ZAMBIAN International Master (IM) Gillan Bwalya started the year on a high after winning the Zimbabwe Open Chess Championship in Harare yesterday to maintain his country’s dominance of the prestigious competition.
Bwalya took over as the reigning Zimbabwe Open Chess Champion from last year’s winner, fellow Zambian IM Kelvin Chumfwa after finishing with 7,0 out of a possible nine points.
Zambian chess players have dominated the event for three years running, after another Zambian Kennedy Katowa won the 2012 edition of the open.
Zimbabwe’s hopes of clinching the coveted title on home soil were spoilt in the second and third rounds, when the tournament first seed, local favourite IM Rodwell Makoto, failed to pull off tough wins against compatriot Elisha Chimbamu and upcoming Zambian, Michael Kaoma.
South Africa-based Makoto drew two games, earning half points in each game before falling to beat Zambian, Richmond Phiri in the fourth round.
Makoto, however, managed a brave comeback in the remaining five rounds, which saw him collecting maximum points against Botswana’s top player IM Providence Oatlhotse in the sixth round before holding last year’s winner, IM Kelvin Chumfwa of Zambia to a well fought out draw in round eight.
The Zimbabwean went on to dismiss one of Zambia’s most feared chess masters, IM Chitumbo Mwali in the final ninth round yesterday, to emerge as a well-deserved runner-up in this event.
Makoto was tied alongside Chumfwa and Oatlhotse on second position, but the Zimbabwean was ahead on a superior tie break.