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January 16, 2019

Annual Capablanca Cup sparks excitement as season gets underway

Caption: In R1 of Capablanca Cup, Mehul Gohil (2085) fell for the Elephant Trap against Joseph Kirega (1251)
Caption: In R1 of Capablanca Cup, Mehul Gohil (2085) fell for the Elephant Trap against Joseph Kirega (1251)

With a rather dry start to 2016 where chess tournaments go, Nairobi Chess Club’s annual Capablanca Cup tournament (now in its sixth year) over the weekend of February 20-21 was the much needed fountain to quench our Kenyan chessers’ thirst for competition.

I, too, would have been lapping away merrily amongst them in the hope to achieve my initial standard rating but this time arbitration duties beckoned. I wasn’t complaining though. To be Chief Arbiter of an event of the magnitude of Capablanca Cup was an honour and an excellent opportunity to practice what I learnt almost two years ago at a FIDE trainers’ seminar in humid New Delhi.

This column’s previous author, Brian Kidula, who is on a much-deserved break from writing after 3 years of diligence week after week, was also at Braeburn School, nursing a cold and hiding from his opponents in the Prestige section under a grey hoodie.

For me, the highlight of the tournament was the game between Mehul Gohil and Joseph Kirega in Round 1 of the Prestige section where despite his years of experience playing at the highest levels, Mehul fell for a basic trap against his much lower-rated opponent in the Queen’s Gambit Declined opening (see diagram).

White just played 6. Nxd5?? thinking the black knight on f6 is pinned. Is it really?

The game continued: 6… Nxd5! 7. Bd2 White has lost a knight for a pawn (7. Bxd8 Bb4+ White has no other move to get out of check and will lose his queen. 8. Qd2 Bxd2+ 9. Kxd2 Kxd8) N7f6 8. a3 Bd6 9. Qc2 O-O 10. O-O-O Qe7 11. e3 Ne4 12. Be1 Bf5 13. Qb3 Be6 14. f3 Ndc3 15. d5 Bxd5 16. Rxd5 Nxd5 17. Qxd5 Nc5 18. Bd2 Rad8 19. Qa2 Be5 20. Qc4 Qd6 21. Qc2 Nb3+ 22. Qxb3 Qxd2+ 23. Kb1 Qd1+ 0-1.

Mehul managed to recover in the next 3 games but missed out on a podium finish after losing to tournament favourite Peter Gilruth in R5 and then drawing to unrated Vasanth Ramesh in the final round.

Uganda’s CM Haruna Nsubuga eventually won the tournament with 5 points out of 6 in the Prestige section. The other winners were: Bryan Toboso (Open section) with 5 points out of 6, WCM Riya Shah (Ladies section) with 6 points out of 6 and Anish Sudalaimuthu (Under 14 section) with 5 points out of 5.

More FIDE rated tournaments in Kenya such as this one will be the key to us catching up with our much stronger Ugandan neighbours.

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