Bassem Amin Wins African Individual Chess Championship
Bassem Amin retained his African title this week. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Bassem Amin Wins African Individual Chess Championship

The 2018 African Individual Chess Championship was a walk in the park for Egyptian GM Bassem Amin, the only African player to ever reach a rating of 2700. He won the tournament for the fifth time.

Amin ended the main section of the tournament on 8.5/9, won the blitz African championship and was tied for first place in the rapid, proving to be the strongest player in the continent.

Here's his game from round six which included a positional queen sacrifice.

The only challenge to Amin came from fellow Egyptians, who scored a few upsets against the champion, mainly in the blitz and rapid tournament, and secured a solid monopoly over the African podium in the classical event.

GM Ahmed Adly became the African rapid champion and was second in the classical.

African Championship banner

The banner for the tournament.

"I am obviously proud for this success," said Hesham Elgendy, president of the Egyptian federation. "There wasn't much competition for our players but we were very interested in the tournament as part of our preparation for the Batumi Olympiad. Other countries had good players, but it is imperative for them to play more strong tournaments both locally and internationally to get to a higher level."

Elgendy expressed high expectations for the upcoming Olympiad: "We have a very good team. Amin is a very talented player and demonstrated in youth events to be worthy of the world top. Another talent is 17-year-old IM Adham Fawzy, who is close to the GM title and one of our best players. Our youth is constantly growing as we have some of the best under-8 and under-10 players in Africa."

Here's a nice game where Black found a spectacular way to reach a draw:

The tournament took place May 13-21 in Livingstone, Zambia, a city named after the famous 19th-century Scottish explorer and missionary.

Part of the continental showdown was spoiled by the absence of other African top players, such as Algeria's GM Mohamed Haddouche and Zambia's GM Amon Simutowe. The two countries' flagmen IM Mahfoud Oussedik and IM Andrew Kayonde shared the spoils of the Individual Championship. Kayonde's brilliant performance, however, was just not enough for a bronze medal, on account of an unpleasing Buchholz tie-breaker.

IM Andrew Kayonde of Zambia

IM Andrew Kayonde (2394) of Zambia scored a 2480 performance. | Photo: Cliff Mulenga.

The host country, Zambia, ended the Individual Championship with the bitter taste left by a few missed opportunities despite cunning play by Kayonde, IMs Gillan Bwalya, Mwali Chitumbo and Richmond Phiri.

The ladies' section, however, followed a different plot as WFM Lorita Mwango conquered silver against odds and has secured the WIM title. The best woman in Africa is another Egyptian star, WGM Shahenda Wafa, who ended the tournament on 8/9 ahead of Mwango and WIM Sabrina Latreche from Algeria.

Nations other than Egypt, Algeria and Zambia were out of contention, with local champions of the likes of IM Johannes Mabusela from South Africa barely hitting the 50 percent mark.

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Left-right: GM Hesham Abdelrahman, GM Bassem Amin, WGM Shahenda Wafa, WIM Amina Sherif. | Photo: Cliff Mulenga.

The divide between North Africa, Zambia and the rest of the continent gives food for thought, as it highlights many countries' need to retain their top players who often end up vanishing from Africa into the European and American circuit. Furthermore, accessibility to an international tournament of this caliber is often denied to players over 2400 because of financial and logistic restraints. 

2018 African Championship | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 1 GM Amin, Bassem 2667 8,5 0 8 4
2 2 GM Adly, Ahmed 2633 7 0 5 1
3 3 GM El Gindy, Essam 2453 6 0,5 5 2
4 6 IM Kayonde, Andrew 2394 6 0,5 4 1
5 5 GM Hesham, Abdelrahman 2413 5,5 0 4 3
6 7 IM Oussedik, Mahfoud 2327 5,5 0 4 2
7 16 CM Paiva, Donaldo 2225 5,5 0 4 1
8 4 IM Fawzy, Adham 2438 5,5 0 3 1
9 13 IM Bwalya, Gillan 2271 5 0 5 4
10 8 IM Chitumbo, Mwali 2322 5 0 4 0
11 9 IM Phiri, Richmond 2317 5 0 3 1
12 20 FM Manuel, Alberto 2133 4,5 0 4 2
13 11 IM Domingos, Catarino 2281 4,5 0 4 1
14 17 CM Simutowe, Musatwe 2201 4,5 0 3 2
15 18 IM Oatlhotse, Providence 2196 4,5 0 3 2
16 10 IM Aderito, Pedro 2305 4,5 0 3 2
17 24 FM Beukes, Dante, M 1979 4,5 0 3 0
18 15 IM Mabusela, Johannes, Manyesi 2260 4,5 0 1 0
19 21 Zhemba, Jemusse 2123 4 0 3 2
20 12 IM Chumfwa, Kelvin 2279 4 0 3 0

(Full final standings here.)

The breathtaking venue of the tournament, a few steps away from the world heritage site of the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, allowed the players and FIDE officials to indulge in adventurous excursions throughout the event.

Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Arnold Chess Classic

The best chess players of Southern Africa who could not attend the continental championship had another chance for an international competition in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Arnold Classic, endorsed by the Austrian-American actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, attracted champions from India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana in a blitz and rapid tournament on May 19 and 20.

Rodwell Makoto Chess

Sporting the orange sweater is IM Rodwell Makoto, champion of Zimbabwe. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Joseph Mwale Chess

CM Joseph Mwale, champion of Malawi. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

If you wonder what a heavyweight sportsman like Schwarzenegger has to do with chess, perhaps you missed one of his latest tweets:

Chess was one of 65 sports and disciplines featuring in the mass festival in Johannesburg, where muscles and brain became an opportunity to foster leisure, lifestyle and social development in the South African megalopolis. In the "prestige" section, GM Sahaj Grover won the rapid tournament but had to give way to South Africa's number-one IM Daniel Cawdery in the blitz.

Sahaj Grover

GM Sahaj Grover of India won the "Prestige" rapid tournament. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Daniel Cawdery chess

IM Daniel Cawdery of South Africa. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Graham Jurgensen

Grand Chess Tour co-organizer Graham Jurgensen was playing as well. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Parallel to the prestige event, a B section and a tournament for chess parents catered to tens of amateurs and rising stars. A maxi-board competition between the best schools of the Gauteng region was an interesting formula to attract curious passersby and favor some fitness among the players.

In the near township of Alexandra, known as one of the most problematic neighborhoods in the world, over a hundred schoolchildren faced one another on the board. The two-day marathon saw the players of the Soweto township emerge as the most promising talents in the region and demonstrated the value of chess as a means to education and social skills.

Alexandra Arnold chess

The Arnold event included chess... | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

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...as well as other activities. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

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