Credit: © Kawowo Sports | AISHA NAKATO

The chess fraternity said bye to 2016 on Sunday with the final event of the year – Kireka Chess Club Open Championship held at Mamerito Hotel, Bweyogerere ending successfully.

Although the usual suspects triumphed all throughout the season, the few surprises that came up made the year worth the talk.

While International Master Arthur Ssegwanyi crowned the year in the best possible way, it did not provide a happy ending for Fide Master Harold Wanyama.

Some games were not easy on the eye and a few of them were full of thrill.

From hosting a successful African tournament to seeing out the league with few predicaments, we look at the highlights of year.

Season opener

2016 commenced with the second and last phases of the Olympiad 2016 qualifiers held at Pope Paul Memorial Hotel, Rubuga, with only five spots up for grabs.

Despite early enviable showings from Edgar Ntende, the rated 2060 faltered along the way, failing to make the cut.

Ssegwanyi, Walter Okas, Patrick Kawuma, Wanyama and Farouk Fauza qualified for the biennial tournament although the former two failed to travel due work commitments.

Kawuma Open

Contested by 78 players in the Open category, Wanyama out-competed the rest to the first position.

Despite losing to Allan Mathias Ssonko in the early stages, Wanyama beat both Elijah Emojong and Haruna Nsubuga to clinch the event.

Zone 4.2

The African Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championship in Dar es Salaam followed in April. Two Ugandans [Wanyama and Nsubuga] who took part left Tanzania rewarded with Nsubuga finishing fourth and earning the Fide Master title, while Wanyama got an IM norm with a third place finish.

African Individuals

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Arguably the most competitive Chess tournament ever staged on African soil, Uganda hosted the African Individual Chess Championships for the first time in history, and far from majority’s expectations, turned out a success.

From the organization to the level of competition, it was a tournament to remember. To the president of Uganda Chess Federation Vianney Luggya, ‘It was a demonstration of tight competition and high level of play.’

Equivalent to the Africa Cup of Nations, the event attracted Africa’s crème de la crème led by the continent’s No.2, Grand Master Adly Ahmed from Egypt.

Aside from Emojong and Ivy Amoko who didn’t take part in the qualifiers and Nsubuga who failed to qualify, Uganda had its finest players compete at the tourney.

Egypt’s Hesham Abdelrahman shockingly won the championship ahead of fellow compatriots and pre-tournament favourites Adly, Samy Shoker and El Giindy Essam.

Ssegwanyi, Kawuma and Wanyama settled for the 9th, 10th and 11th positions, while Simon Gonza and Farouk Fauza came 22nd and 23rd.

The event will always linger in Zambian Andrew Kayonde’s mind because he attained his IM title from the event following his master class displays.

World Chess Olympiad.

It came as no surprise when the Olympiad team missed the first three rounds due to financial limitations. It has happened before and yes, it will happen again.

At the event though, the delay didn’t seem much of a big deal to the team. It instead motivated them as they put up a grit fight to earn a decent 126th finish in the Open category and 117th in the Ladies, making the team’s performance one of the best.

On individual basis, out of eight games he played, Wanyama picked up five victories and a draw to end the tournament as the best African on board two.

The same performance handed him a 17th finish overall on board two ahead of world’s No.3, America’s GM Hikaru Nakamura. Board two was majorly dominated by GMs.

The National Chess League

For the first time in five years, DMARK ends the year without a trophy. Kireka’s anger, willpower and drive did the magic as they ousted Ssegwanyi and his teammates.

The side led by Wanyama ended DMARK’s dominance in a manner so unimaginable. They humbled the league giants 4-1on the last day of the league.

Mombasa Open

Off the scene for much of the season, IM Emojong won the Open on a tie-break. Rivaled solely by Wanyama at the event, the IM gathered 6.5 points, tying with his nemesis, but had the tie-break on his favour. The duo drew their game in the penultimate round.

The Mombasa Open was Emojong’s second competitive tournament this year after the Kawuma Open.

Tanzania Open

Competitive it was as Ssegwanyi clinched his first trophy this season. The IM tied points with fellow IM Emojong and Zambia’s Kaule Siame Kela, but won the event on a tie-break.

Aside from the top three, the Open was graced by highly rated players including Mwali Chitumbo, Gilan Bwalya [two IMs from Zambia] Wanyama, Nsubuga and Ssonko.

Equity Open

Another shocking winner emerged from the inaugural Equity Chess Club Open Championship in Kenya.

Despite losing the fourth round to Kawuma, Nsubuga rated 2077 was able to feast on Wanyama and Ssonko to come top in the Prestige category on a tie-break having tied with Kawuma.

While it was Nsubuga’s best tournament this year, it was one of the worst for Wanyama who came sixth.

Kireka Open

The inaugural Kireka Club Chess Open Chess Championship wrapped up the year 2016. A familiar name came atop as Ssegwanyi crowned the season with his second title.

Like the Opens prior this, there was a tie in the first position. Both Ssegwanyi and Nsubuga collected seven points, but the former won on a tie-break.

The Open saw the revelation of a number of youngsters including Allan Benjamin Mande, Joel Emojong, Eric Mboizi, but most notably Micheal Basangwa.

Basangwa, a former U15 National Junior champion amazed many with his spectacular exhibition. He came fourth ahead of five titled players including Wanyama who had a terrible tournament.

With almost every winner determined on a tie-break, it only pointed to one thing- competition. The events were very competitive meaning no single player ruled the year.

Queen of Katwe

The Disney film, Queen of Katwe premiered at the El Capitan Theatre Hollywood on September 20.

Based on a real-life story, the movie depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in abduct poverty in one of Kampala slums, Katwe.

Her life changes one day when she meets Robert Katende – a football and chess coach who teaches her how play chess. She learns the game and excels in it, with her performances at the World Chess Olympiad the notable ones.

The movie stars Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyongo who plays Mutesi’s mother, David Oyelowo as Katende and a 16 year old Madina Nalwanga [Mutesi]

Wanyama’s retirement.

It is now three days since Wanyama announced his retirement from competitive Chess. A career so admired by many, the 35-year-old will go down as one of the greatest players in the East African region to ever play the chess game.

The FM stated family and work as major reasons for his retirement.

Marion Malinga

Staff Writer for Kawowo Sports

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