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Battle of Titans


We are proud to present a interesting report by the CEO of Terrian Chess Academy Brian Kidula.

In what is being billed as the ‘Battle of Titans’ to be played between the 15th and 30th July, six top players from Uganda will lock horns for the coveted bragging rights of the ‘King of Chess in Uganda’ title! The double round robin FIDE-rated event is expected to take place in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda that sits pretty on its haunches, beneath hills covered with red-tile villas and trees surrounding an urban center of contemporary skyscrapers.

Poster for the event.

The field is reminiscent of an Olympiad qualifier since all the players have done duty for Uganda at the international level and it is difficult to hazard a guess as to who will emerge triumphant given the level of talent on display, in spite of their FIDE rating differences.

The top seed will be IM Arthur Ssegwanyi, who at 2370 is the highest rated player in East Africa and competed at the World Cup in 2015 at the Fairmont Hotel, in Baku, Azerbaijan. Though he exited in the first round against the Russian-born Dutch GM Anish Giri, his crowning moment of universal glory was forcing a draw in their first game of two in 158 moves that ended up with bare kings on the board!

IM Arthur Ssegwanyi at the 2015 World Cup against GM Anish Giri. Photo credit Susan Polgar.

Arthur is a methodological player that loves preparation and takes his game seriously. He plays with lots of energy and has polished his game to become not just an aggressive player, but also a technical one thus making it almost impossible to beat him. However, his weakness is playing in unfamiliar positions out of the opening as he prefers a clearly defined path.

IM Arthur Ssegwanyi in action during the 2016 Kenya National Chess League.

IM Elijah Emojong, the once crown prince of Ugandan chess, will be seeking to reestablish his dominance after a self-imposed hiatus that saw him come back more spiritually nourished, and probably this will awaken his fighting spirits to improve on his 2354 rating. Before his break, Emojong used to traverse the globe in pursuit of rating points that saw him become the envy of many an aspiring chess titlist.

IM Elijah Emojong at the 2016 Mombasa Open.

He is a dynamic player that has had enormous chess experiences despite his young age, which has seen him travel to as far as Vietnam to face off against Asia’s finest. He really loves taking the initiative and when he gets it he doesn’t let go of it until he devours his opponent to smithereens.

IM Elijah Emojong in action.

Known for his catchy phrases like ‘I shall be on duty’ he simply plays all games to win and will take great risks to do so. His Achilles heel is undermining weaker opposition which often lands him in trouble, hence stumbling on the course of seemingly obvious victory.

FM Patrick Kawuma (2313) is deservedly placed third in the pecking order, coming from a family of chess masters. He is a competitive player, trainer and chess enthusiast who enjoys playing bullet chess (but thankfully does not teach or recommend it to developing players!) and has throughout his career represented his country internationally at virtually every level (U14, U16, U18, U20, University), and having been a member of the national team since 2009.

FM Patrick Kawuma in action during the 2016 Africa Individual Championship held in Kampala. Photo credit Paras Gudka.

Kawuma is a solid player that could have come out of the Russian school of chess for just understanding the basics. His narrow repertoire notwithstanding, which makes it easier for opponents to prepare for him, he is as solid as a rock and difficult to beat because he has seen it all in his battles across the globe.

His style is reminiscent of his older brother Moses Kawuma who was well known for catch phrases like ‘kwata file’ and ‘kwata diagonal’ loosely translated to mean get hold of the file and diagonal. His major weakness is getting into tactical melees that steer the game into unclear territories.

The untitled Walter Okas makes the list as the fourth seeded player with an enviable rating of 2308, dispelling any notion that he is a relatively unknown. Last year, he sacrificed an opportunity to represent his country at the Olympiad, and unleashed a devastating combination that trapped the queen of his heart and led her down the aisle in a colourful wedding ceremony!

Walter Okas during the 2014 Migingo Cup held in Nairobi.

Okas is one player to watch out for as lurking behind his amiable looks is an assassin’s plethora of attacks, which has always made him a force to reckon with. As a junior he was a terror and one of the strongest players, but due to studies and later on work commitments he was out of the scene for a while.

However he is now back and ready to stamp his authority in this event. Okas has an unusual style that can confuse even the very best.  He simply enjoys the unknown stratosphere and can play awkward moves that might seem weak but on closer inspection are very hard to beat. His weakness is in his opening and playing dry positions that simply bore the daylights out of him.

Mention the fifth seed FM Harold Wanyama (2249) and almost every Kenyan chess aficionado will cower in his wake, for he has literally obliterated the field in most of ‘our’ tournaments than any other player has done. His lanky frame should not be mistaken for a silhouette because he is the real deal when executing winning moves with the precision of a Swiss watch. On a good day, ‘Animals’ as he is fondly referred to in Kenya, can be anyone’s bet to be the first among equals.

FM Harold Wanyama (left) in action against FM Haruna Nsubuga during the 2016 Zone 4.2 Chess Championship in Dar es Salaam. Photo credit CSB Photography.

His style is similar to Tigran Petrosian’s and is well known for his endgame mastery in the footsteps of Jose Capablanca. He will squeeze wins out of dry positions and has a high endgame conversion rate. He is also astute tactically and can play a variety of positions with relative comfort and has been the most consistent Olympiad player along with Patrick Kawuma. His weakness however is losing concentration at the most critical moments in wild games.

FM Harold Wanyama during the 2014 Migingo Cup held in Nairobi.

At the tail end of this galaxy of players is the mercurial FM Haruna Nsubuga (2217), who has recently taken to modelling and even with his new apparel, has also unveiled Kaba as his surname. A go-getter and a resilient fighter, Haruna has slowly but surely established himself as a force to reckon with, taking into account his numerous tournament wins and exemplary performances. This will be a good hunting ground for him to harvest Elo points, if he can run for his dear life as the marauding predators prey on him!

FM Haruna Nsubuga in action during the 6th Capablanca Chess Tournament held in February 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Haruna is an enigma attracting divergent points of view across the nation regarding his chess. He plays flamboyantly and can be a handful to anyone on a good day, and his Houdini acts that have seen him survive lost positions, thus earning him the nine lives of a cat!

FM Haruna Nsubuga receives his trophy from Benard Wanjala (left) for winning the 2016 Equity Bank Open Chess Tournament held in December 2016 in Nairobi.

However the fact that he hasn’t yet qualified for the national team is a testament that he still has some work cut out for him. Of late he has had very impressive results and has rightfully joined the 2200 club. His style is difficult to comprehend and one has to watch out for the tricks he revels in as the game progresses.

We look forward to an exciting event, and Terrian Chess Academy is exploring options of broadcasting it live, having been appointed as the official promoters of the 2017 Challenge!

The ever jovial Local GM Brian Kidula is the CEO & founder of Terrian Chess Academy.  He is now positioning himself as a chess promoter after successfully hosting the Gohil – Toboso match last month.