You’ve probably read or heard that come July, Uganda will witness an explosion earthquake as the finest players in East Africa clash on board. Well, if you haven’t, stick around.
An idea entirely born by Fide Master Patrick Kawuma, it is one that was unstintingly welcomed by his fellow elite players. For a couple of months, it was being baked, and now with all the necessary things agreed on, the product is out- The Ultimate Death Match.
Dubbed the 2017 Chess Challenge, it is a battle that will embroil only the top six players in the East African region. You got that right; International Master Arthur Ssegwanyi, IM Elijah Emojong, FM Kawuma, Walter Okas, FM Harold Wanyama, and FM Haruna Nsubuga in ascending order are the top six seeds in the region.
Of course you’re familiar with these names. Household names in the region, the opinions of those passionate about the game are as expected, already divided. For reasons best known to you, you already have your pick.
They have met one another several times; they have lost at least once to one another, so who will it be? Who will claim the ultimate bragging rights?
Will it be the offensive and technical Ssegwanyi? The young yet experienced and self-motivated Emojong? The rock-hard and difficult to beat Kawuma? Perhaps Okas with a strange style of play? Or a versatile and preemptive Wanyama? Or maybe on form Nsubuga? Well to help us in our analysis, we caught up with Brian Kidula, the match promoter.
In his analysis, he focuses on the players’ playing styles, strength and weaknesses.
He says: “Arthur [Ssegwanyi] is a methodological player that loves preparation and takes his game seriously. He plays with lots of energy and has polished his game to become not just an aggressive player but also a technical player making him difficult to beat. His weakness is playing in unfamiliar positions out of the opening as he prefers a clear path.
“Emojong is a dynamic player that has had many chess experiences despite his young age as he has travelled as far as Vietnam to face Asia’s finest. He is a player that really loves the initiative and if he gets it, he won’t let go till he devours his opponent. Known for his catchy phrases like ‘I shall be on duty’ he simply plays all games to win and will take risks to do so. His weakness is undermining weaker opposition which lands him in trouble against opposition he should have normally beaten.
“Kawuma is a solid player that could have come out of the Russian school of chess for just understanding the basics. He has a narrow repertoire but and though that can make it possible to prepare for him, it is difficult to beat him because he has seen it all in his battles across the globe. His style is reminiscent of his older brother Moses Kawuma who was well known for things like ‘kwata file’, ‘kwata diagona’ etc. he is a difficult player to beat though his weakness is getting into tactical melees that make the game unclear.
“Okas is someone that has always been a force. As a junior, he was a terror and was one of the strongest players but due to studies and work commitments, he was out of the scene for a while. However, he is around and is stamping his authority as noted by his rating. Okas has an unusual style that can confuse even the best. He simply enjoys the unknown stratosphere and can play awkward moves that might seem weak but on closer inspection are very hard to beat. His weakness is his opening and playing dry positions that simply bore the daylights out of him.
“Wanyama’s style is similar to Petrosian and is well known for his endgame mastery in the style of Capablanca. He will squeeze wins out of dry positions and has a high endgame conversion rate. He is also astute tactically and can play variety of positions. He has been the most consistent Olympiad player along with Kawuma. His weakness, however, is losing concentration at the most critical moments in wild games.
“Nsubuga is an enigma splitting opinions across the nation. He plays mercurial chess and can be a handful for anyone on a good day. He is as slippery as an eel and has 9 lives like a cat. However, the fact that he hasn’t qualified for the national team shows he has some small things to do. Of late, he has had very impressive results and has rightfully joined the 2200 club. His style is difficult to comprehend and one has to watch out for tricks that he seems to enjoy putting on board.”
What’s your prediction? Has Kidula’s analysis offered you a second thought or your mind is made up? The classical double round robin match will be held on the weekends July 15-16, 22, and 29-30 at a venue yet to be communicated.