Reflections 2 on African Individual Championship by Dr Lyndon Bouah


Many of you would have watched the movie Gladiator starring Russel Crowe. In the movie the Roman emperor stages a mock battle involving slaves to re-enact the battle of Carthage which Rome won. Maximus however sees this as an opportunity and decides to change the outcome of the battle! The battle that was being enacted was one that was fought in Africa in Ancient Carthage and now known as Tunisia.”

Gladiator starring Russel Crowe

If you ask someone who was Hanibal they are likely to answer depending on their age, the guy from the A Team or Haniball Lecter from the movie Silence of the Lambs. However, there was an even more famous Hanibal who came from Tunisia. Yes, indeed the original Hanibal was known for leading the Carthagian army and a team of elephants across Southern Europe and the Alps Mountains against Rome in the Second Punic War.

Hanibal was a general in the Carthagian army who lived in the second and third century BC. He was born in a military family and made to swear hostility to Rome. He became famous for marching against Rome through the Pyrenees towards Gaul (Southern France) with more than 100 000 troops and about forty elephants. Hannibal’s Alps crossing was a remarkable military achievement. In addition to an inclement climate, Hanibal’s army faced guerrilla attacks. After five months of travel, Hanibal finally exited the Alps. Over the next three years Hanibal’s army battled the Roman General Scipio’s forces. Hanibal was able to inflict heavy casualties on the Roman army in the battles of Trebbiano, Trasimene and Cannae but at a heavy cost. I have always been fascinated with the stories of Ancient Rome but for me Hanibal was a true African hero. He took the fight to the enemy despite the odds!!Read up a bit about Hanibal!

Which player who later became world champion was the first to play in Africa? I asked this question to many players I know, and none could answer correctly! In 1955 Max Euwe who had already been World Champion played the Johannesburg international Open in 1955. The first player who played in Africa who became world champion was Bobby Fischer! Fischer played in the 1967 Sousse Interzonal which was held in Tunisia. He played ten games in the event but did not finish the event after some controversy. At that stage he had seven wins and three draws! 8.5/10.

Bobby Fischer

Many players looked at the Ivory Coast event of 2019 as this first super GM event in Africa, but let’s look at the cross table of the Interzonal at Sousse 1967.

There were 22 players and many of them were super grandmasters as we understand the modern-day term. Bent Larsen won the event with 15.5/22. He was from Denmark and was probably the strongest player after Fischer in the Western World. Indeed in 1979 Larsen played board one against the USSR in the match of the World against the USSR. Please check out the brilliant game Spassky played in that match against Larsen. When I started studying chess, I was given a book called Larsen’s best games of chess. It was fascinating with gambits I had never hear of, but what attracted me to Larsens play was the fact that he used his rook pawns even to attack whereas lesser players at the time would hesitate to open the kingside with h4!

Bent Larsen

Viktor Korchnoi of course needs no introduction as the player that contested two world championships against Karpov in 1978 and 1981. He also visited SA in 1979 and 1981 when he broke sanctions to play in South Africa.

The third placed player Efim Geller is less well known to the younger generation of players. He was however a very strong grandmaster who had an overall plus score against four world champions! Against Botvinnik he was +4 -1 = 7, against Smyslov he was +11 -8 =37, Petrosian + 5 -3 = 32 and Fischer +5 -3 = 2. If you can do find his games! Fascinating stuff!

Geller vs Fischer, Curazao 1962

Gligoric was of course the grand man of Yugoslavian chess. He fought against the Nazis in the Second World War and was a venerated hero to his people. his book I play against the pieces is one of my stories and encouraged me to adopt the Kings Indian Defence!

Lajos Portisch from Hungary is one of my favourite grandmasters. He played all over the world and amongst his achievements that I noted was the fact that he played for Hungary at the Olympiads in 19 consecutive Olympiads with the first one being in 1956 and ending in 1996!!!

Reshevsky was the well-known prodigy who later represented the USA and was for many years the number two to Fischer in the USA.

Other notables in the field is Hort who still writes great articles for today. Fifteen-year-old Henrique Mecking was also playing. Marking the bottom boards were Sarapu from New Zealand that South Africa played against in Olympiads and in bottom spot was a young Slim Bouaziz from Tunisia who later became Africa’s first grandmaster. Now that we looked at the gladiators of the past let’s look at the modern 2019 gladiators currently competing in Tunisia. Let’s join the action in round two.

Analysis of round two:

  1. FM Calvin Klaasen drew with GM Kenny Solomon. This is a good draw for Klaasen. the derby was a big game for both players. They played a fighting a fighting draw.
  • GM Bellahcene beat IM Stanley Chumfwa from Zambia. INterestingly in the field are three SA Open champions. Chumfwa won with 10.5/11 in 2003, Kenny Solomon won in 1999 and a number of times thereafter and Rodwell Makoto won in 2012.
  • IM David Silva drew with El Gindy. He is showing good form. He played in the Steinitz Open last year in Cape Town.
  • FM Oragwu from Nigeria caused the biggest upset of the round when he defeated 2016 African Champion GM Hesham from Egypt. Good game from the Nigerian.
  • IM Makoto lost to CM Simutowe. Simutowe is of course the brother of Grandmaster Amon but he has become a formidable player in his own right.

In the women section:

  1. WIM Sabrina Latreche beat WIM Jesse February. WIM Latreche is a tough competitor and competes regularly on the African continental scene. She is also the sister of Mrs Steel who resides in Stellenbosch.
  • WGM Shahenda Wafa drew with WIm Lina Nassr from Algeria.

Analysis of round three

  1. The big upset of the round was Grandmaster Bellahcene beating grandmaster Amin the defending champion and five-time winner of this event. This throws the event wide open because it allows a number of players to gain chances.

GM Bilel Bellahcene

  • GM Adly beat GM Hamdouchi. I’m not aware if they have played against each other many times but this was the 2001 champion playing against the 2005 champion!
  • FM Calvin Klaasen drew with GM Fawzy from Egypt. A good draw for Klaasen. At the Olympiad in 2018 Klaasen beat two grandmasters so these results against the grandmasters is a sign that his strength is up there.
  • FM Amdouni (2248) Tunisia beat GM El Gindy the 2003 African Champion. Many players in Africa are underrated as they do not get sufficient chances internally to compete. El Gindy is a decorated Egyptian and African champion as well so I am sure he will bounce back. He largely works as a coach and last year was at the Olympiad and a coach.
  • IM Silva continued his drawing streak by holding IM Makoto.

In the women section:

In the women’s section the big surprise was WIM Amina Mezioud 2128 from Algeria beating WGM Shahenda 2175 from Egypt. This also throws the cat among the pigeons as it opens up the event, the rest if the results went according to seed and ratings. WIM Elsanary is an experienced campaigner and she bested WIM Nassr who is slightly ahead in rating.

Analysis of round four

  1. In the open Section GM Adly restored Egyptian honour when he beat Grandmaster Bellahcene. Some of the websites reported that it was the first loss for Bellhcene on African soil for some time.
  • On board two Ak47 IM Andrew Kayondre drew with zone 4.3 champion IM Rakotomaharo from Madagascar.
  • GM Solomon ended the game peacefully against FM Amdouni.
  • FM Calvin Klaasen lost to FM Munenga (2339) from Zambia. Tough one on Klaasen who was having a good run there.
  • IM Makoto unfortunately lost to Nigerian FM Orangwu
  1. In the Women’s section WGM Shrook Wafa beat WIM Sabrina La Treche.
  • WIM Jesse February (1888) played far stronger than her rating when she downed the experienced WIM Amina Mezioud (2128 ) from Algeria. A good result for February who will soon be challenging on board one.

Analysis of round five

  1. IM Makoto recovered some ground by beating Ethiopian Bajje.
  • GM Amin beat his compatriot GM Adly on board one. This will now mean a straight race for the finish line between GM Bellahcene from Algeria and GM Amin with the latter probably having a better tiebreak.
  • On board two GM Fawzy who is the youngest and newest grandmaster in Africa beat GM Hamdouchi who was amongst the first grandmasters in Africa’s. A sign of a maturing player.
  • GM Solomon had his umpteenth draw against IM Fy Rakotomaharo from Madagascar. Solid performances by GM Solomon but he needs wins if he wishes to challenge for the top spots.
  • FM Klaasen lost to GM El Gindy In their encounter. This was Klaasen’s third grandmaster and his first defeat. I am sure that Klaasen will be taking the lessons from the encounter.
  • I noted Grandmaster Hesham lost to Sasha Winston from Nigeria. GM Hesham is not playing his best as he has only won one game out of the five.

In round five women’s section WGM Shrook Wafa (2144) beat WIM Jesse February. WGM Shrook is now on full score at 5/5 and she may be running out of opponents!

WIM Sabrina La Treche drew with WFM Amen Mladi.

The untitled Toritsemuwa (1877) from Nigeria beat WGM Shahenda Wafa in their encounter which was unexpected. Nigeria seem to be causing loads of upsets this year!

WFM Ravelomanana from Madagascar beat WIM Elansary (1946) from Egypt.

So quite a lot to still play for!!

Round 6 pairings:

On board one in the Open its an all Egyotian clash again with GM Amin playing GM Fawzy.

On Board Two GM Adly plays Im Arab Adlane. Adlane is a tough guy from Algeria and has been hovering around GM strength for a long time. I played and lost against him at the 2003 All African Games! So, five players on 4/5 in the open. It is still race!

So, we are in for an exciting finish as the event is only nine rounds. Let’s wish all the competitors well.

I will be following the round today while trying to watch England battle Australia at Lords, watching Hamilton at Silverstone, supporting the Netball Proteas in Liverpool, keeping an eye on the two Afcon semi-finals in Egypt and supporting Roger Federer against Djokovic! So be great sporting day awaits!


Dr Lyndon Bouah.


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