Mehul Gohil clinches 2022 Kenya Championship title
Mehul Gohil aka ‘Gorilla‘ cemented his status as one of Kenya’s top players when he overcame a spirited and tenacious Hugh Misiko during the Plays Offs at the end of the 2022 Kenya National Chess Championship.
Gohil won a car when he lifted the title in 2019. The victory earned him a Mazda Demio as the first prize (his second car as National Champion). He has now won the title a record three times (2014, 2019 & 2022).
Humphrey Andolo still has the record for the most national titles (1995, 1997, 1998 & 1999).
At the end of round eight, which was the penultimate round, three players were tied at the top with seven points—defending Champion Martin Njoroge, Mehul Gohil, who were the top favourites to win the title and relatively unknown and soft-spoken Hugh Misiko.
Interestingly, Mehul Gohil (2012) was ranked number two at the event’s start, while Martin Njoroge (1973) was number three. On the other hand, Hugh Misiko (1785) was ranked a distant 23rd.
The final 9th round
The round nine pairings saw Mehul Gohil with the white pieces against the defending Champion Martin Njoroge on board one.
On board two was Ricky Sang with six points, and the black pieces taking on Hugh Misiko.
The last and ninth round was critical, with Mehul Gohil, Martin Njoroge or Hugh Misiko potentially winning the title without any tiebreaks.
If Mehul Gohil won on board one and Hugh Misiko lost on board two, then Mehul Gohil would be the winner.
If Martin Njoroge won on board one and Hugh Misiko lost on board two, then Martin Njoroge would be the winner.
On the other hand, if Mehul Gohil and Martin Njoroge drew on board one and Misiko won on board two, then Misiko would be the winner.
The above combinations meant that the games on boards one and two would assume a gladiatorial nature. It was a fight to death.
The round started at 8 am, which is early for chess players and by 10.30 am, Martin Njoroge resigned after he lost a piece to Mehul Gohil on the 18th move.
On board two, Ricky Sang put up a stiff fight, and after almost 5 hours of play, he capitulated on the move 63, handing Hugh Misiko a lifeline to grab the national title.
The Play Offs
The Play Offs were as exciting as the 2022 World Cup finals between France and Argentina!
In the contest, it was clear that Hugh Misiko had a vast group of supporters and was the David in the David versus Goliath fight. Would he now grab the coveted title and the car keys from one of Kenya’s most experienced players?
Mehul Gohil easily won the first rapid game and only needed a draw in the second game to win the title. However, in the second game, in a drawn position, Mehul messed on move number 43, giving Hugh Misiko the win to equalise.
Two Game Blitz Playoff
A two-game blitz playoff would now decide the title. Misiko, with the white pieces swiftly demolished Mehul, and now the crowd was getting excited. Would Misiko now finish and go home with the car?
Mehul stunned the crowd with a fantastic win with the black pieces in the second game to force an Armageddon play off.
It meant that the Armageddon game would decide the title, with Mehul having the white pieces.
The players exchanged pieces, and it appeared that the game would end up with a barren draw to hand Hugh the title.
The crowd erupted in anticipation when Hugh, on the 42nd move, forked Mehul’s Bishop, and it appeared that it was now almost over. Well, it is only over when the cows come home!
Mehul managed to push pawns on both sides of the board, leaving Hugh’s King and sole Knight helpless. It was over, and Mehul Gohil was the champion once again!
Hugh Misiko received a standing ovation during the prize-giving for his incredible performance. He took home KES 100,000 (USD 900).
Ben Nguku the 2016 Kenya Open Champion played well to end up with 7.5 points and grab the third place.
It was a disappointing event for CM Ben Magana who was the top seed at the start. He ended up with 5.5 points and 45th in the final standing.
WCM Joyce Nyaruai won the 2022 Kenya National Ladies Chess Championship title when she defeated WCM Lucy Wanjiru to end with 8 points. She went home with a KES 100,000 cash prize.
Madelta Glenda was second with 7.5 points, while WFM Sasha Mongeli was third with seven points.
The 2022 Kenya National Chess Championship saw a total of 140 players taking part in the Open Section and 40 players in the Ladies’ Section. The top 24 players, apart from the champions, are eligible to participate in Phase Two to select the Kenya Team.
Article by Kenya Chess Masala.