Winners of the 2016 Kenya Open

by Kim Bhari
5/9/2016 – The Kenya Open is East Africa’s most iconic chess tournament and it was held over the three day Easter weekend at the KCB Club, Nairobi. The sponsor of this event was the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa who contributed USD 1,200 for this event – a huge amount by Kenyan standards. The winners were Ben Nguku and Jane Wambugu. Organiser Kim Bhari has sent us a big pictorial report.

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The 2016 Kenya Open

By Kim Bhari, Chairman of Nairobi Chess Club

The top prize was a huge (by Kenyan standards) KES 30,000 (USD 300) out of the total prize fund of slightly over KES 100,000 (USD 1,000). In the Ladies section the top prize was KES 15,000 (USD 150).

Entrance to the KCB club in Nairobi

The inaugural Kenya Open was held in 1979 and won by Richard Polaczek who was then a young 14-year-old student at the French School, Nairobi. He won the event with an impressive 7.5/8 to take home KES 2,900 (USD 420 at the historic rates) out of a prize fund of KES 10,000 (USD 1,200). Polaczek is currently an IM rated 2414 and has represented Belgium at several Olympiads.

Richard Polaczek receives his prize in 1972 ...

... and playing (with white on the left) in Echternach 42 years later

Kenya’s oldest chess club, the Nairobi Chess Club, ran the event for the first 12 years and which were sponsored by the defunct Pan African Paper Mills, Webuye. The event was then taken over by Kenya Chess Association (now called Chess Kenya) and has over the years remained one of the biggest events in the Kenyan calendar.

Ben Nguku ended up with 7.0/8, the same as Mehul Gohil, but he emerged as a winner on tie break. Both shared equally the first and second prize KES 30,000 (USD 300) & KES 20,000 (USD 200). Peter Gilruth and James Panchol ended up in fourth position with 6.5/8 to each earn KES 7,500 (USD 75).

Happy winners: Timothy Milton, Ben Nguku, Jane Wambugu and Mehul Gohil

The Kasparov Chess Foundation has been a key supporter of Chess Kenya over the years. Garry Kasparov visited the capital city of Kenya (Nairobi) during a whirlwind African tour when he was campaigning for the FIDE presidency. Kenya’s support for Kasparov was handsomely rewarded when the KCF made a donation of 5,000 chess sets to Kenya and sponsored GM Nigel Short’s visit to Nairobi in 2015. Further goodies came by when the Foundation sponsored the Nairobi edition of the Millionaire Chess in 2015 where the winner, Harold Wanyama of Uganda, won a fully paid trip for the MC2 in Las Vegas, USA.

We bring you three games from the event. In the first one Kenya’s highest rated player Peter Gilruth against 14-year-old Timothy Mwabu.

[Event "Kenya Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.26"] [Round "?"] [White "Mwabu, Timothy"] [Black "Gilruth, Peter"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D12"] [WhiteElo "1395"] [BlackElo "2164"] [Annotator "Gilruth,Peter"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] {Here is my first round game from the recent Kenya Open. Normally, the first game is easy for the higher rated player, but my youthful opponent gave me a really tough time. I had to sneak to avoid a threefold repetition and draw. Part of me felt guilty for not agreeing a draw, part of me felt that I play chess to win.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Be2 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 Nbd7 9. Bb2 h6 10. Rc1 Qe7 11. h3 Rfe8 12. Bd3 Ne4 13. Re1 Rad8 14. Qc2 Ndf6 15. Ne2 Bb8 {Lining up my Q and B on the diagonal does not mean much, but I couldn't find an active plan} 16. c5 {Inviting ...e5, but my pieces have moved away from control of that square.} Bh7 17. b4 Qc7 18. Nf4 Nd7 {This move allows a tactic on f7 on move 21.} 19. Ne5 {I liked his move as now I have no easy access to the h2 square.} Ng5 20. Bxh7+ Nxh7 21. Nxf7 Kxf7 22. Qxh7 Nf8 23. Qc2 g5 24. Nd3 Qh2+ 25. Kf1 Qh1+ 26. Ke2 Qxg2 27. Rh1 Ng6 28. Ne5+ Bxe5 29. dxe5 d4 {At the time, I thought this was a forced pawn sacrifice as my queen only has an exit on e4, but after 29...Qd4 30. Qxe4 dxe4 31 Rc4 I am down a pawn. So I plunged into the complications.} 30. Bxd4 Rxd4 $1 {The exclaimation mark is only for the practical nature of the exchange sacrifice.} 31. exd4 Rd8 $6 {31...Nf4+ should lead to a perpetual check.} 32. Ke3 Nh4 33. Qh7+ Ke8 34. Qg8+ Ke7 35. Qg7+ Ke8 36. Qg8+ Ke7 37. Qg7+ Ke8 38. Qg8+ {My opponent did not know the rules. If he had called the arbiter when he was making his move, the game would have been drawn. Instead, he made his move, pressed the clock and after some time told me that he thought the position a draw (which I was ready to accept). However, my desire to win took over and I quickly varied. In the meantime he then called the arbiter, but it was too late. I thought my next move could lose, but I wanted to play on...} Kd7 $6 { (the only reason this move gets ?! is because it keeps the game going. It really should lose as the pawn on e6 supports the f5 square for the Nh4. With it gone, my attack should fall apart.} 39. Qf7+ Kc8 40. Qxe6+ Kb8 41. Qg4 $4 { Here 41.Qf7! wins outright because my queen doesn't even have access to d5.} Qd5 {I am an exchange and two pawns down, but his king is in the middle of the board. And my opponent was now down to a couple of minutes....} 42. Rhg1 $4 { My opponent blunders in time pressure.} Rf8 {The tables have turned and now Black is winning.} 43. Rg3 Rf4 44. Qd1 Re4+ {My opponent resigned as the queen falls.} ({Even better is;} 44... Qe4+ 45. Kd2 Qxd4+ 46. Kc2 Rxf2+ 47. Kb3 Rb2+ 48. Ka4 Qxb4#) 0-1

Peter Gilruth, highest rated Kenyan player, finished third

Kenya's 14-year-old talent Timothy Mwabu, rated 1395

[Event "Kenya Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.21"] [Round "?"] [White "Shah, Riya"] [Black "Wambugu, Jane"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D11"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. d4 g6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Bf4 Nc6 6. e3 Bg4 7. Bb5 Bxf3 8. Qxf3 e6 9. O-O Bg7 10. Nd2 Nge7 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Rac1 Rc8 14. Bxe7 Qxe7 15. Rc2 Rc7 16. Rfc1 Rfc8 17. Nb3 Qb4 18. Nc5 Qa5 19. a3 Bf8 20. Nd3 Qb6 21. Ne5 f5 22. Qd1 c5 23. dxc5 Rxc5 24. Rxc5 Rxc5 25. Rxc5 Qxc5 26. Nd7 Qb5 27. Nxf8 Kxf8 28. Qd4 Qc4 29. Qf6+ Kg8 30. Qxe6+ Kg7 31. Qe5+ Kf7 32. g3 Qc1+ 33. Kg2 Qc6 34. Qd4 Kg8 35. Kf3 Qb7 36. b4 a6 37. Ke2 Qb5+ 38. Qd3 Qc6 39. a4 Qxa4 40. Qxd5+ Kf8 41. Qd8+ Kf7 42. Qa5 Qc2+ 43. Kf1 Qd3+ 44. Kg1 Qb1+ 45. Kg2 Qe4+ 46. f3 Qxe3 47. Qxa6 Qd2+ 48. Kg1 Qxb4 1/2-1/2

The reigning Kenya National Ladies Champion Riya Shah

Kenya Open winner in the Ladies section: Jane Wambugu

[Event "Kenya Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.03.27"] [Round "?"] [White "Thitu, Winfred"] [Black "Mwikali, Daphne"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C55"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Be7 4. O-O Nf6 5. Re1 O-O 6. b3 d6 7. h3 a6 8. Bb2 b5 9. Bf1 Bb7 10. d4 exd4 11. Nxd4 Qd7 12. Qe2 Ne5 13. Nd2 Rfe8 14. N4f3 Ng6 15. Qe3 Nh5 16. Rad1 Bf6 17. Bxf6 Nxf6 18. Qd3 Rad8 19. Re3 Ne5 20. Nxe5 Rxe5 21. Rde1 Rde8 22. f3 Nh5 23. c4 Nf4 24. Qc2 Rg5 25. Kh2 Re6 26. g4 h5 27. e5 hxg4 28. fxg4 Rgxe5 29. Rxe5 Rxe5 30. Rxe5 dxe5 31. Bd3 Qxd3 32. Qxd3 Nxd3 33. cxb5 axb5 34. a4 bxa4 35. bxa4 f6 36. Kg3 Bd5 37. Nf1 c5 38. Ne3 Bb7 39. h4 g6 40. a5 Ba6 41. Nd5 Kf7 42. Kf3 f5 43. gxf5 gxf5 44. h5 0-1

Daphne Mwikali in action

Top Final Ranking (50. and higher, after eight rounds)

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3  Rp rtg+/-
1 12 Nguku Namale Ben 1903 7.0 41.0 31.0 36.25 2090 109.2
2 3 Gohil Mehul 2065 7.0 41.0 31.0 34.00 1880 4.8
3 1 Gilruth Peter 2164 6.5 42.5 32.0 32.75 2028 -7.0
4 4 James Madol Panchol 1990 6.5 41.5 30.5 31.25 2057 52.0
5 28 Brian Toboso 1678 6.0 38.5 30.0 26.25 1879 104.8
6 14 Joseph Muraga Methu 1873 6.0 37.0 28.0 26.50 1739 -2.8
7 16 Kagambi Lawrence 1858 6.0 36.5 27.0 25.50 1609 35.2
8 9 Jackson Ndegwa 1937 6.0 35.5 26.5 23.25 1757 -7.0
9 15 James Muchai 1858 5.5 42.0 31.5 27.75 1754 32.8
10 45 Austin Steve Okeyo 0 5.5 40.5 30.0 26.25 1902  
11 20 Austin Walela 1785 5.5 39.0 28.5 25.25 1730 40.4
12 25 Victor Hongo 1705 5.5 35.5 27.0 22.00 1465 4.8
13 24 Owen Kevin 1730 5.5 34.0 25.5 23.75 1513 18.8
14 8 Wachira Wachania 1949 5.0 43.0 31.5 23.50 1725 -32.4
15 79 Wilson Opondo 0 5.0 40.0 29.5 23.00 1916  
16 11 Ricky Sang 1917 5.0 37.0 27.0 21.00 1603 -56.8
17 10 Andiwoh Moses 1927 5.0 35.5 26.5 22.50 1459 -20.6
18 19 George Getuma Omondi 1796 5.0 34.5 25.5 19.00 1208 -23.2
19 13 Vasanth Ramesh 1880 5.0 33.0 24.0 15.50 1414 -39.6
20 31 Jackson Okoth 1651 5.0 32.0 25.5 18.00 1427 -26.0
21 80 Morell Omondi 1590 5.0 30.5 21.0 15.75 1504 0.0
22 47 Billy Chepkonga 0 5.0 29.5 22.5 15.50 1477  

Mehul Gohil, a writer and one of Kenya's best players, came second

CM Wachira William Wachania, eighth seed, scored 5.0/8 and lost 32 rating points

A colourful character: Jasper Hawi of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology

Playing blitz between the rounds

Arbiter Terence Chazima congratulates Riya Shah

The winner with her trophy: Jane Wambugu

The Nairobi skyline [image from Nairobi Excursions]

Another view of Nairobi, from above

The African buffalo on the plains of the Mara, on the lookout for the apex predator...

... who in this shot is just goofing around

Another danger that lurks, especially when you have to cross streams

Author Kim Bhari with a friend

All wildlife photos on this story by Vivek Shah of Nairobi,
during his recent visit to Masai Mara/Serengeti

About the author

Kim Bhari is an qualified accountant (CPA) by profession and he runs his own firm. He lives with his wife Mayuri and has a daughter Anoushka and son called Aman. His other interest include cartooning and ancient history.

Kim is the owner and publisher of Kenya’s most popular chess website Kenya Chess Masala. He is also the long serving Chairman of Nairobi Chess Club which is one of the most active clubs in Kenya. He has raised over USD 50,000 for chess over the past 20 years from various sponsors. He served in various capacities in the Kenya Chess Association during the 1990s. Kim's desire is to become a full time chess journalist and then the President of FIDE in the next ten years!

Other articles by Kim Bhari and Mehul Gohil

56th Nairobi Chess Club Championship
9/20/2014 – The Nairobi Chess Club is the oldest chess club in Kenya, and in late August it hosted the 56th Club Championship, with 78 players at the start. The event was won by former Olympian (1988/1990) and 1990 Kenya National Champion Larry Kagambi with a perfect score of five wins out of five games. Kim Bhari, Chairman of NCC, has sent us a big illustrated report.

"Battle for Migingo" Part Three
5/3/2014 – Migingo is one of the smallest, most densely populated pieces of real estate in the world. This small island has been a source of sabre rattling by both Kenya and Uganda, and the Nairobi Chess Club has chosen to name its matches against Uganda after this volatile battleground. The third edition was once again won by Uganda. Pictorial report by Kim Bhari.

Battle for “Migingo” in Nairobi
3/14/2012 – Nairobi Chess Club continues to make waves in African chess. In 2009 it organized the first Internet match against the famous Wageningen Chess Club, which had Jan Timman on board one. This year the long awaited match against the Uganda National the match affectionately called “The Battle for Migingo”. Big and sometimes startling report by Kim Bhari.

The chess brain – on the road to Siberia
2/23/2010 – When did the chess brain develop? Turns out that Caissa made it some 50 km south of Nairobi, Kenya, in the pre-historic wastelands of Olegersaille. She called the bipedal primate Homo Sapiens. Today, 200,000 years later, the Kenyans are picking a national team to join their cousins from all over the world at the Siberian Olympiad. Spectacular pictorial by Mahul Gohil.

Kenya vs. Holland internet match via Playchess
10/8/2009 – It was a splendid idea – why aren't more people doing it? – a match between a Nairobi chess club and a very strong Dutch team. The latter won 6-0, but the former had the pleasure of playing Jan Timman and other great player. All of this was conducted via the Internet on, and cost a fraction of what a face-to-face would have entailed. Big pictorial report by Mehul Gohil.


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chessdrummer chessdrummer 5/11/2016 03:54
A draw would have been a just result, but chess is sometimes brutal. Black declined a draw and played for tricks in a completely lost position!!! Wow. Not advisable, but it paid off. Mwabu made the same mistake many players make in respect to the three-fold repetition.
TheSame Wastrel TheSame Wastrel 5/10/2016 03:26
Re: Mwabu, Timothy1395 – Gilruth, Peter 2164 0–1
"41.Qg4?? Here 41.Qf7! wins outright because my queen doesn't even have access to d5."

I think the real reason is that 41...Qf3+, winning another pawn, is not possible. Qg4 prevents that, too, but less effectively. I don't see how it wins outright. Please tell me.

Offramp Offramp 5/9/2016 08:56
It's a very good report. Kenya is well-known in sub-saharan Africa as a stable country. It attracts displaced people.
Leonilo Leonilo 5/9/2016 08:41
Nice to see chess is played everywhere.
I would love to play in the Kenya Open in the future.
tahergha tahergha 5/9/2016 01:27
Interesting report, Thanks...