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Ken Omolo & Riya Shah are the 2015 Kenya National Champions

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Ken Omolo & Riya Shah are the 2015 Kenya National Champions

Ken Omolo was crowned the 2015 Kenya National Chess Champion after obtaining 21 points (Bilbao system over 8 rounds).  The exciting event saw Ken Omolo winning the Champion’s trophy plus a KES 20,000 (USD 200) cash prize.

The 2015 Kenya National Chess Champion Ken Omolo - with 3C's - Cool, Calm & Collected. Photo credit Kim Bhari.
The 2015 Kenya National Chess Champion Ken Omolo – with 3C’s – Cool, Calm & Collected. Photo credit Kim Bhari.
Ken Omolo’s efforts almost got derailed in Round 7 against Mehul Gohil when he had only 2 minutes 10 seconds left to Mehul’s 22 minutes in a tough encounter.   In one of the most nail biting finishes Ken held his nerve and cool to defeat Mehul with a less than half a minute left on his clock.
Black to play..1...Ra5, 2 e4+ Kg5.
Black to play..1…Ra5, 2 e4+ Kg5.
In the 8th and final round Mehul seemed deflated and was defeated by fellow team mate Peter Gilurth who is also from Nairobi Chess Club .  Just a day earlier Mehul was cruising with 6 clear wins and now he ended up 4th with 18 points.  An extremely painful day for the former 2014 Kenya National Champion.
Mehul holds his head.
Mehul holds his head.
The great thing about this event that the last round saw bitter fighting chess as the winner could have been any one of the following; Ken Omolo, Mehul Gohil, Kevins Omondi or Brian Kidula.
Wachira Wachania v Peter Gilruth in green cap.
Wachira Wachania v Peter Gilruth in green cap.
CEO of Terrian Chess Academy Brian Kidula in action.
CEO of Terrian Chess Academy Brian Kidula in action.
Dr Kevins Omondi - one of the potential Kenya champions in round 8.
Dr Kevins Omondi – one of the potential Kenya champions in round 8.
Peter Gilurth was 2nd with 20 points and in 3rdplace was Brian Kidula the CEO of Terrian Chess Academy.

Ladies Section

In the ladies section 15 year old student from Aga Khan Academy Riya Shah demolished the opposition to win with a comfortable 22 points (with Bilbao scoring over 8 rounds).  Her closest rivals were Gloria Jumba & Isabella Asiema who both had 16 points.
Riya Shah attempts to out stare her opponent.
Riya Shah attempts to out stare her opponent.

For Riya Shah this was sweet victory as she was the 2013 National Champion and lost the title in 2014 to WFM Sanjana Deshpande.  Riya was also a member of the 2012 Team Kenya to the Istanbul Olympiad.

New stars

This year’s event was notable in the number of new faces rising to the top.  These included James Madol Panchol & James Muchai who came out 5th & 6threspectively with 18 points.  Peter Diing and Terence Chazima ended up 7th and 8th respectively with 17 points.
Peter Diing - can be proud of a fine performance.
Peter Diing – can be proud of a fine performance.

Africa Junior Chess Championship

The good news is that the top Junior Boy and Junior Lady will travel to Seychelles for the African Junior Chess Championship which is set for later in December 2015.  This is one of Africa’s toughest tournaments and will be great for us to have upcoming players taking part.

Blessing in disguise?

I guess with hindsight Ken Omolo winning the title might have come as a blessing in disguise.  You will recall that the 2014 Kenya National Championship raised a huge storm when the 2014 winner Mehul Gohil renounced his title in protest.  This was after Chess Kenya informed the 2014 Ladies winner Sanjana Deshpande that she cannot be the called the Kenya National Champion even though she won the event due to the fact that she is not a citizen of Kenya.  This was in accordance with the Chess Kenya constitution. 
I guess you will now understand why I call this blog – “Kenya Chess Masala”.  There is always something cooking with some nice flavours!
Two interesting scenario would have been possible;
1    Mehul wins the National Championship.  Chess Kenya refuses to give him the title due to the fact  that he renounced his earlier title.  This was in the pipeline according to my sources.  More drama!
    Peter Gilruth wins the National Champion and Mehul comes out 2nd. Chess Kenya refuse to give Peter the title as he is not a citizen.  Would Mehul accept such a title?  I highly doubt it.  More drama!

All in all it was a great event.  Congratulations to Strathmore University and to Chess Kenya for a job well done.