom Andrew Tang, and MacKenzie Molner. So Nyzhnyk was in sole possession of first and 11 players (!) would be on 6.5/8. He would face blindfold specialist Gareyev in the final. In other action, U.S. legend James Tarjan got a nice finish mating Khoi Nguyen Le.

GM James Tarjan
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Top Boards of Round 8

The final round pairings on the top boards were Gareyev-Nyzhnyk, Bruzon-Tang, Hungaski-Dragun, Shabalov-Swiercz, Mikahalevski-Tiglon and Mordiabadi-Molner.

Gareyev pondering after Nyzhnyk’s 13…e5!?
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

On board one, the game became imbalanced almost immediately after 8…a6 9.axb5 cxb5 10.Nxb5 axb5!? 11.Rxa8. Black had sacrificed an exchange for space and active piece play. White stumbled and got his king stuck in the center with black piece zipping around the board. So after 16.Qxb5? black seized the initiative after 16…Bxd2+ 17.Kxd2 dxe3+ 18.Ke1 Bxg2 (diagram).

Nyzhnyk’s courageous exchange sacrifice
gave black strong initiative.

With the white king standing perilously on e1, black decided to force the issue by advancing 25…h5. That slight deflection of the queen (26.Qd4) allowed black to cut the king even further with 26…Rc8! After 27.Qd5 Qg1+ 28.Kd2 White resigned without waiting for black’s reply. Nyzhnyk had won the tournament!

Shabalov-Swiercz was one of the most exciting draws as complications were seen right from the start. Even the endgame had its tense moments as the board was wide open and heavy pieces roamed the board. Eventually the game petered out and a draw was agreed on move 70.

Bruzon-Tang showed an interesting struggle with the Cuban showing his middlegame understanding. After temporarily sacking a pawn for piece activity, had to return the pawn and then donate another. Just when it appeared that black would have enough activity against the exposed white king, Bruzon slammed the door with brilliant defensive maneuver.

Bryce Tiglon on the move against Victor Mikalevski while
Elshan Moradiabadi battles Mackenzie Molner.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Hungaski’s piece sacrifice didn’t yield full compensation and Dragun closed him out on move 40. Mikalevski-Tiglon was drawn closing out a fantastic showing for the the young IM. By virtue of tiebreaks (and US affiliation), he would face Moradiabadi (who also drew) for the spot in the U.S. Championship. In the Armageddon game, Tiglon had the white pieces and opted for an anti-Berlin line and a struggle ensued.

Top Boards of Round 9

Grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi qualified for the 2020 U.S. Championship with his win over IM Bryce Tiglon. Moradiabadi had 7 minutes and 30 seconds on his clock to Tiglon’s 10 minutes for the Armageddon game, but took draw odds in compensation. He won the game outright after a key error by Tiglon.

By virtue of winning the Armageddon game, Moradiabadi will participate in his first U.S. Championship since changing his federation February 2017. He will join a cadre of strong players which may include another recent immigrant, Leinier Dominguez. Stanford student Bryce Tiglon nearly qualified, but will have to wait a little longer for that chance.

Final Standings


This is a personal reflection on a topic that I believe needs to be discussed for the good of chess. While chess isn’t a physically violent encounter, there are times in which the tragic end of one’s life occurs during a game of chess. I explain this in the essay below. I hope this piece starts a serious discussion not one filled with crass jokes and puns.

Let’s begin!

Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

“Chess is Life,” Bobby Fischer once asserted. This simple but profound statement may possess a deeper meaning when one understands that chess gives us so many lessons of life. Perhaps one’s career in chess may have its own independent life.

Grim Reaper at the chess board

While we can choose to play chess until our last days, there are instances where it has literally happened to some. There are scenes from Ingmar Bergman’s movie The Seventh Seal where Swedish knight Antonius Block plays chess with Death. This movie was a historical fantasy, but how often does chess and death cross paths? I know of several people, afflicted with terminal illnesses, who have spent their last days enjoying chess. In other cases, the intersection of playing chess and death is unexpected.

Although rare, cases where players have died at the chessboard, do happen. Imagine the horrifying thought of your opponent being stricken at the board with an illness or overcome by asthma, stroke, or heart attack. There have been a few recent cases, but the first time it was brought to my attention was the death of Kurt Meier of Seychelles.

Tragedies in Tromso

At the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, Meier was playing for Seychelles, an island off the coast of Africa, when he collapsed at the board. His son Peter Meier was playing on the board one next to him while this was happening. Paramedics administered several rounds of CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at University Hospital North Norway (UNN). The death of the Swiss-born Seychellois was a heart attack. His opponent, Alain Patience Niyibizi of Rwanda, resigned graciously honoring his opponent.


Kurt Meier in action against Michael Webb of Bermuda at the
2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

I was in the Olympiad press room when journalist Jaicy Odongo of Uganda came to me distraught and proceeded to tell me of the incident. It was indeed a tragic situation for the son, the wife (also on the trip), the Seychelles team, and his opponent. Tragedy struck twice when Alisher Anarkulov of Uzbekistan was found dead in his Tromso hotel room. While Arnarkulov was not in action, the deaths brought to light an issue that we may have overlooked.

U.S. Chess Cases

IM Emory Tate
September 26, 2015
Photo by Richard Shorman

Less than a year later, a person whom I knew died while competing. On October 17, 2015, International Master Emory Tate was playing at the Sam Shankland chess tournament in Milipitas, California. Tate and his opponent Yuan Wang were about an hour into the game when Tate went to the bathroom. When he emerged, he made his last command, “Call 911.”

Tate lost consciousness and crumpled to the floor to the shock of everyone in the room. After one of the chess parents administered CPR, paramedics rushed him to the San Jose Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead later that night. In March 2017, I released a biography of Tate titled, Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior.

The chess world still misses him to this day.

While researching the book, to my horror, I found out that USCF players who die while at the board are given a loss. I have talked to several directors, and they mention that it is what the ruling suggests because the game has started, the tournament director has to mark a definitive result. It implies that the player who died, abandoned the game. I disagree with the ruling, but the issue is NOT the director following the rules. It is the rule itself. Perhaps the human element of chess should reign supreme over a technicality.

Harold Dondis
Photo by Steve Stepak

Months later, I inquired about the loss that Tate received for that game. It was the tournament director’s view that one that the surviving opponent “shouldn’t be penalized” and there was a mention of the Rule 28P. Another prominent director stated that all “games where one full move has been played meet the ratability requirement.”

We had even more recent examples with the passing of the legendary Harold Dondis during a tournament at the Boylston Chess Club. Bradley Scott Cornelius also passed away while playing at the 2018 U.S. Open. While I understand that the Tournament Directors are following the rules set forth by the U.S. Chess Federation, perhaps the organization and its delegates can come up with a more appropriate result than a loss. It is the person’s last act on earth.

Graceful Action

There are several ways a player can lose a chess game. They can resign, get mated, they can run out of time, or they can forfeit. Typically, when a player is stricken, the clock is stopped to deal with the situation. In the case of death or incapacitation, the game never continues. Time was frozen, and the game not completed. However, here was a post about an incident that happened in Canada (comment #49):

In an OTB tournament at UNB Fredericton, one of the players at a nearby table (NOT my opponent) had a heart attack right at the board. We stopped the clocks, called the emergency workers… and after they left with him, we started the clocks again.

He lost on time.

One of the top-ranked players said “He was losing anyway…” (link)

It would be callous to restart someone’s clock while they lie in the hospital fighting for their life or have already passed away. We understand that it was involuntary and of course they would have continued the game if able. Dying at the board is not the same as someone voluntarily abandoning the game because they intend to forfeit. Under the current rules, death at the board is treated in the same fashion, but there should be a distinction.

Someone on posted on the World Open case of a soldier who went “absent without leave” (AWOL) and the military police came to take him into custody. I cannot corroborate this story, but the author of the post said he was immediately forfeited instead of allowing his clock to run out. (link) While it is true that the soldier did not want to abandon the game, there was an adjudication due to the extreme circumstances.

I believe that as a chess body, U.S. Chess should display compassion in these cases of death of a player during an active game. The last honorable act a person performs in life is playing a game of chess. Imagine if an 8-year old girl dies of an asthma attack at the board and the director marking it as a loss. We would all be heartbroken and most likely would find ways to console the parents and honor that child. If one feels just a tinge of regret for marking a loss, then the ruling should be revisited.

Karapanos was poised to play 37.Rxf7+ when he had a heart attack and died.

I will cite one last case. During the 2009 Acropolis International in Greece, Nikos Karapanos was playing white against Dan Zoler. Karapanos had developed a winning position and was poised to play the winning move. At that point, Karapanos suffered a heart attack and Zoler, a medical doctor, rushed to aid his opponent. Zoler assisted Karapanos until the ambulance arrived, but Karapanos later died. As the arbiter was poised to award Zoler with the win, he immediately objected, resigned the game and withdrew from the tournament.

What’s the Best Move?

Perhaps there is something we can do to ensure that a decedent is given a more favorable outcome than to have the last act of their life (and chess life) recorded as a loss. They did not voluntarily abandon the game. The surviving opponent, of course, can request to resign the game (as in Meier and Karapanos games), but I also feel they could get an option on the adjudication of the game.

Asking the opponent (in a careful way) gives the surviving player a chance to think about it. If they choose a win, they would understand that their deceased opponent will receive a asymmetrical result (a vacated result, not a loss) and may feel less guilty for accepting a win. Others may agree to a draw or may resign to give the player a symbolic tribute. In thinking of this, it is appropriate that players who die while competing be given a proper adjudication, AND a commendation.

How Did They Die?

When sharing one’s life with others, there is an inevitable question, “How did they die?” In the above cases, the eternal answer will be, “He/She died of (cause of death) while playing in a chess tournament.” While the circumstances are sad, the deceased player still has a chance of showing their joy of chess and perhaps encourage someone to take up the activity. This posthumous act is undoubtedly worth honoring. Most everyone will want to do what they enjoy doing until their last days. Only a few will get that honor. Let’s honor those that do.

2019 U.S. Open (Orlando, Florida)

The U.S. Open will hold its 120th edition in the home of the Disney Corporation, Orlando, Florida. This is America’s longest running tournament and will also be the host for the 80th Delegate’s Meeting. Players and Delegates will be among the many groups conferring at the Rosen Centre Hotel (9840 International Drive), the site of the 2014 U.S. Open. That tournament was won by GM Conrad Holt and since then a new crop of young players have emerged.

During the 2014 U.S. Open, chess players had to share the Rosen Centre with LeakyCon (Harry Potter fan convention), Tuskegee Airmen and Teen pageant contestants. Perhaps they thought it was cool to be in the same hall with chess players. It should be an interesting mixture of events yet again! Last year’s event was held in Middleton, Wisconsin with blindfold extraordinaire GM Timur Gareyev winning the event. Thus, he qualified for the U.S. Championship and famously affected the championship on the final day.

GM Timur Gareyev, 2018 U.S. Open Champion

The U.S. Open has a different feel from Continental Chess Association (CCA) events in that it is more designed for vacationers and conferees as opposed to professional chess. However, strong players and legendary figures in chess will dot the field as many of them make their annual sojourn. Some even hold records for attending consecutive tournaments.

The business of the U.S. Chess organization will be conducted by the body starting August 7th and end on the 11th. Delegates’ meetings will be on the 10th and the 11th. Concurrently the U.S. Open will have three schedules. Please join us in the “Sunshine State,” visit all the tourist attractions and play some chess! Details here!

U.S. Open Workshops & Committee Meetings
(Click for large image)

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