Harold Wanyama was the hero in the last round of the 40th World Chess Olympiad after winning his seventh game out of ten to confirm his new FIDE Master (FM) title that he attained in the previous round, the moment he notched 6 points out of 9 games, which is a mandatory 66% score. He surpassed this by ending the Olympiad with a 70% score.
Uganda however narrowly went down 1.5-2.5 at the hands of a superior Singapore side that could have been overcome had it not been for nerves as tension gripped the players prior to the game as it dawned that the match was a must-win if the top spot was to be retained in Group D.
It was indeed a painful and emotional loss that several of the players found so hard to take considering that they had led the Group for the bigger part of the competition only to give up the lead in the last round. As it was, in the last round match with Singapore, Elijah Emojong was caught napping in the opening and paid for it dearly losing a piece and ultimately the game on board four against IM Fernandez Daniel Howard (rated 2370).
Harold Wanyama who has been outstanding at this year’s Olympiad pulled one back after sacrificing a piece with Kingside play compensation and tactics that he capitalised on to relentlessly check his opponent IM Shanmugam Ravindram’s King until the 2406 rated player was forced into submission. Patrick Kawuma huffed and puffed at his opponent but couldn’t find any headway and ended up drawing with IM Li Ruofan (rated 2419) in a game that Kawuma was unlucky not to win had he seen a crucial Pawn capture with Knight in the Rook, Knight and Pawns ending.
Arthur Ssegwanyi lost to GM Zhang Zhong (rated 2595) on board one after a brave and gallant fight and Singapore edged it to deny Uganda a trophy. Drawing the match would get second position in Group D while a win would mean first position instead of the eventual seventh. Puerto Rico won their last round match to win the Group followed by Tunisia and Algeria.
There are however many positives to take from the Olympiad especially Wanyama’s attainment of a FIDE Master title, which makes him the sixth FM in the country after Steven Kawuma, Moses Kawuma, Andrew Naimanye, Elijah Emojong and Stephen Kisuze. On his way to attaining the title, Wanyama won seven games and lost three after beating Libya’s FM Asabri Hussein (rated 2042), Cyprus’ Lazaris Stelios (rated 1827), Mauritius’ Seegolam Pradeep (rated 2041), Bolivia’s FM Gemy Jose Daniel (rated 2345), Myanmar’s Win Tun (rated 2174), Chile’s FM Salinas Herrera Pablo (rated 2417) and Singapore’s IM Shanmugan Ravindran (rated 2406).
He lost to Latvia’s IM Samolins Vitalijs (rated 2404), Tajikistan’s IM Isaev Jamshed (rated 2357) and IPCA’s IM Mikheev Stanislav (rated 2244). Wanyama was also the player who acquired most rating points at the entire Olympiad, gaining 93 additional rating points, which will ultimately improve on his current rating from 2159 to 2252. That will make him the highest rated active Ugandan player.
In terms of rating points earned, another Ugandan, Arthur Ssegwanyi ranks in 13th position after getting 43 rating points based on his performance on Board one where he battled against a mind boggling 6 Grandmasters. That will improve on Ssegwanyi’s rating from 2178 to 2221.
On his part, Kawuma is in 21st position among the top rating winners with 36 added points, which will improve his rating from 2209 to 2245. It ought to be remembered that Ivy Amoko and Phiona Mutesi have also attained Woman Candidate Master (WCM) titles which made them the first two titled lady players in the country’s chess playing history. In the last round, the ladies lost 1-3 to Zambia with Ivy Amoko the only victor after beating Zambia’s Mtine Joy Jottie (rated 2050) to cap her impressive individual Olympiad display with a total of 5.5 points out of 10 games played.
Mutesi was the other outstanding player on the ladies team and the reward for both players are the WCM titles. On other boards, Grace Kigeni, Goretti Angolikin and Rita Nsubuga lost to Zambia’s WCM Tembo Epah (rated 1927), Mbatha Constance (rated 1746) and Mwango Makumba (rated 1806). In the ladies category, Amoko is due to gain 48 rating points and she is in eighth position in the ladies list of top 100 rating winners. This will improve on her rating from 1705 to 1753.