Home Chess News Flashback to the 1997 Kenya Open

Flashback to the 1997 Kenya Open


We bring you an old story that was written up for the 1997 Kenya Open but which never saw the light of day due to various reasons.

The 1997 Kenya Open attracted over 120 players at the Braeburn School Gitanga Road, Nairobi.  This included 10 Ugandans, Dutchman Stephan Fokkink and Brian Schyberg of Germany.

One of Kenya’s most famous or should I say infamous banks “Trust Bank” were the proud sponsors of this event.  The sad news was that Trust Bank was put under statutory management on 8th September 2001 and never reopened it doors which left thousands of depositors in deep poverty.

The article is written by well known Kenyan Dutchman Willy Simons who was the joint winner of the 1997 Kenya Open with Gilbert Bibasa of Uganda.  Willy Simons also annotated one his games against Godfrey Bisereko of Uganda and which we present below.

The winner of the event Gilbert Bibasa (also known as Bob Bibasa) is a regular visitor to Kenya.

Willy Simons (left) in action in which he played for “Mighty Pawns” during the Nairobi Chess League in a 2011 match at Goan Gymkhana, Nairobi.

The Kenya Open 1997 revisited – by Willy Simons.

The night before the start of the Kenya Open chess tournament I telephoned the Tournament Director Kim Bhari to discuss my participation.  Was I really willing to spend 4 full days behind 64 squares while I could be drinking 64 beers instead?  History had to be written, so I took part and became the first Dutch winner of the Kenya Open.  I believe it came as a surprise to many, not in the least to myself, since I had not played any serious chess for a long time.

I have little regret about the fact that the winner’s trophy went to Gilbert Bibasa of Uganda, since he played as a real champion, beating many strong players in his stride and keeping myself to a quick draw with the black pieces.

I certainly missed my changes to stay ahead of him by drawing my last two games, of which I should have won at least one, but on the other hand I was lucky that my opponents missed winning moves on a least two occasions. The last one was just before the end of my last game against Grace Nsubuga that ended in a draw!  Anyway let us have a look at my games, and let the pieces do the talking.

Round 1 Willy Simons – Mawani Amin, Ruy-Lopez (Spanish) – Steinitz defence

The first round is normally a piece of cake, since one is playing against someone from the lower half of the draw.  However my opponent played the opening quite well and only blundered a piece on the 15th move of the game. After that I had little difficulty in securing my first point.

Round 2 Ambatsa – Simons, Braeburn Gambit

The first moves of this game were: 1. d4, Nf6 2. c4, g6 3. e4, Nxe4 and black is already a pawn up. I couldn’t find this opening in my chess books, so I have called it the Braeburn Gambit. It is actually a very dangerous attack, since your opponent will think that you have never played chess before. This is precisely what happened in my game.  My opponent cunningly gave another pawn, to mask the fact that the first pawn loss was a well-planned sacrifice. So when I happily took the third pawn he actually had the opportunity to mate me instantly!  Luckily enough my opponent did not want to be a spoiler, and went on to lose the game. He can be proud to be the only person to have missed a mate against one of the future winners.

Round 3 Simons – Bisereko, Caro-Kann

This was the first game of the second day, and I was a bit alarmed by the fact that I found myself at one of the top boards, against a player form Uganda who was according to his rating is a much stronger player. However, I was determined to give him a run for his money.

We have been fortunate to have the final standings of the 1997 Kenya Open and included a copy in this story.
Final standings of the 1997 Kenya Open – Page 1.
1997 Kenya Open standing – Page 2
1997 Kenya Open Gilbert (Bob) Bibasa in action during the 2012 Migingo Cup at the Goan Gymkhana in Nairobi.