Kenya Olympiad Qualifiers 2nd Phase
Mehul Gohil aka ‘Gorilla‘ has written a piece about the Kenya Olympiad Qualifiers 2nd Phase. He has dubbed it ‘Gorilla’s Wednesday morning Wogogongo – Customary 2nd Phase prediction‘.
(The 24 players taking part in this event have been selected from the 2019 Kenya National Chess Championship held in December 2019. The Kenya Olympiad Qualifiers 2nd Phase is taking place at Parkland’s Sports Club, Nairobi. The top seven players will then join the following 4 players and play a round robin to select the top 5 to make the Olympiad Team)
1. Mehul Gohil – National Champion
2. Nathan Ateka – Seed 1
3. Joseph Methu – Seed 2
4. Mcligeyo Robert – Top Junior)
Parkland’s Sports Club
This coming weekend, 24 of the very best Kenyan ‘Mujengeres‘ (slang for Woodpusher) descend on Gorilla’s home ground of Parklands to try their luck in what I think is going to be the toughest 2nd Phase ever.
Seven slots are up for grabs, and they will not be easy to get even for the best of them.
It is a quality field. Speaking for myself, I am pleased to be spectating this from the haven of the 3rd Phase. As I build up to form for that 3rd Phase, I do not think even my qualification from 2nd Phase would be guaranteed (was I to play). Believe it or not, it is easier to play 3rd Phase than 2nd Phase. In the third Phase, you can survive with a margin for error. Say losing even three games and adding a draw.
There is simply no margin of error in the 2nd Phase. E.g. you are some of the top 4 favourites. You win Rd 1. Lose Rd 2. Win Rd 3. Lose Round 4. It could already be over for you even if you win the last two rounds because of the Bucholz tie-break. And throwing Bilbao into the mix, the whole thing is pretty unpredictable.
Just about anybody has a chance to qualify. You might be a multiple former national Champion but still, get kicked out. You might be on form and have had an excellent track record over the last six months, and by all accounts should be on the national team. But you could be kicked out.
It is sad we have in place such a stupid Casino system of national team qualifier where consistent tournament performance is not the criteria for a national team spot. You get the slot at how lucky you will be in the casino system.
That said, chess still has to be played. And as Casino as things will be the strength levels of players will play a role. Based on this, here are my traditional Gorilla predictions of what could happen:
Clear & complete favourites to make the 3rd phase
Ben Magana and Ben Nguku
These two are in a class of their own (relative to the rest in 2nd Phase). Both Magana & Nguku have a level of chess understanding is superior to anybody else in the 2nd Phase. If both can play at least 70% of their skill level, they will be unstoppable.
Next two likely candidates to make it through
Githinji Hinga and Jackson Kamau
Githinji showed marked improvement in his play during the 10th Capablanca Cup held last month The sort of solidity that was representative of his heydays in the early part of the decade. He is coming back to form and has a more serious attitude to the game. I expect him to go through.
Jackson Kamau plays sound chess and has a healthy aggressive streak in his style. He has a tremendous zeal to perform well, in any event, he plays in as well. I expect him to go through.
Gorilla’s designated dark horse
I liked how he played in the national championships. To me, it seemed he has finally come of age and is starting to show what he can become eventually. He is one of the younger contestants and has good ambition. You can feel that ambition across the board. I am predicting he will go through.
That is 5 out of the seven spots taken up. Now only two more slots left. They are up for grabs. It is a tough field.
We have Dr Victor Ng’ani, FM Steve Ouma, Akello Atwoli…all three are past Olympians. We also have the hungry duo James Kabui and Milton Kihara who are also in the mix.
The 2nd Phase is pure dynamite and will be fun to spectate.