Postcards from El Ksiba

by Diana Mihajlova
7/5/2018 – Chess life continues in Morocco, reports DIANA MIHAJLOVA, who sends this photo report looking back at the El Ksiba Open won by Spanish GM David Larino Nieto in May, and previews the upcoming Chefchaouen Open. | Pictured: The famous Moroccan mint tea was always at hand | Photo:

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Morocco revisited

When it comes to Morocco, where new international tournaments pop up against all odds, I wish I were able to concentrate reporting on chess pure and simple, however, I am indelibly obliged to give a brief account of the surrounding chess atmosphere in the Kingdom.

Seven months have passed since my reporting on Morocco’s sad chess affairs. It was announced that the Financial regulatory body of the country had initiated an investigation into the embezzlement of funds by the Chess Federation’s president, however, not only nothing has been revealed publicly, but the president remains firmly in his comfortable chair. He has even been elected 2nd Vice-President of the Arab Chess Federation.

Arab Chess Federation

The President of the Moroccan Chess Federation, Mustafa Amazzal and representatives of the Arab Chess Federation at their electoral meeting in Sharjah, UAE, May 2018 | Photo:

At the same time, Amazzal heavy-handed oversight of chess events within the Morrocan Chess Federation’s domain also goes unchecked, as it has been the case with the recently finished new tournament, the 1st International Open El-Ksiba, which took place from April 28th to May 3rd in the inland mountainous province of Béni-Mellal. The tournament attracted 101 players, however, the Chess Federation’s president, true to his well-worn tactics of blocking all independent chess events, had not announced it to the FIDE  and, as a result, the tournament’s games still await to be officially rated, after a complaint and a request has been lodged with the FIDE directly.

The chess life in Morocco is left in the hands of favourably inclined private sponsors. In the case of the El-Ksiba tournament, the rescuer is a local businessman and a philanthropist, Mr Tarik Ourouadi. He was both organizer and sponsor of the 1st El Ksiba Open that proved a thoroughly successful and enjoyable chess experience.

Tarik Ourouadi and poster

Mr Ourouadi and a poster of the 1st El-Ksiba International tournament | Source:

El Ksiba, in the centre of Morocco

El Ksiba is a mountainous region linking the Middle Atlas with the High Atlas, roughly equidistant from several major cities — 220 Km from Casablanca, 250 Km from Marrakesh, 250 Km from Fès. Its inhabitants are of Berber (Amazigh) provenance. Amazigh folk musicians greeted the guests at the opening and closing ceremonies.


Beautiful photos of the tournament and the area come from an unlikely source.  A young American participant’s mother got intrigued by the plea of the players who urged FIDE to rectify the rating of the games and learned of the general chess situation in the country. Elena, a prolific traveller and blogger, decided to dedicate a paragraph in her traveller’s blog and kindly offered her picks to be reproduced by ChessBase. 

group photo 

Jovial players at the El Ksiba Open (click or tap to expand) | Photo:

Douiche and Nieto

Mehdi Douiche (MAR) and GM David Larino Nieto (ESP) | Photo:

Kawtar and Safae

Choutine Kawtar (left) and Lakehal Safae | Photo:


Moroccan GM Mokliss Eladnani in front of a locally crafted wall tapestry | Photo:

Spanish GM David Larino Nieto won the tournament with 7½ / 9. French GM Fabien Libiszewski, Morrocan GM Mokliss Eladnani and Algerian GM Mohamed Haddouche followed with 7.0 / 9.

Nieto receiving his prize

GM David Larino Nieto (ESP) receiving the first prize and the organizer Mr Tarik Ourouadi | Photo:

Final standings (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Larino Nieto David 7,5 55,5
2 Libiszewski Fabien 7,0 57,0
3 eladnani mokliss 7,0 54,0
4 Haddouche Mohamed 7,0 51,0
5 Akhrof Lissandine 6,5 51,5
6 Rian Saad 6,5 49,5
7 KJI SAID 6,5 48,5
8 LAHLOU Rachid 6,5 47,0
9 douiche mehdi 6,0 52,0
10 Zaibi Amir 6,0 51,5

The blitz tournament produced a new star: Nidal Ghanoui [pictured] rated only 1855 was placed fourth, immediately after two GMs and one IM and, with 8½ /11, only one point behind the winner, GM Nieto.

Nidal Ghanoui

Blitz final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Larino Nieto David 9,5 81,0
2 Zaibi Amir 9,0 82,0
3 Haddouche Mohamed 9,0 81,0
4 nidal ghanoui 8,5 72,0
5 El Bakkali Kamal 8,0 75,0
6 Mounib Abdelmajid 8,0 70,5
7 EL FAZARI Mohamed Amin 8,0 61,5
8 Akhrof Lissandine 7,5 82,0
9 Rian Saad 7,5 72,5
10 lahlou rachid 7,5 71,5

Scenes from the blitz tournament

Next stop: Chefchaouen Open

On this occasion, I wish to announce or to remind the chess community of another, long-established tournament in Morrocco, the Chefchaouen Open.  It will take place from July 23rd to 29th, in the ‘Blue City’ of Chefchaouen. Under the directorship of IM Moubarek Ryan, the 17th Chefchaouen Chess Festival will have an Open, a Blitz marathon and a simultaneous by an invited GM. As of writing, nearly 400 players are already registered! Among them are GMs Sergei Tiviakov, and the Georgian-American blitz legend GM Roman Dzindzichashvili. 


Chefchaouen is named the ‘Blue City’ or the ‘Blue Pearl’ of Morocco because of the blue shades in which the town is washed.

A visit to one of the most exciting countries in the world, coupled with chess in the company of 10 invited grandmasters and about twenty titled players, would be a chess experience not to be missed.    


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.


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