Mixed feelings over Zimbabwe chess team performance in online Zone 4.5 tournament

The rise in Covid-19 cases led to some creativity in the way chess games are played.

Over the board chess games became very difficult to play because of the deadly CoronaVirus.

The fide Executive introduced some online games to ensure that players would continue to

Show their prowess in this game of wits. First was the Olympiad online which was followed by the

Zone 4.5 online rapid chess tournament. This tournament which was held from the 16th-18th of October produced some outstanding players as well as countries which were also inaugural winners as this tournament was born out of Covid-19. It took some time to come up with the best players as well as the winners as there were some appeals from South Africa, Zambia and Angola. The overall decision did not change anything as the standings remained as they were before the final log standings were posted by the tournament Director Masaiti from Botswana.

The overall team performance by team Zimbabwe was not pleasing to the general public and the former chess players who cried foul starting from the preparations for the tournament and the way they played these online games. There was no cohesion at all and the players were scattered all over the show. This prompted some losses which the team members suffered because of lack of connectivity.  For a country which performed very well during the Olympiads and was the second best-performing country after Egypt, it was not pleasing at all to the supporters who hailed the team for its sterling performance. The team it as such.’ was the talk of Africa on Social media.

Zambia was very cross so was South Africa and Botswana and these countries envied Zimbabwe’s success. Fide Instructor Eric Takawira who is based in Durban was very candid when he postulated that, I trust you are well. I understand you are doing a great job in promoting Zimbabwe chess through reporting, but please do not promote mediocrity because if something is not good enough we must be brutally honest. That is the only way we can get progress. Zimbabwe finishing in position 5 out of 9 countries in Southern is just embarrassing please report as such.’

One can say that the preparations for the tournament were not that smooth and for a country like Botswana went into camping, the players jelled together such that the team had a lot of cohesion and understanding as there was teamwork as well as a shared vision towards winning a medal in the championships. As for Zimbabwe, the preparations were in shambles as players were scattered all over, they never went for camping and this on its own shows that we are still lagging behind in terms of preparedness. Angola had the resources to even host the whole Zone on Zoom ensuring that the tournament which had challenges in the technical aspects were addressed and the tournament went on well after that.

Team Botswana and Angola were the most organised. Team Botswana’s welfare was good so was motivation, they were paid their allowances soon after the games which are commendable in terms of preparedness. Each player had a laptop to use which he or she was given by the organisation. One other example of team Zimbabwe’s lack of organisation was that one player failed to make it on time and was walked over after failing to log in on time because the player had to borrow a laptop and by the time the player logged in it was too late to play the games and what happened is a story for another day! Ndakanonoka kuwana laptop and apa network futi ndikanonoka kulogger (I was late getting my laptop and network and failed to log in on time) and so the Angolan Coach refused saying that the other games were already finished stated the player affected.

Another former player opined that the team performed well under these circumstances. They tried their level best. For Zimbabwe chess to go further there is need to be professional, prepare while there is time, have a clear selection policy to follow for all the events, secure playing venues on time because these online events will be there for some time. Soon we will be having under 16 team championships and the four nations cup which will also be played online. The best thing to do is to make hay while the sun is shining to ensure that everything is spruced up.

Angola came first with 16 points. They won 7 games and lost one game to South Africa. The two aforementioned teams were tied on the first position with 16 points only separated by half a point on board points.

Angola had 63.5 points while South Africa had 63 points. In third position there was also a tie Botswana and Zambia who also had 13 points, they both had 5 wins and 1 draw and two losses. Then followed Zimbabwe who had 4 wins and four losses. Lesotho was sixth with 9 points followed by Namibia with 6 points, Malawi 5 points and last but not least Eswathini who never won a single game. The Eswathini team pulled out of the tournament and never took part towards the end of the tournament.

The best player onboard one in this rapid online chess tournament was veteran International Master Watu Kobese of South Africa. Onboard two International Master Da silva of Angola was the best player. Cyril Chigodo of Zimbabwe produced one of his finest performances in this online chess tournament. He finished with six points only losing his first game against Gomelelo of Botswana.

After his defeat in round one, he never looked back and won all the games after. Among his culprits was Candidate Master Musatwe Simutowe who is the brother to Southern Africa’s first Grand Master Amon Simutowe of Zambia. He also won in Zimbabwe’s game against South Africa, as well as Angola who were among the top seeds in this tournament. The other best player on board four was Woman Candidate Master Kudzanai Charinda who was never defeated throughout the tournament as she won five games and drew the other two games.

She ensured that team Zimbabwe was not whitewashed as she picked some very crucial points from the games that were tough, that is from the outstanding seeded teams like South Africa, Angola, Botswana, and Zambia. She brought in some form of stability to the youthful team that took part in this competition. Even during her school days at St. Johns Emerald Hill she was fearless against boys and would defeat some boys in a very interesting fashion. Woman Candidate Master Refiloe Mudodo was another player who played very well in this tournament only to be denied by the internet connection in one of the crucial games against South Africa in which her result would have changed the face of the game, alas that is a story for another day.

Refiloe scored a very important result against Mubuuto Bwalya of Zambia when she won the battle. The two players were tied on the same position with six points and Refiloe was better in terms of head to head. Zimbabwe had three players among the ten best Southern African players in zone 4.5 and this means they are among the cream of Southern Africa. This tournament had one hundred and twenty-one players. Among these players were four International Masters, 4 Women International Masters, 13 Candidate Masters, 5 Fide Masters, and 6 Women Fide Masters.

Eventually, after appeals from the different countries which took part in this tournament, there were winners and these were as follows:

  1. Angola Gold medal
  2. South Africa Silver
  3. Botswana bronze
  4. Zambia
  5. Zimbabwe. The full results can be extracted from:www.chess-results.comzone 4.5 online rapid2020

The Chief Arbiter for the event was IA Simbarashe Murimi of Zimbabwe who was deputized by IA Chanda of Zambia. This was an inaugural tournament which had a lot of glitches but these were overcome and the tournament ended on the 18th of October as was planned. The future of Zimbabwean chess is in the youth and supporting these youths will produce players of repute who can stand tall against other nations as is evidenced by how Roy Mwadzura held the best player on board one IM Watu Kobese of South Africa as well as the exploits by the above mentioned best performing Zimbabweans. Over and above our chess will produce the best if we do have proper planning for events as well as the corporate world support is of paramount importance. Zimbabwe chess needs your support and for sure, Zimbabwe will have new International Masters with this type of exposure. Watu Kobese of South Africa suffered defeat from Razor blade of Malawi in the last round though this result did not change Malawi’s loss to the mighty South Africa who had the wealth of experience.

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