The magic of Madagascar (2/2)

by Alina l'Ami
8/18/2015 – Visiting a country such as Madagascar, one might easily expect the report to be all about the culture, and of course the efforts by the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa to promote the game, but there was another story: that of 16-year-old Fy Rakotomaharo who ran away with the tournament with a perfect 9.0/9, and who has gained 300 Elo in the last year. A great talent.

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The timing of my return flight forced me to move out immediately after the closing ceremony... With such a program, I hope you will forgive me for taking a bye in round three, in order to have one afternoon available for gathering the visual material.

Views of Antananarivo...

...from different vantage points....

... to give a full appreciation...

...of this city.

Once that was ticked off my to-do-list, I came back with new forces on the chess board, giving hard times to my Malagasy opponents. Except for one, the very talented Fy Rakotomaharo, who is only 16 years old, the owner of 2430 rating and the very convincing tournament winner, wiping the floor with us and ending up with an impressive 9.0/9 on the scoreboard. I really like his Facebook status, which says “there is no other sport more violent than chess”; while proving his aggressiveness on the chess board, outside of it Fy is a very nice and down-to-earth person, who will surely reach the GM title in no time.

Night lights

This is actually where the biggest surprise hit me in the face: the Malagasy players love the game and they play it well, in spite of being self-taught. The way they look at the pieces, how they breath, analyze or press the clock says it all! Sometimes I couldn't repress a smile when seeing how much passion they put into it, abandoning themselves into the infinity of the chess maze, which made them a bit too nervous at times, moments I happily took advantage of. But they had their revenge too, since I couldn't find any of their games in the databases and had to go in blindfolded.

The sole winner, with a modest 9.0/9: Fy Rakotomaharo

Fy Rakotomaharo - Alina L'Ami

[Event "ICO Madagascar 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.08.08"] [Round "6"] [White "Rakotomaharo, Fy"] [Black "L'Ami, Alina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2371"] [Annotator "Rakotomaharo,Fy"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {In this game, I was motivated because I was playing with white against the tournament's number two, so I played for a win!} 1. d4 d6 {I was thinking around 5 minutes after this move, since it was the fourth time in my last 2 tournaments that my opponents decided to go for it.} 2. e4 {I wanted to surprise my opponent because I know she doesn't often play the Pirc Defence and recently I hadn't played 1.e4 in a great tournament either.} (2. c4 e5 {I had a bad score against this line.}) (2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 { and I don't have preparation with this line of King's Indian}) 2... Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bg5 $1 {I chose this line because some years ago I worked on it so much} Bg7 5. Qd2 h6 6. Bf4 (6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Nh5 {is the main line which transposes to the game}) 6... g5 {after some minutes of thinking} (6... Nbd7) 7. Bg3 Nh5 8. Bc4 (8. O-O-O Nc6 9. d5 Nd4 10. Nb1 c6 11. Na3 Bd7 12. Qe3 Nb5 13. Nc4 Nxg3 14. hxg3 Nc7 15. f4 gxf4 16. gxf4 cxd5 17. exd5 $14 {1-0 (39) Anand,V (2725) -Chernin,A (2600) Paris 1995}) 8... Nc6 9. Nge2 Nxg3 (9... Bd7 10. O-O-O e6 11. d5 Ne5 12. Bb3 Qe7 13. f3 Nxg3 14. hxg3 O-O-O $16 {1-0 (30) Fedoseev,V (2683) -Khoroshilov,N (2274) Sochi RUS 2015}) 10. hxg3 Na5 11. Bd3 c5 {After Black's move, I tried to assess the endgame. I saw the knight which was badly placed on a5, so my plan was to play against this knight, just like in the game} ( 11... Nc6 {another possiblity that I considered in the game.} 12. f4 $5 (12. Bb5) 12... gxf4 13. gxf4 Bxd4 14. Nxd4 Nxd4 15. f5 $14 {I saw compensation for the pawn}) 12. dxc5 dxc5 13. Bb5+ Bd7 14. Qxd7+ Qxd7 15. Bxd7+ Kxd7 16. O-O-O+ Kc6 (16... Kc8 17. f4 $14) (16... Ke8 17. Nb5 $16) 17. Nd5 $1 e6 18. Ne3 Rad8 19. f4 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Kc7 21. e5 f6 $2 (21... h5 $1 22. Rh1 (22. Nc3 h4 (22... gxf4 23. gxf4 Bh6 $11) 23. Nb5+ $14) 22... gxf4 23. gxf4 f6 24. exf6 Bxf6 $11) 22. f5 $3 {was the only move to take a decisive advantage} Re8 (22... exf5 23. Nxf5 $18) (22... fxe5 23. fxe6 {f5 and d5 are very weak}) 23. Nc3 fxe5 (23... a6 24. fxe6 Rxe6 25. Nf5 Bf8 26. Nd5+ $16) 24. Nb5+ Kc6 25. a4 Bf8 26. Nxa7+ Kb6 27. Nb5 Kc6 (27... c4 28. f6 $16) 28. f6 $18 c4 29. Ng4 e4 30. f7 Ra8 31. Ne5+ Kb6 32. Nd4 Bd6 33. Nd7+ Kc7 34. f8=Q Bxf8 35. Nxf8 Kd6 36. Nfxe6 Ke5 37. Nc5 e3 38. Nf3+ Kf5 39. Rd4 b6 40. g4+ Kg6 41. Rd6+ {I was happy after winning this game against a strong player. It's the first time that I won against a WGM player in a standard game. So, with six points after six games, I was very motivated for the rest of the tournament and I finished with a perfect 9.0/9 with a 2806 performance.} 1-0

First and second place are still good friends, despite their hostile encounter on the chess board

The happy winners...

... from the various section.

Perhaps there is a link between this and their names, which for me were...impossible to spell properly. I needed to check the pairings ten times before I was sure I got the name correctly, and pronouncing them was no piece of cake either. Try this for example: Rambolamalalatiana Hajaharisoa (Ed: Rambo for short) or just check the players' list and... good luck!

Tournament director and president of FMJE, Yves Rakotomaharo, debriefing all of us in three
different languages! Malagasy, French and English. Thank you for a wonderful event!

Elisha Thabo from Zimbabwe was very happy to win the prize in his rating section, well done!

Last game of the tournament was followed with great interest

Such unique names make for unique and very interesting individuals, whose features in physiognomy resemble the Javanese or Indian ones (I bet some of you didn't expect that), and same goes for the Malagasy language, seasoned with some African and Arab elements as well. The standard way people greet each other in Madagascar is by saying, “Mbola tsara Manahoana, Manakory, Akory.”, sing-songy words which translate to, “Hello, Good morning.” If this is getting difficult, don't worry, the locals speak French too, given their colonial past, which lasted until 1960, when Madagascar became an independent country.

Fy's brother is also playing chess

And his friends got the chess bug too

The Malagasy ladies love the game as well

A number came to enjoy the competition

Another attraction for me was the traffic, an organism that has rules of its own, if any. I just don't understand it and my deepest respect goes for those who can drive on Antananarivo's streets (just when I thought nothing could beat Jakarta's madness!). I am truly amazed that people's feet find their way out, avoiding being trapped into the cars' wheels and even more stunned that the vehicles are actually able to advance. Such a mingle-mangle of everything and anything is hard to describe or find elsewhere – a genuine Malagasy experience.

Interesting but difficult to pronounce names...

After party... Pizza time!

I do not know which is the next move Lady Luck is planning in our favourite variation, but I do hope that when the time comes, after one year, I will not leave it to fate to decide, but play the move myself and return to this fantastic island of Madagascar!

You may recall the pictures from Angola with women carrying all manner
of items on their heads. In Madagascar it is the men who do it.


...Fruits, and more.

Final standings

1 1 FM Rakotomaharo Fy Antenaina MAD 2430 9.0 39.0
2 2 WGM L'AMI Alina ROU 2371 7.5 39.0
3 7   Mezouaghi Miloud FRA 2039 6.5 41.0
4 23   Ralison Milanto Harifidy MAD 1786 6.0 41.0
5 9   Rafenohery Lova MAD 2001 6.0 37.0
6 5   Andriamasoandro Miora Ismael MAD 2117 6.0 37.0
7 14   Elisha Thabo ZIM 1943 6.0 36.5
8 6   Ramasindraibe Girard MAD 2040 6.0 36.5
9 33 WFM Ravelomanana Sabi MAD 1710 6.0 36.0
10 15   Beanjara Philippson MAD 1934 6.0 35.5
11 63   Razanadrakotoarisoa Toavina MAD 0 6.0 34.0
12 3 CM Rajaonarison Faniry MAD 2125 5.5 36.5

Click for complete standings

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.
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Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 8/20/2015 10:17
I can't remember the last time I've seen a perfect score. The future of chess is in the mind of this youngster.
Denix Denix 8/19/2015 08:17
In chess everybody speaks the same language.