There were smiles across Africa as the 2022 African chess season officially opened yesterday (6th March,2022) with the kickstart of The 2022 Zone 4.5 Africa Individual Championships games in Maseru, Lesotho. Nine tough rounds , that will go up to 15th March, 2022 , will determine the Southern African Open and Ladies champions.
The Open Section has registered 20 participants and the Ladies 18, which is higher than last event’s figures. In the last Zone 4.5 OTB event, that took place in 2019 in Madagascar when the Southern African Zone was called Zone 4.3, the Open Section registered 16 and Ladies 9. The Zone failed to hold OTB events in 2020 and 2021 either due to lack of funding and the restrictions of the Covid 19 pandemic.
A quick scan through the usually tough Open Section_ With a rating of 2335, FM Miguel Sergio of Angola, is the highest rated player in the section, followed by South African Champion FM Daniel Barish 2266.
Eight out of the nine member Federations of the Zone are participating in the tournament_Malawi being the only absentee.
South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, ,Mozambique, and Botswana have featured athletes in both sections , while Namibia have only managed to feature in the Open Section.
As expected, the host country, Lesotho, has fielded the highest number of participants. 5 in the Open Section, and 6 in the Ladies Section.
Some of the names that are being advertised as ‘players to look out for’ in the tournament are: The Zambian trio of FM Nase Lungu “the Cyborg” , CM “Komodo” Timothy Kabwe , who is touted for his ability to take his opponents out of the book into a jungle and Kela Siame Kaulele.
There is also South African Olympian FM Calvin Claasen.
Another player to watch is Zimbabwe’s Spencer Masango, who is nicknamed ‘the Zambian nightmare’ , following a massacre he conducted in Zambia 3 years ago.
Then there is the ruthless Mozambician sniper, CM Donaldo Paiva- just to mention a few .
And the host nation is putting their trust in their 16 year old national hero, Tshephe Lebajoa.
In the Ladies Section, defending champion WIM Caxita Esperanca of Angola is expected to keep the section churning with her board cracking moves. She is likely to be opposed by fellow Angolan WFM Junior Ednasia and , of course, Africa Ladies Champion WGM elect Jesse February of RSA who are punching really hard.
WIM Caxita Esperanca
Somebody warned that young players like WCM Natalie Banda of Botswana and Badenhorst Chloe of South Africa must not be taken for granted.
The assumed defending Champion of the Open Section IM FY Rakotomahoro of Madagascar is naturally barred from defending his title as, when the domain rebranded from Zone 4.3 to Zone 4.5 in 2019 , his country remained in Zone 4.3.
According to the event organizers , apart from the lucrative prizes to be won, the winners in both the Open and Ladies section will also receive air ticket , free board and lodging sponsorship to participate in either the 2022 Sharjah Masters Chess Championship or The 2022 Sharjah Challengers which is scheduled to take place in Sharjah in the United Arab of Emirate in the 2022 Calendar year.
The events chief arbiter is none other than the competent IA Marius Ferreira of South Africa.
The Zonal President Joe Mahomelo of South Africa said he expects a great tournament.