"My opponent left a glass of whisky 'en prise' and I took it 'en passant". - Henry Blackburne | SINCE 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007


Ben Magana recently competed in the African championships in Namibia. on the way he defeated a GM. Although he failed to achieve 4.5/9 for FIDE master status he had a good outing.

By Ben Magana, Kenyan champion

Magana’s opponents:
Round 1: Simutowe (IM) 2421
Round 2: Adly (GM) 2488
Round 3: Walaa (IM) 2388
Round 4: Matewere
Round 5: Abdelnabi (IM) 2484
Round 6: Chitumbo (IM) 2163
Round 7: Adu (IM) 2294
Round 8: Nadir (CM) 2163
Round 9: Masango 2140

First of all, I would like to thank all players in Kenya that sent motivational and congratulatory messages on SMS and e-mail. Kenyan chess players were for once united in rallying behind something positive and encouraging for Kenyan chess.

I scored 3 points / 9 in a hugely strong and competitive field. Of the 9 players I played, one was a GM and 5 were IM’s. Of these, the Zambian Simutowe already has 3 GM norms and will get the GM title once his rating surpasses 2500. The 8 rated players I played had an average rating of 2318, which is way above any average I have encountered in any tournament – regional or international.

I started my tournament decently enough, scoring 3 / 6, but faded badly in the last 3 rounds with 3 losses, to finish with 3 / 9. There are several reasons for this:
1. My opponents were all extremely strong, even the 2100s!
2. I am used to 6- or 7-round events in Kenya, while this 9-rounder was too long for me and I lost concentration toward the end (burn-out)
3. My tournament preparation was very limited, as I had little chess literature and no laptop (extremely important for such situations) in Namibia

For lack of adequate historical fact, I would dare to assume that I am the first Kenyan player ever to beat a GM. The 20-year old Ahmed Adly from Egypt was the 2006 African champion, not to mention first (and long overdue) Egyptian to get the GM title. He was also a gold medallist at the recent 9th All Africa Games in Algiers. It was not at all easy beating this immensely talented Pharaoh, especially since he had lost his first round game and was in a BAD mood. But I had also lost my first game and was in a WORSE mood, hence not at all being intimidated by the GM title. So how does it feel for a nobody like me to (convincingly) beat a GM? It feels heavenly… in Namibia they were calling it A HOLE IN ONE for me. Like the classic David vs. Goliath duel that ended in a skull-shattering victory for the shepherd Jewish boy, my victory was for all the talented Kenyan players (past, present and future) who may ever feel psychologically inferior to titled players (IM, GM) whenever they square off in a game. ardy exchanged off his dark-squared bishop in an innocuous-looking position, but some wayward un-GM moves by him slowly gave me the edge. Exactly on move 25, I offered him a draw, which he promptly ignored. Ten moves later, the tables were turned – a nervous-looking and blushing GM mustered the best English he could to offer me a draw. I ignored him without batting an eyelid. The rest is history…

[Event "Africa Individual Championships"]
[Site "Windhoek, NAMIBIA"]
[Date "2007.09.02"]
[Round "2.15"]
[White "Magana, Ben"]
[Black "Adly, Ahmed"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B50"]
[WhiteElo "2151"]
[BlackElo "2488"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[WhiteTeam "KENYA"]
[BlackTeam "EGYPT"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. c3 Nf6 4. h3 g6 5. Bd3 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 Nc6 8. Bf1 Bd7 9. d4 cxd4 10. cxd4 d5 11. e5 Ne4 12. Nbd2 Bf5 13.Nb3 a5 14. a4 f6 15. exf6 Bxf6 16. Bh6 Rf7 17. Rc1 Qd6 18. Nc5 Nxc5 19. dxc5 Qd7 20. Ng5 Bxg5 21. Bxg5 e5 22. Bb5 e4 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Qd4 Rb8 25. Bd2
{Diagram #}
Qc7 26. Bc3 Rg7 27. Qd2 Rd7 28. Qd4 Rg7 29. Qd2 Re7 30. Bxa5 Qa7 31.b4 Rf7 32. Qd4 Re8 33. Rc3 h6 34. Ra1 g5 35. Rb3 Kh7 36. Bb6 Qa8 37. b5 Bd7 38.Bc7 Qb7 39. Bd6 Bc8 40. Rab1 Bd7 41. bxc6 Qxc6 42. a5 Qa8 {Diagram #}
43. Rb7 Qxa5 44. Qxd5 Kg6 45. Be5 Be6 46. Qxe4+ Bf5 47. R1b6+ Qxb6 48. Rxb6+ 1-0

To cap off an exciting tournament for me, I flummoxed, bamboozled and ultimately sneaked on the hugely talented Zambian IM Mwali Chitumbo in a losing position for myself. Chitumbo is the current Africa Junior chess champ, not to mention the Zambian champion, and silver medallist at the 9th All Africa Games – do not be fooled by his low 2163 rating. Now THAT victory was for all the Kenyan speed chess and blitz players who can string together a few decent moves – especially the vibrant members at Checkmates Chess Club (Githinji, et al). I jettisoned a pawn for an apparent attack. My position went from the HDU to the ICU, but in the process my opponent moved farther and farther back on the clock. Towards the end of the game, Mwali was playing on bare seconds. I guess pressure made him fall headlong into a poorly concealed mate trap!

[Event "Africa Individual Championships"]
[Site "Windhoek, NAMIBIA"]
[Date "2007.09.06"]
[Round "6.17"]
[White "Chitumbo, Mwali"]
[Black "Magana, Ben"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E01"]
[WhiteElo "2163"]
[BlackElo "2151"]
[PlyCount "74"]
[WhiteTeam "ZAMBIA"]
[BlackTeam "KENYA"]

1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 Nbd7 7. Qc2 c6 8. Rd1 Qe7 9. Nbd2 e5 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. Nxe5 Qxe5 13. Nf3 Qh5 14. Qb3 Be6 15. Qxb7 Bc5 16. Bf4 Ne4 17. e3 g5 18. Rxd5 Bxd5 19. Qxd5 Rad8 20. Qxe4 gxf4 21. gxf4 Rfe8 22. Qc2 Rd6 23. Ng5 Bb6 24. Bf3 Qh4 25. Qf5 Re7 26. Bd5 Qh5 27. Bf3 Qh4 28. Rc1 Rd2 29. Rf1 Bxe3 30. Qc8+ Kg7 31. Qc3+ Kg8 32. Qc8+ Kg7 33. Nh3 Bxf4 34. Kh1 Rd6 35. Bg4 Rg6 36.Bf5 Rg5 37. Nxg5 Qxh2# 0-1

Even though I did not get the needed 50% score to become a FIDE Master like Gateri, I feel I crossed a frontier that few get to experience. Thus, my defeat of Africa’s best was immensely more satisfying in this sense. I look forward to my next great HOLE IN ONE.
Before leaving for Namibia, I was asked what my aim for the event was. I looked forward to upsetting a few big names, as well as to finishing in a respectable position. Even though I did not quite achieve the latter aim, I more than made up for it by beating 2 African champions in one tournament – senior and junior.

As for what all this augurs for Kenyan chess, I think the future can only be brighter. There are many talented juniors out there who can go and do even more awe-inspiring things…

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