Italy-based South African IM Kenny Solomon is new African chess champion! He achieved this feat by winning 5 games and drawing 4 in the Open section of the African Individual Chess Championships (AICC) that came to an end on Monday.
The 9-round Swiss tournament was held at the imposing Safari Court Hotel, in Windhoek, Namibia from December 12-23 and was organised by the Namibia Chess Federation (NCF) under the auspices of the African Chess Confederation (ACC).
Solomon beat Zambia’s IM Stanley Chumya in the last round and anxiously waited for the other title deciding game between Zambia’s IM Daniel Jere and Egypt’s GM Ahmed Adly hoping they draw to make him the outright winner and earn a Grandmaster title. However, the tournament’s highest rated player Adly, who had lost two games before, put up a spirited defence to triumph and finish with 7/9 points with Solomon, but with an inferior tie-break, thus coming in second.
Solomon had beaten Adly in round 5 and was interestingly rewarded with a fourth GM norm, a glittering trophy plus US$5,500. On his way to receiving his trophy from the Egyptian Ambassador to Namibia and the President of ACC Lewis Ncube, Solomon received a standing ovation from all the players and officials at the closing ceremony.
In his acceptance speech, the African chess champion first thanked God for the victory, then all the players for the stiff challenge they posed and the organiser for providing a conducive environment that he was happy to be a part of, having arrived a day earlier before the opening round began. He also lauded the efforts of the ACC for making the championship an annual event, meaning Africa now has an opportunity of producing grandmasters every year.
This was his first victory in spite having started playing in the individual championship from 2003. Adly, the 2007 world junior chess champion and previous holder of the African Chess Championship showed great composure and remarkable fighting spirit to claw back into contention and finish behind Solomon, to win a trophy plus US$ 4,500.
In third place was IM Ali Farahat from Egypt, who led for the better part of the tournament, and won a trophy plus US$3,000, ending his campaign on 6.5 points. He played out a quick draw by repetition against Angola’s FM Joao Simoes, who finished in fifth place with 6 points, after missing the opening round. For his efforts, he pocketed US$1,500. South Africa’s IM Daniel Cawdery beat Uganda’s FM Harold Wanyama with surgical precision to come in fourth with 6 points and US$1,750 to take home.
The longest game of the day was between Zambia’s FM Andrew Kayonde and South Africa’s IM Donovan Van Den Heever, which saw Kayonde snatch the point and clinch the sixth spot on 6 points as well. Jere was placed seventh on 5.5 points and received US$688 as Nigeria’s CM Bomo Kigigha defeated Mozambique’s CM Persson Abrantes to complete the prize winners on 5.5 points and earn US$562.
Kenya’s representative CM Ben Magana of KCB Chess Club finished with 4.5 points and in 17th place out of the 29 participants that took place, in spite having missed out on the first 2 rounds due to South Africa transit visa hitches. Another KCB player, FM Wanyama was placed 9th overall in his maiden appearance at the continental showpiece.
In the women’s section, Egypt’s WGM Shrook Wafa retained her title as the African champion by beating South Africa’s WIM Michelle Fisher to finish with 7.5/9 points. She received a trophy and US$3,000 but passed on the offer to give the winner’s speech. In second place on 6.5 points was South Africa’s WIM Anzel Solomons who won US$1,750 plus a trophy.
The impressive Zambian Epah Tembo, also finished strongly with 6.5 points and in third place that saw her graduate from a Woman FIDE Master (WFM) to a Woman International Master (WIM). She won against Mozambique’s WIM Vania Vilhete, and was conspicuously absent at the closing ceremony since she had to catch her flight back home, but her husband IM Jere picked the trophy plus the US1,375 purse on her behalf.
In joint third place after winning against Zambia’s WCM Constance Mbatha was South Africa’s WFM Sune Du Toit, getting US$1,375 as Angola’s untitled player Sonia Rosalina finished in fifth place with 5.5 points, earning her US$750 after drawing with A. Solomons. Another South African WIM Denise Frick defeated Namibia’s Kamutuua Tjatindi to pocket US$ 333 by virtue of her 6th place finish with 5 points.
Nigeria’s WCM Olabisi Rabiu and Namibia’s Lishen Mentile also scored 5 points apiece to finish in seventh and eighth position respectively, and each pocketed US$83. The top three finishers in each category also qualified to play in the African Grand Prix circuit scheduled to take place next year.
In his speech the ACC President, himself an International Organizer, praised the organizers led by the president of NCF, who doubled up as the tournament director, Otto Nakapunda for their hospitality, and for hosting a memorable continental championship. He also praised the participants for their great sportsmanship in this premier flagship event of ACC.
The president also had kind words for the technical team under the stewardship of the chief arbiter, IA Gunther van den Bergh, for running the tournament flawlessly, a true reflection of the African competitive spirit. Nigeria’s CM Bomo spoke on behalf of the players and appreciated the work put in making the event a resounding success.
Puzzle: Find the best continuation for Black (IM Daniel Cawdery) against White (FM Harold Wanyama) as played in the 2014 AICC, Windhoek.