Reflection on The African Individual Championship
Written by Dr Lyndon Bouah.
The African Individual Championship started in Tunis, Tunisia.
The event is an important one because several qualifiers will go on to play in the World Cup later this year in Siberia. So, Tunisia, I hear you say.
South Africa & Tunisia historical ties
South Africa and Tunisia have a unique history in politics and chess. Let’s look a bit at the history of Tunisia. Many of you will know that the Arab Spring started in Tunisia in 2011 when a street vendor set himself alight. And that revolution spread to other Arab states.
On 5 April 1995, President Nelson Mandela honoured the President of Tunisia, Mr Ben Ali at a state banquet. Mr Mandela stated ” on a personal note, Mr President, I am pleased to reciprocate tonight, after three decades, the hospitality offered to me by Tunisia in 1962. The warm spirit of solidarity and brotherhood with which I was received has remained with me ever since.”
Visit to Tunisia by Nelson Mandela
Mr Mandela recalled the visit he made to Tunisia in 1962 when he appealed to the continent for Africa for assistance in the fight against Apartheid.
Long Walk to Freedom
On page 286 of his book ‘Long Walk to Freedom‘, Madiba writes, “in Tunis, our first stop, we met the Minister of Defence, who wore a striking resemblance to Chief Luthuli. But I am afraid that is where the resemblance ended., When I was explaining to him the situation in our country with PAC leaders such as a Robert Sobukwe in jail, he interrupted me and said, ” when that chap returns, he will finish you!” Robbie raised his eyebrows at this, but I insisted on giving the Minister the full picture. When the following day we met President Habib Bouguiba, his response was utterly positive and immediate: he offered training for our soldiers and £5000 for weapons.” So, Tunisia certainly played a role in the struggle against Apartheid.
South Africa joins OAU
Mr Mandela continued at the State Banquet to reflect that the Organisation for African Unity welcomed democratic South Africa back into the fold at a continental Summit in Tunis, Tunisia on 13 June 1994.
At the Summit, Mr Mandela continued “we spoke about the symbolism of Carthage- the city which was destroyed by the Romans and must be rebuilt by Africans. Here in South Africa, we have no such spectacular monuments to ancient history. But we have a nation that was torn apart by centuries of colonialism and racial domination. We are, at present, working tirelessly to rebuild that nation ourselves. Perhaps, in our humble way, our country can leave a monument to Africa and the world.” .
Mr Mandela made a brilliant speech at the June 1994 Summit. He referred to Carthage that was destroyed by the Roman Empire. “And yet we can say this; all human civilization rests on foundations such as ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains ( of Carthage) , like the Pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancient kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, the Zimbabwe ruins and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi and Namibia deserts, all speak of Africa’s contribution to the formation of the condition of civilization.”
Nelson Mandela Train Station
Today in Tunis there is a Nelson Mandela Train Station that can be used! So, Tunisia has been a great friend of South Africa!
1958 Chess Olympiad
On the chess front, South Africa and Tunisia share a special bond in that they were the first African countries that participated in an Olympiad. The year was 1958, the city, Munich, the country Germany when Tunisia and South Africa made their respective debuts at the Chess Olympiad. At the 1958 Olympiad, the countries were divided into four groups. South Africa was in group two. They ended second-last in the group which was won by Spain on 23.5 and the USA on 23. In that group, South Africa lost to Spain, USA, West Germany, Israel, and Norway. South Africa drew with Iceland and beat Finland and Iran.
Tunisia was in Group four and beat Greece 3.5 to 0.5. Tunisia then drew against Sweden and Portugal and lost to Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Canada and Belgium. In the final group pairings, South Africa beat Tunisia 3.5 to 0.5.
Suspension of South Africa from FIDE
In 1974 Tunisia once again played a role when South Africa was suspended from FIDE. Morocco proposed a motion that South Africa and Rhodesia should be excluded from FIDE. This because ” Rhodesia and South Africa continue to ignore the most elementary principles of human rights by exercising all forms of racial segregation and of slavery towards the autochthonous peoples of Rhodesia and South Africa.
The proposal was signed by the following countries: Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, USSR, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, DDR (East Germany), Mongolia, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Argentina and Cuba. So, Tunisia was the first to support the Moroccan proposal, which ultimately led to 18 years of exclusion from FIDE.
So let us look at the chess programme of the African Individual Chess Championships :
Blitz that will take place first, followed by the classical chess event that will be nine rounds followed by the Rapid, so it is action-packed!
The tie break is also interesting. The average rating of the opponents will be used as the first tiebreak.
The prize structure is as follows;
I still have a real issue in that the Open and Women’s section does not have the same prize money. This is despite the fact that the costs of the hotel and flight costs are exactly the same! I still believe there should be parity in prize money!
The winner of the event will become as GM if they reach a minimum rating of 2300. The winner of the women’s section will become a WGM if she achieves a rating of 2100
The qualification stakes are also very high. The top two in the Open section qualify for the 2019 FIDE World Cup to be played 9 September to 2 October. The top three in the Women’s section will qualify for the 2020 Women World Cup Chess Championships cycle.
Grandmasters from Africa
Tunisia also has the honour of being the first African country to produce a Grandmaster. His name is Slim Bouaziz. He obtained the title in 1993.
Africa only has a limited number of GMs, some of whom are participating in this event. The African born GMs are:
1. Slim Bouaziz (Tunisia).
2. Bassem Amin (Egypt).
3. Ahmed Adly (Egypt).
4. Amien Rizouk (Algeria).
5. Samy Shoker (Egypt).
6. Hichem Hamdouchi (Morocco).
7. Mohammed Haddouche (Algeria).
8. Kenny Solomon (South Africa).
9. Amon Simutowe (Zambia).
10. Essam El Gindy (Egypt).
11. Slim Belkhodja (Tunisia).
12. Abdelrahman Hesham (Egypt).
Winners of past editions
The winners of the previous editions of the event are:
Egyptian players have been outstanding in this event. The statistics are overwhelming.
GM Bassem has five African Titles.
GM Adly has two African titles while in the women’s section WGM Mona Khaled has three titles. The Wafa sisters share five between them with Shrook on three titles while her sister Shahenda has two.
And what a star-studded field it is!! Africa’s newest GMs are also participating. They are Bilel Bellahcene from Algeria and Adham Fawzy from Egypt. Both are fairly young players.
GM Fawzy had a great Olympiad in Batumi in 2018. I saw his game against GM Ivan Cheparinov where he had the experienced GM against the ropes. His game against India was also a good one.
Bilel I know less about but will find out more. This event is probably the strongest African Championship ever with no less than six former champions playing in the championship!
Round 1 – Open Section
Let us look at the results of round one:
Boards 1 to 6
GM Bassem beat Daniel Mulenga from Zambia on board one.
GM Adly beat FM Akintoye Abdulraheem from Nigeria on board two .
On board three and making a return to the African Championships is GM Hamdouchi from Morocco. It is his first-ever African Championship after sharing first place with Watu Kobese back in 2001!!! He has been living in France and has not been playing in African events since 2001. This to my knowledge is his first event at the African Continental level since 2001. He beat IM Achraf Hbacha from Tunisia.
GM Bellahcene beat FM Amdouni from Tunisia on board four.
On board five IM Arab Adlane from Algeria who is probably GM strength beat FM Oussama Douissa from Tunisia.
GM Fawzy drew with Angolan IM David Silva on board six . IM Silva is a three-time African Junior Champion and has three GM norms. He has played in South Africa and is quite a capable player.
Board 7 to 12
On board seven IM Mahfoud Oussedik from Algeria drew with Yacine Barbaria from Tunisia. Oussedik is a strong competitor and very fierce, so I am sure he was disappointed.
On board eight GM El Gindy beat FM Oragwu from Nigeria.
IM Rakotomaharo from Madagascar (Zone 4.3 Champion) defeated CM Bouzidi from Tunisia on board nine .
On board ten CM Musatwe Simutowe held GM Abdelrahman Hesham to a draw. This is a good result for Simutowe as the Egyptian GM would have pushed for the win.
On board eleven IM Andrew Kayonde (aka ‘AK47‘) drew with FM Meskin from Ethiopia. AK47, as he is known in these parts, will be disappointed because he was expected to beat the player rated 220 points below him.
IM Rodwell Makoto lost to Tunisian Omar Jmila on board twelve.
So, a few good draws for the lower-rated players but a tough field!!!
Round 1 – Ladies Section
In the Women’s section in round one, the following transpired:
A smaller field but still with some solid names! The two sisters who share five titles between them are the top seeds!
On board one WGM Shahenda Wafa beat WFM Miladi from Tunisia. On board two WGM Shrook Wafa beat WFM Amira Marzouk
WIM Mezioud Algeria beat Ibrahim from Nigeria on board three .
We will re-join the action in a day or two!