Egyptians dominate African Games

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/1/2019 – The 12th edition of the African Games took place in Morocco from August 23rd to the 31st. Chess was in the mix for a fourth time and, much like in the general standings, the Egyptian representatives dominated their opponents, as they won gold medals in all five competitions: Team Rapid (mixed), Rapid (open and women's) and Blitz (open and women's). Algeria finished second in the team event and collected three bronze medals in the individual competitions. | Photos: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

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Chess is back

Previously known as the All-Africa Games or Pan African Games, the continental multi-sport event now dubbed African Games has been held every four years since 1965, with exceptions during the 70s and 80s. Chess was included in the roster of competitions for the first time at the 2003 edition in Abuja, Nigeria. However, after being incorporated in the subsequent two versions, it was not part of the roster at the 2015 games in Brazzavile, Republic of the Congo. 

Chess was back in 2019 though. While most of this year's competitions took place in Rabat, the chess events were organized in Casablanca, the largest city both in Morocco and the Maghreb. Five competitions spread out in a five-day schedule from the 24th until the 28th of August took place: 

  • A nine-round mixed team event, with four players per squad (two men and two women). Time control: 15 minutes for the game plus 10-second increments per move.
  • Two individual nine-round individual rapid tournaments (open and women's categories), with the same time control (15'+10").
  • Two individual nine-round individual blitz tournaments (open and women's), with a time control of 3'+2".

Egypt took home all five gold medals and three out of the four silver medals that were still up for grabs at the individual competitions (a team cannot win gold and silver in the team event). These five golds contributed to a remarkable tally of over a hundred gold badges which left Egypt as the clear champ of the continental meeting.

African Games 2019

The playing hall in Casablanca | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Mixed Rapid: Zimbabwe shock the favourites

It is no surprise that Egypt took home the gold medal — they were the only team with two grandmasters (the two highest-rated players in Africa) and had two of the three women players with an Elo rating above 2000 amongst all teams. Their eventual victory was not as clear-cut as you might think though. After barely giving up two individual points (out of twenty) on day one, i.e. in five rounds, the Egyptians kicked off day two facing the team from Zimbabwe. And the smooth sailing suddenly stopped.

IM Rodwell Makoto (2373) and Emarald Takudzwa Mushore (2198) from Zimbabwe came from helping their team take down the second-seeded squad from Morocco, but their challenge only increased in difficulty now that they had to face GMs Ahmed Adly (2636) and Bassem Amin (2692), respectively. And what a job they did! Both of them got unlikely victories and obtained a noteworthy 2:2 tie against the eventual champions — sisters Shrook and Shahenda Wafa beat their Zimbabwean counterparts in the lower boards.

Adly faltered in a complicated middlegame:

 

The Egyptian miscalculated previously, as 18.f4 is a lethal blow here, with the discovered attack on the g2-b7 diagonal a difficult threat to parry. Adly continued 18...h5, giving up material, but Makoto slowly converted his advantage until getting a 66-move win.

"Normal serve" was restored after this scare though, with Egypt winning their last three matches 4:0, 3:1 and 4:0 against Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.

Meanwhile, the third seeds from Algeria won all their matches except their round three encounter against the Egyptians, thus taking home the silver. Morocco, on the other hand, had a forgettable performance as, despite being the second seeds and having one of two non-Egyptian grandmasters in Hicham Hamdouchi, only scored 10 out of 18 match points throughout the event. Third place went for Zimbabwe, who out-scored Nigeria by a single match point.

The top scorer for the gold medallists was Shahenda Wafa, the younger of the Wafa sisters, who finished on 8½ out of 9 — the one player that got a draw against her was Tunisian WFM Amen Miladi.

Adlane Arab, Lina Nassr, Sabrina Latreche

Adlane Arab, Lina Nassr and Sabrina Latreche from Algeria in action | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Rodwell Makoto, Colleta Wakuruwarewa, Linda Shaba, Emarald Takudzwa Mushore

Rodwell Makoto, Colleta Wakuruwarewa, Linda Shaba and Emarald Takudzwa Mushore from Zimbabwe | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Final standings - Mixed Rapid (top 10)

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Egypt 17
2 Algérie 16
3 Zimbabwe 12
4 Nigeria 11
5 Botswana 10
6 Namibia 10
7 Morocco 10
8 Cameroon 10
9 Ethiopia 10
10 Tunisia 10

...20 teams

All games - Mixed Rapid

 

Rapid: Ahmed Adly and Shrook Wafa get gold

The winner of the open section, Ahmed Adly, impressed with his 8½ out of 9 performance, only drawing his compatriot Bassem Amin in round five. Amin finished a half point behind, after splitting the point with third seed Hicham Hamdouchi in the penultimate round. Third place went to Ugandan Harold Wanyama (2237), who took down Hamdouchi in their crucial round five encounter — both players scored 6½ points and the result of the direct match-up gave Wanyama the bronze medal.

This was a great outing by Wanyama, but he could have easily made more of an impression had he taken advantage of a great opportunity against the eventual winner of the event:

 

The Ugandan played 30.g4, when both 30.♖dc1 or 30.♖bc1 would have kept his sizable advantage in the position. After the text, Adly found 30...c3 and went on to turn the tables and get a 59-move victory.

Ahmed Adly, Bassim Amen, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, Harold Wanyama

Ahmed Adly taking a selfie with compatriot Bassim Amen, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and Harold Wanyama | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Final standings - Open Rapid (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Adly Ahmed 8,5 0,0
2 Amin Bassem 8,0 0,0
3 Wanyama Harold 6,5 1,0
4 Hamdouchi Hicham 6,5 0,0
5 Kayonde Andrew 6,0 0,0
6 Silva David 6,0 0,0
7 Adu Oladapo 6,0 0,0
8 Makoto Rodwell 6,0 0,0
9 Chumfwa Stanley 6,0 0,0
10 Bellahcene Bilel 5,5 0,0

...48 players

All games - Open Rapid

 

A much tighter race was seen in the women's section, as top seed Shrook Wafa finished tied on 7/9 with Zambian WFM Lorita Mwango but got the gold medal thanks to her better Buchholz score (they drew their direct match-up, which was the first tiebreak criterion).

Wafa was the sole leader before the final round, but lost her nine round encounter against Algerian WIM Lina Nassr. Wafa self-imposed a nasty pin on her knight and found herself all but lost in the following position:

 

Black is already better, but 22.g3 only makes things worse for White. After 22...b3 23.c2 xa3, Wafa accepted the loss of a piece with 24.f5 xd3 and went on to lose the game after 44 moves. Nassr got to 6½ points, but could not take the bronze medal due to her tiebreak scores. It was her compatriot WIM Sabrina Latreche who picked up the bronze. 

Lorita Mwango, Shrook Wafa, Sabrina Latreche

The winners: Lorita Mwango (2nd), Shrook Wafa (1st) and Sabrina Latreche (3rd) | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Final standings - Women's Rapid (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Wafa Shrook 7,0 0,5
2 Mwango Lorita 7,0 0,5
3 Latreche Sabrina 6,5 0,0
4 Ofowino Toritsemuwa 6,5 0,0
5 Nassr Lina 6,5 0,0
6 Gabatshwarwe Refilwe 6,5 0,0
7 Wafa Shahenda 6,0 0,0
8 Caxita Esperanca 6,0 0,0
9 Miladi Amen 5,5 0,0
10 Pires Luzia 5,5 0,0

...42 players

All games - Women's Rapid

 

Blitz: Bassem Amin and Shrook Wafa (yes, again) prevail

The most commanding performance of the whole five competitions was achieved by the highest-rated player in Casablanca, Bassem Amin. Africa's number one scored a perfect 9/9, leaving Ahmed Adly in sole second place trailing by 1½ points. Curiously, due to Adly's early loss in round three against Nigerian IM Oladapo Adu, Amin was not paired against his compatriot throughout the nine rounds. Algerian grandmaster Bilel Bellahcene finished in sole third place on 6½ out of 9.

Ahmed Adly, Bassem Amin, Bilel Bellahcene

Ahmed Adly, Bassem Amin and Bilel Bellahcene | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Final standings - Open Blitz (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Amin Bassem 9,0 0,0
2 Adly Ahmed 7,5 0,0
3 Bellahcene Bilel 6,5 0,0
4 Hamdouchi Hicham 6,0 0,0
5 Wanyama Harold 6,0 0,0
6 Osunfuyi Abimbola 6,0 0,0
7 Arab Adlane 6,0 0,0
8 Aderito Pedro 6,0 0,0
9 Aithmidou Mohamed-Mehdi 6,0 0,0
10 Kayonde Andrew 6,0 0,0

...50 players

All games - Open Blitz

 

The older of the Wafa sisters, Shrook, got her third gold in the individual blitz event. She out-scored her sister Shahenda by a half point — Shrook got 8 to Shahenda's 7½ points. Incidentally, Shrook's only loss came against Lina Nassr, the Algerian WIM who beat her in the Rapid. This time, Nassr did get one of three coveted places on the podium though, as she finished sole third in the standings table after collecting 7 points.

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa and Lina Nassr — the blitz winners amongst the women | Photo: Mohamed Bounaji / FIDE

Final standings - Women's Blitz (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Wafa Shrook 8,0 0,0
2 Wafa Shahenda 7,5 0,0
3 Nassr Lina 7,0 0,0
4 Pires Luzia 6,5 1,0
5 Shaba Linda 6,5 0,0
6 Latreche Sabrina 6,0 0,0
7 Caxita Esperanca 6,0 0,0
8 Ogbiyoyo Perpetual Eloho 6,0 0,0
9 Francis Onkemetse 6,0 0,0
10 Ofowino Toritsemuwa 5,5 0,0

...39 players

All games - Women's Blitz

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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