The 2021 African Individual Chess Championship has been a delight for fans in Africa and beyond with a fair amount of thrills and spills.
Almost all of Africa’s best players have converged in the capital city Lilongwe in Malawi for the event. A record of 17 federations are present, making this edition indeed the best attended one in years.
The event runs from 18th to 28th May 2021, and the top four players will each get a slot at the 2021 World Cup, which is taking place in Sochi, Russia. Moreover a hefty cash prize of USD 24,000 (Open – USD 16,500 & Ladies – USD 7,500) is up for grabs.
Leading the pack of players is Dr Amin Bassem of Egypt, who is Africa’s top-ranked player with a dizzy 2701 Elo rating. The Open section has four other Grandmasters taking part. These include GM Bilel Bellhcene of Algeria, three Egyptians, GM Adly Ahmed, GM Adham Fawzy and GM Hesham Abdelrahman.
Other top players who are clearly looking to upset the domination of the North Africans include IM Dante Beukes of Namibia, IM Fy Rakotomaharo of Madagascar and IM Gillan Bwalya of Zambia.
In round three, the first significant upset came about when IM Dante Beukes held GM Bilel Bellahcene to a draw. IM Dante Beukes had the advantage for most of the game but failed to convert it to a win.
GM Bilel Bellahcene v IM Dante Beukes
In another thrilling encounter in round three, FM Patrick Kawumaheld top seed GM Amin Bassem to a draw in spite of having a 370 Elo rating points difference!
GM Amin Bassem v FM Patrick Kawuma
In round four, FM Patrick Kawuma was again punching above his weight when he held GM Bilel Bellahcene to another draw.
FM Patrick Kawuma v GM Bilel Bellahcene
Kenyan players found the going tough in the Open section. CMBen Magana went down to Liberian National Champion Thomas Saah in round two.
Joseph Methu, was the top Kenyan in the Open section at the end of round 5, with 3 points.
WCM Joyce Nyaruai, playing in the Ladies Section on the other hand, also had 3 points at the end of round 5.
It will be interesting to see if anyone can stop the Egyptian from grabbing all the available medals on offer at the 2021 African Individual Chess Championship . Egypt has won the Open section of this event a record 11 times out of 16 editions.
In addition, Egypt has won the Ladies section a record eight times out of 12 editions.
The Ladies Section of the 2021 African Individual Chess Championship had its fair share of upsets as well. WGM Wafa Shahenda of Egypt, the top-ranked player, was held to a draw by 15 year Naledi Marape of Botswana.
WGM Wafa Shahenda v Naledi Marape
The event, like all international ones, had an off day on 22nd May 2021. The organisers took the players to the picturesque and popular tourist destination Lake Malawi.
All photos in this report are by Makhosi Nyirenda of the Malawi Chess Federation.