African Individuals Chess Championships 2021

I am starting the column on sadder note this week, with African Chess flags flying half-mast, after the announcement of the untimely passing of one of its finest administrators Mr Alfred Pesa, Chess South Africa’s Vice President.

Bra Alf as he was affectionately known was applauded for his strides in promoting chess in the remotest of areas previously in the dark in South Africa. He was not only disciple of the game but a true missionary who would attend games in most countries in Africa and was a permanent attendee of our renowned BMI Lesotho Open.

Bra Alf will surely be missed in South Africa and the rest of Africa and condolences to his family, the chess community as well the whole sporting fraternity.

Back to the topic of the day; the African Individuals chess Champion taking place in Malawi Lilongwe: The tournament which started on the May 18, 2021 and running until May 27, 2021, is the apex of African chess as it serves as a tunnel to the auspicious FIDE World Championship 2021 to be held in Dubai in November 2021.

The 2021 installment which is a usual 9 rounder for such tournament magnitudes has both the open and the woman section with respective prize money of more than $16 500 and $7 200.

A healthy number of 120 players from 20 countries will be participating in the event with 45 of them female, representing 38 percent of the total registered. The competition has players from Malawi, Algeria, Somalia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Namibia, Eritrea, Egypt, South Africa, Uganda, Mali, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola.

Nigeria takes the crown for the greatest number of players registered followed by the overly confident host nation Malawi.

The number of Grandmaster registered for the tournament is seven and Egypt accounts for the majority. Malawi has the biggest number of female participants while Botswana registered the youngest player in the tournament.

The open tournament promises some exciting match ups with the reigning Champion GM Ahmed Adley from Egypt seeded together with his compatriot GM Amin Bassem with main opposition touted to come from Algeria’s GM Bilil Bellahcene and GM Mohamen Haddouche, FM Daniel Mulenga from Zambia and other upcoming talents such as Eswatini’s Sikhanyiso.

The first African Chess Championship was played in 1998. Ibrahim Hasan Labib and Mohamed Tissir both shared first place with 7/10, but the former took the title. Since 1998 the tournament has been dominated by the Pharaohs having won it for 10 times time out of possible 15 in the open section.

Morocco came second in dominance having won wit for two consecutive years in 1999 and 2001. Southern African was been represented twice in the winnings in 2007 and 2014 instalments being won the Zimbabwean Robert Gwaze and South African Kenny Solomon respectively.

Interestingly both tourneys were hosted by Namibia. The woman section only came to the fore in 2001 and has similarly been dominated by Egypt having accumulated 9 titles out of 13. The Egyptian player Ms Shrook Wafa is the only African to have won the title more 3 times having won the women section 4 times.

The 2021 instalment is one the most mouth-watering events and well covered on social platforms, let us have our ears on the ground and follow games until the 27th May 2021.

Checkmate!

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