I arrived at the venue in time for the 2nd round due to a scheduled engagement for Terrian Chess Academy, even before i was appointed the tournament director. Inexplicably, the Equity Open file had been deleted from the chess-results server, which meant it had to be redone and uploaded, causing the event to start later than it was supposed to.
That notwithstanding, the players were in an upbeat mood for this inaugural event, and over the lunch provided by the organizer (a departure from the norm), i was greeted with the news of 13 year old Timothy Mwabu (1381) having drowned Uganda’s Thomas Katairo (1996) in the 1st round in the Open category. I didn’t know how to react: yes, i was happy for him and the country as a whole seeing what a prospect is emerging from the junior ranks! On the other hand, i shuddered to think of what awaited me in our four game match to be played after the Equity Open as per our contractual agreement yet to be signed. I think it is about time i take an early Christmas break, j’adoube! Well done Timothy.
The much awaited live broadcast on the top boards failed to take place due to technical hitches, and spectators were left with no choice but play hide and seek with the arbiters in a bid to catch a glimpse of the action. Online viewers also inundated the organizer’s media center with calls, as the official broadcast partner Kenya Chess Masala frantically tried to get a word from the venue as to why the link wasn’t working but to no avail. Let’s hope tomorrow will bring good tidings.
On the board, the Prestige section was literally on fire, as hitherto allies went at each other like seasoned combatants, with practiced precision. The top seeded Ugandan IM Arthur Ssegwanyi (2381) dispatched veteran player Clement ‘Champ’ Miheso (2048) on board 1 whom i bumped into speaking to no one in particular but his eyes were cunningly glued to mine ‘I placed my queen in the wrong square’ and i returned his overture with a non-committal ‘it happens’ as i scurried to catch up with South Sudanese James ‘Panadol’ Panchol’s (2010) encounter versus Uganda’s FM Harold Wanyama (2280).
This board 2 game had caught my attention since Panchol was more often that not found in the playing hall, to the chagrin of his opponent who alerted the section arbiter of his opponent’s frequent visits to the ‘washroom’. Apparently, Panchol was enjoying his poistion on the board but things turned awry when Wanyama summoned his experience of positional understanding that reduced Panchol to extended periods on his haunches as he tried to find resourceful moves against Wanyama’s easy to make ones. 0-1 it ended and a relieved Wanyama opined ‘he survived some positions and defended well. Maybe i shall check with the engines to see if i missed something’.
On board 3 Ugandan FM Patrick Kawuma (2266) beat Jacktone Mony (2050) and were engaged in a long analysis after the game, that attracted several pundits. And in the first local derby on the top boards, the ageless CM John “The Beast” Mukabi (1921) wrestled half a point from Kenya’s highest rated player Peter Gilruth (2189) in an endgame that he defended with all his record-breaking Olympiad appearances experience to parry off Gilruth’s attack after he had sacrificed his knight to connect his 2 pawns on the queen side. Mukabi fondled his knight with admiration as he blockaded Gilruth’s passed a pawn on the 6th rank as it checked any advance of the b pawn, in spite his opponent’s king providing cover.
Another Ugandan Mathias Ssonko (2118) faced off with FM Steve Ouma (2017) on board 5 in a knife-edged game that threatened to be marred in controversy, after the former made an illegal move with his knight. prompting Steve to call the arbiter who hastily awarded him the point on the basis of rapid rule that makes such a call valid in case in one illegal move. A visibly agitated Sssonko rushed to lodge a complaint with the chief arbiter and it was cited that the rule for classical time controls states that one only loses on the 2nd illegal move. The position was reset and Ssonko comfortably brought home the bacon, as Steve watched helplessly as his knight could not stop the two outside passed pawns on either side of the board.
The next home boys encounter was on board 6 between CM Wachira Wachania (1893) and Mehul “Gorilla” Mehul (2078), with the later neutralizing a poorly handled Tarrasch defense. It was agonizing watching the forlorn face of he of the “beat them all” fame, fresh from the American dream experience, crumble under the weight of Gorilla after losing his dark squared bishop as it was pinned against his queen.
In the ladies section, OlympianWinfred Thitu (1360) won by walkover on board 1 after fellow Olympian Gloria Jumba (1624) was unfortunately taken ill and had to go seek medical attention. WFM Sanjana Deshpande (1569) beat Saloni Karania (1290) with the black pieces as another Olympian Joyce Nyaruai (1528) took advantage of Daphne Mwikali’s (1399) habitual capitulation on the board 3 to win a seemingly drawn endgame. On board 1 of the Open section. Mike Kinuthia (1708) gleefully gobbled Philip Singe’s (1935) free rook that earned him a point that was being heatedly discussed by the poolside in the presence of a disinterested and sleepy Ricky Sang (1909) who had secured a point by walkover.
Action resumes tomorrow with the juniors joining the fray for the remaining 2 days. The full pairings for round 3 in all sections can be found here:
There was also a 10 minute presentation by Equity Bank on their EazzyPay product just before round 2 started and the bank’s friendly and helpful staff had pitched tent at the venue ready to assist anyone interested in their products. Never mind that lunch was served to all, and a second helping was available!!