African Individual Continental Championships 2021

by Diana Mihajlova
6/5/2021 – The 2021 African Continental Championships were held on May 17-28 at the Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The top players from the continent fought to get one of the fours spots granted to participate in the upcoming World Cup. Egyptian grandmasters Ahmed Adly, Amin Bassem, Fawzy Adham and Hesham Abdelrahman finished atop the standings. Diana Mihajlova reports from the ‘warm heart of Africa’

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.



93 players from 21 nations descended on Malawi, the small landlocked country in the East African Rift Valley, to compete in the 2021 African Continental Championship. The event was held on May 17-28 at the Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, the capital of the country. The ‘warm heart of Africa’, as Malawi is nicknamed because of the friendliness of its people, abounds with picturesque natural scenery, spectacular highlands, the highest mountain and the third-largest lake in Africa, besides rich diversity of flora and fauna.  

The Malawi Chess Association organized the event under the auspices of FIDE granting an  over-the-board continental tournament since the country is not currently severely affected by the pandemic. The Government’s Tourist Office states on its website:

A set of National Covid-19 Health & Safety protocols for tourism has been established that have resulted in the award of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Safe Travel Stamp. WTTC’s Stamp was established to show travelers which destinations have adopted globally standardized health and hygiene protocols in order that they can experience ‘Safe Travels’. 


Malawi Lake | Photo: Malawi Tourist Office


The Malawi Government Offices in Lilongwe | Photo: Malawi Government

As most chess events at the moment are somewhat related to the forthcoming World Cup scheduled for July in Sochi, Russia, the African Continental Championship, apart from establishing the African Champion, also designated the four top finishers to participate at the World Cup. 

The battle at the top was practically fought between four compatriots: Egyptians GM Ahmed Adly, GM Amin Bassem, GM Fawzy Adham and GM Hesham Abdelrahman won the four top spots, meaning they won all four designated tickets to the World Cup.   

The winner, Ahmed Adly, retained his title as the African Continental Champion. He scored 8/9, the same number of points as his compatriot, the top seed, Amin Bassem, but took the gold thanks to a better tiebreak. The bronze medal went to Adham Fawzy, and Abdelrahman Hesham was placed fourth.   

Ahmed Adly, Amin Bassem, Fawzy Adham

The Egyptian grandmasters at the podium, Adly, Bassem and Fawzy

According to FIDE’s decision to allow a wild card to one player from each of the top 100 federations, Egypt, being 48th, has the right to nominate a fifth player.  

It has been a while that Egyptian players reign supreme in the African chess scene, and it does not seem likely that they will be soon dethroned. The Egyptian Chess Federation’s president Dr. Hisham El-Gendy made sure that they are provided with good care — most importantly with regular training sessions by hired foreign coaches, which is bearing fruit. 

Egyptian Chess Federation

Dr. Hisham El-Gendy, President of the Egyptian Chess Federation (far right), and his victorious team were received at the Cairo airport by Government officials, including the Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports | Photo: Tatweeg Sports News

In the women’s section, the South African national woman champion WIM Jesse Nikki  February clinched gold, finishing half a point ahead of the second and third-placed competitors. This result also earns her the Woman Grandmaster (WGM) title, although she needs to attain the rating of 2100 to receive it. 

Jesse February

Jesse February, African woman champion 2021

WIM Lina Nassr (ALG) tied for second with yet another Egyptian player, WIM Ayah Moaataz, but took silver thanks to better tiebreaks.

African Continental Chess Championship 2021

Women winners, February (1st), Nassr (2nd), Moaataz (3rd)

The African Continental Championship presented a wonderful opportunity for Malawi chess players and the promotion of the country in general. The event was regularly reported in the daily press. 


The Prize Giving Ceremony at the Malawi top daily ‘The Nation’ | Photo: Official Facebook page of the tournament

After the highly praised organizational success of an important chess event, Malawi has become a welcome addition to the chess destinations.

Such high level international tournaments are most beneficial to the host’s own players, who would normally have little chance of participating in important chess events and remain largely underrated — as it was proven at the latest African Championship, where two Malawi players, FM Mwale Joseph (2148) and CM Chipanga Chiletso (2043), placed 23rd and 22nd in the starting ranking list respectively made it up to the seventh place in the final standings. Both scored 6/9, and Mwale, with a better tiebreak, narrowly failed to get a ticket to the World Cup in Sochi, being only half a point short behind the fourth eligible participant. 

Chipanga Chiletso 

Flaying the Malawi flag, CM Chipanga Chiletso flanked by the Malawi’s Chess Federation President and the Minister for Youth and Sport

By the sixth round, FM Mwale Joseph at 5/6 was among the leaders GM Adly, GM Bassem and IM Rakotomaro (MAD).  

In the 6th round he won against GM Bellahcene Bilel, 2018 Algerian champion, about which the national sports section of the Malawian daily The Nation reported:

Chess Association of Malawi (CHESSAM) president Susan Namangale was over the moon following Mwale’s exploits, saying it heralds a new era for Malawi chess. “I am very excited about this win. Everyone I have talked to is excited. This is history, it’s rare for someone of Joseph’s ranking to beat a grandmaster. I truly cannot express just how happy I am. My team has made me proud,” she said.

Susan Namangale is the first female Chess President in Malawi and in Africa. She is also an active chess player — in 2019 she was Malawi woman champion. The same year Joseph Mwale won in the Open section.


Susan Namangale, Mwale Joseph

Susan and Mwale Joseph, 2019 Malawi national champions

In the women’s section, Malawi representative Shriyan Santosh Priyasha with a low rating of 1285 also made waves. She was the only untitled player among the top finishers. She scored 5½/9 and reached 7tn place despite being originally seeded 29th from 34 participants.  

Shriyan Santosh Priyasha

Shriyan Santosh Priyasha of Malawi

Players had an opportunity to explore the historic and nature sites, including excursions to the Lake Malawi. 


Photo opportunities by the Lake Malawi

Also, daily open-air gym sessions were provided by trainers in which a large section of the players took part. 


Keeping fit 

Kirsan is back

Nadezda Valerevna Marochkina, playing for Senegal, is engrossed in the book ‘Learning the Alien Game’. 

Nadezda Valerevna

Written by Makhosi Makhiso Nyirenda, Malawi Publicity Commissioner, former Publicity Secretary of Malawi Chess Association, chess journalist, promoter and coach, the book ‘Learning the Alien Game’ has been circulating throughout the tournament attracting attention among the participants and all present at the event. 

Makhosi Makhiso Nyirenda

Makhosi (on the right), presenting the book to the Malawi Minister for Youth, Sport and Culture, the Honourable Ulemu Msungama, and Susan Namangale  

Makhosi illusively described his idea behind the title and the book:

I was partly inspired by Kirsan’s claims about alien abduction to give it the title ‘Learning the Alien Game’. I imagined, the aliens wanted to test his chess skills… it was a case of mistaken identity… they thought the Fide President is the world champion… also, I chose the title because of the uniqueness of the game… it’s like it’s from another “galaxy”…

He introduces the book on YouTube, although the sound it is somewhat marred by some background noise.

This brings Kirsan Ilyumzhinov back to the scene. The Togolese Chess Federation’s president and FIDE Social Commission member, IA Enyonam Sewa Fumey, sent the book to Kirsan, who, pleased with it, sent his thanks to the author via a video from Beirut. The former FIDE President said: 

My best wishes and warm regards to the author of this book, Makhosi Nyirenda. I believe that chess was brought to Earth from the space, and aliens introduced and taught people how to play chess.

In a video message Kirsan Ilyumzhinov talks about aliens and chess


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register