Reflections 2 on African Individual Championship
by Dr Lyndon Bouah
Many of you would have watched the movie ‘Gladiator‘ starring Russel Crowe. In the movie, the Roman emperor stages a mock battle involving slaves to re-enact the battle of Carthage, which Rome won. Emperor Maximus, however, sees this as an opportunity and decides to change the outcome of the battle! The battle that was being enacted was one that was fought in Africa in Ancient Carthage and now known as Tunisia.
If you ask someone who was Hannibal they are likely to answer depending on their age, the guy from the A-Team or Hannibal Lecter from the movie Silence of the Lambs. However, there was an even more famous Hannibal who came from Tunisia. Yes, indeed the original Hannibal was known for leading the Carthaginian army and a team of elephants across Southern Europe and the Alps Mountains against Rome in the Second Punic War.
Hannibal was a general in the Carthaginian army who lived in the second and third century BC. He was born in a military family and made to swear hostility to Rome. He became famous for marching against Rome through the Pyrenees towards Gaul (Southern France) with more than 100 000 troops and about forty elephants. Hannibal’s Alps crossing was a remarkable military achievement. Hannibal’s army faced guerrilla attacks in addition to the inclement climate. After five months of travel, Hannibal finally exited the Alps. Over the next three years, Hannibal’s army battled the Roman General Scipio’s forces.
Hannibal was able to inflict heavy casualties on the Roman army in the battles of Trebbiano, Trasimene and Cannae but at a high cost. I have always been fascinated with the stories of Ancient Rome, but for me, Hannibal was a true African hero. He took the fight to the enemy despite the odds!! Read up a bit about Hannibal!
Future World Champion in Africa
Which player who later became World Champion was the first to play in Africa? I asked this question to many players I know, and none could answer correctly! In 1955 Max Euwe who had already been World Champion played the Johannesburg International Open in 1955. The first player who played in Africa who became world champion was Bobby Fischer! Fischer played in the 1967 Sousse Interzonal held in Tunisia. He played ten games in the event but did not finish the event after some controversy. At that stage, he had seven wins and three draws! 8.5/10.
Many players looked at the Ivory Coast event of 2019 as this first Super-GM event in Africa, but let us look at the cross table of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal.
1967 Interzonal at Sousse
There were 22 players, and many of them were Super Grandmasters as we understand the modern-day term. Bent Larsen won the event with 15.5/22. He was from Denmark and was probably the strongest player after Fischer in the Western World. Indeed in 1979, Larsen played board one in the match of The Rest of the World against the USSR.
Please check out the brilliant game Spassky played in that match against Larsen.
Bent Larsen v Boris Spassky
When I started studying chess, I received a book called ‘Larsen’s Best Games of Chess‘. It was fascinating with gambits I had never hear of, but what attracted me to Larsen’s play was the fact that he used his Rook pawns even to attack whereas lesser players at the time would hesitate to open the King side with h4!
Viktor Korchnoi, of course, needs no introduction. He was the player that contested two world championships against Karpov in 1978 and 1981. He also visited SA in 1979 and 1981 when he broke sanctions to play in South Africa.
The third-placed player Efim Geller is less well known to the younger generation of players. He was, however, a very strong Grandmaster who had an overall plus score against four world champions! Against Botvinnik he was +4 -1 = 7, against Smyslov he was +11 -8 =37, Petrosian + 5 -3 = 32 and Fischer +5 -3 = 2. If you can do find his games! Fascinating stuff!
Svetozar Gligoric was, of course, the grand man of Yugoslavian chess. He fought against the Nazis in the Second World War and was an adored hero to his people.
Lajos Portisch from Hungary is one of my favourite Grandmasters. He played all over the world and amongst his achievements that I noted was the fact that he played for Hungary at the Olympiads in 19 consecutive Olympiads with the first one being in 1956 and ending in 1996!!!
Samuel Reshevsky was the well-known prodigy who later represented the USA and was for many years the number two to Fischer in the USA.
The other notable in the field is Hort who still writes excellent articles for www.chessbase.com today. Fifteen-year-old Henrique Mecking was also playing. Marking the bottom boards were Ortvin Sarapu from New Zealand and at the bottom was a young Slim Bouaziz from Tunisia who later became Africa’s first Grandmaster.
Now that we looked at the gladiators of the past let us look at the modern 2019 gladiators currently competing in Tunisia. Let us join the action in round two.
1. FM Calvin Klaasen drew with GM Kenny Solomon. This is a good draw for Klaasen. The derby was a big game for both players. They played to a fighting draw.
2. GM Bellahcene beat IM Stanley Chumfwa from Zambia. Interestingly in the field are three SA Open champions. Chumfwa won with 10.5/11 in 2003, Kenny Solomon won in 1999 and several times after that and Rodwell Makoto won in 2012.
3. IM David Silva drew with GM El Gindy. He is showing good form. He played in the Steinitz Open last year in Cape Town.
4. FM Oragwu from Nigeria caused the biggest upset of the round when he defeated 2016 African Champion GM Hesham from Egypt. Good game from the Nigerian.
5. IM Makoto lost to CM Simutowe. Simutowe is, of course, the brother of Grandmaster Amon but he has become a formidable player in his own right.
1. WIM Sabrina Latreche beat WIM Jesse February. WIM Latreche is a fierce competitor and regularly competes in the African continental scene. She is also the sister of Mrs Steel who resides in Stellenbosch.
2. WGM Shahenda Wafa drew with WIM Lina Nassr from Algeria. Analysis of round three
Analysis of Round 3
1. The big upset of the round was GM Bellahcene beating GM Amin the defending champion and five-time winner of this event. The result throws the contest wide open because it allows several players to gain chances.
GM Amin Bassem v GM Bilel Belahcene
2. GM Adly beat GM Hamdouchi. I am not aware if they have played against each other many times, but this was the 2001 champion playing against the 2005 Champion!
3. FM Calvin Klaasen drew with GM Fawzy from Egypt. A good draw for GM Klaasen. At the Olympiad in 2018 GM Klaasen beat two Grandmasters, so these results against the Grandmasters is a sign that his strength is up there.
4. FM Amdouni (2248) Tunisia beat GM El Gindy the 2003 African Champion. Many players in Africa are underrated as they do not get sufficient chances internally to compete. El Gindy is a decorated Egyptian and African champion as well, so I am sure he will bounce back. He mainly works as a coach and last year was at the Olympiad and a coach.
5. IM Silva continued his drawing streak by holding IM Makoto. In the women section:
In the Women’s section, the big surprise was WIM Amina Mezioud 2128 from Algeria beating WGM Shahenda 2175 from Egypt. The result throws the cat among the pigeons as it opens up the event. WIM Elsanary is an experienced campaigner, and she defeated WIM Nassr who is slightly ahead in rating.
Analysis of round four
1. In the open Section, GM Adly restored Egyptian honour when he beat GM Bellahcene. Some of the websites reported that it was the first loss for GM Bellhcene on African soil for some time.
GM Adly Ahmed v GM Bilel Bellahcene
2. On board two IM Andrew Kayonde drew with zone 4.3 champion IM Rakotomaharo from Madagascar.
IM Andrew Kayonde v IM Fy Rakotomaharo
3. GM Solomon ended the game peacefully against FM Amdouni.
4. FM Calvin Klaasen lost to FM Munenga (2339) from Zambia. Tough one on FM Klaasen who was having a good run there.
5. IM Makoto, unfortunately, lost to Nigerian FM Orangwu.
1. In the Women’s section, WGM Shrook Wafa beat WIM Sabrina La Treche.
2. WIM Jesse February (1888) played far stronger than her rating when she downed the experienced WIM Amina Mezioud (2128 ) from Algeria. A good result for February who will soon be challenging on board one.
Analysis of round five
1. IM Makoto recovered some ground by beating Ethiopian Bajje.
2. GM Amin beat his compatriot GM Adly on board one. This will now mean a straight race for the finish line between GM Bellahcene from Algeria and GM Amin with the latter probably having a better tiebreak.
GM Amin Bassem v GM Adly Ahmed
3. On board two GM Fawzy, who is the youngest and newest Grandmaster in Africa beat GM Hamdouchi who was amongst the first Grandmasters in Africa’s. A sign of a maturing player.
4. GM Solomon had his umpteenth draw against IM Fy Rakotomaharo from Madagascar. Solid performances by GM Solomon but he needs wins if he wishes to challenge for the top spots.
5. FM Klaasen lost to GM El Gindy in their encounter. It was Klaasen’s third Grandmaster and his first defeat. I am sure that Klaasen will be taking the lessons from the battle.
6. I noted GM Hesham lost to Sasha Winston from Nigeria. GM Hesham is not playing his best as he has only won one game out of the five.
In round five women’s section, WGM Shrook Wafa (2144) beat WIM Jesse February. WGM Shrook is now on full score at 5/5, and she may be running out of opponents!
WIM Sabrina La Treche drew with WFM Amen Miladi.
The untitled Toritsemuwa (1877) from Nigeria surprisingly beat WGM Shahenda Wafa in their encounter. The Nigerian seems to be causing loads of upsets this year!
WFM Ravelomanana from Madagascar beat WIM Elansary (1946) from Egypt. So quite a lot to still play for!!
Round 6 pairings
On board one in the Open its an all Egyptian clash again with GM Amin playing GM Fawzy.
On Board two GM Adly plays IM Arab Adlane. IM Adlane is a tough guy from Algeria and has been hovering around GM strength for a long time. I played and lost against him at the 2003 All African Games! So, five players on 4/5 in the open. It is still race!
So, we are in for an exciting finish as the event is only nine rounds. Let’s wish all the competitors well.
I will be following the round today while trying to watch England battle New Zealand at Lords, watching Hamilton at Silverstone, keeping an eye on the two AfCON semi-finals in Egypt and supporting Federer against Djokovic! A hectic sporting day awaits!