Uganda’s Wanyama steals the show at Millionaires Chess Festival

By francis marangu
May 03, 2021
  • Photo by Chess Kenya

Ugandan FIDE Master Harold Wanyama who plays for KCB Chess Club stole the show in the last three rounds to emerge overall winner of the Kenya Millionaire Chess Festival.

He topped prestige section with 7.5 points out of the possible 8.

Wanyama will be one of the three African representatives at the Las Vegas Millionaires Tournament in October.

The other representatives will be selected at similar events lined up for Nigeria in June and South Africa in July.

By the fifth round of play, Wanyama was placed second with 4.5 points behind Kenya’s Lawrence Kagambi who had 5. Both players met in the deciding sixth round with Wanyama winning to assume the lead.

“That game was one of the three crucial ones I played. I was trailing Kagambi by half a point so I knew winning was the only way to remain in contention,” he said.

So competitive were the last two rounds that organizers had to change rules for pairing at the last minute.

As such, pairings for the 7th and 8th rounds were not revealed beforehand and names, board number and colour of all participants were announced randomly just before the start of the round.

Any form of communication with anyone within the venue of play whether before, during or after the round was prohibited.

Ethiopians struggle

In the rounds, Wanyama beat Kenyans Joseph Atwoli and Ahmed Mowlid to emerge victorious. His arithmetics were aided by the fact that Kagambi lost to Uganda’s Candidate Master Haruna Nsubuga and won against Peter Gilruth of Kenya.

“The tournament was well organized and competition level was high. I am happy that I will represent this region and continent in Las Vegas.”

Kagambi finished second with 6 points as fellow Kenyans Mowlid, Kenneth Omollo and Atwoli scored 6 points each but separated by tie break. Candidate Master Ben Magana finished 8th after deadlocking at 5.5 points with Nsubuga and another Kenyan Joseph Kelvins Omondi.

Players from Ethiopia and Sierra Leone performed dismally as only Ethiopian Remel Ramirez registered three wins and a draw while the rest were winless.

After seven rounds, Tom Amwai claimed the open section with 6 points while Martin Oyamo, Collins Young, Arnold Oyagi, Nicodemus Ndonye Kimari and Victor Hongo tied at 5.5 points.

Chess Kenya partnered with Kasparov Chess Foundation- Africa and Millionaire Chess to organize the event. Chess Kenya chairman Githinji Hinga said it was an eye opener for local players who have for another time failed to match their Ugandan counterparts.

“We are happy with this partnership because it gave birth to a world class event. We have broken many borders in terms of cash prize while players as well as officials have gotten enough exposure,” he said.

“The tournament was FIDE-rated and that allowed the players to gauge their standing internationally. Furthermore, we have some young players coming up which shows that our future is bright.” Kasparov Executive Director Graham Jurgensen said they expect huge turnouts in Nigeria and South Africa following success of the Kenyan event. 

“We expect between 300 and 400 participants in Nigeria. The winners will get an opportunity to compete against the world’s best and that is a big motivation.”

Millionaires Chess Co-founder Amy Lee was also in the country to grace the event that attracted 191 participants; 46 in the prestige section, 78 in the open section and 67 in the juniors.

Chess Kenya CEO and Tournament Manager Satish Deshpande noted that the event was a milestone in the local game.