For varying work-related reasons, some big names have not turned up for the underway 2018 National Chess Championships at IPRC-Kigali in Kicukiro, but, there is still a rough path for title holders.
Missing in action in the open section include Candidate Master (CM) Maxence Murara, Fidele Mutabazi, Ian Murara Urwintwari and CM Godfrey Kabera.
But it is not clear whether this actually means Dr Ben Karenzi, former commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital, and 16-year old Sandrine Uwase, who were crowned 2017 male and female National Chess Champions, respectively, last December, will easily retain their titles.
Karenzi has tough opponents including Eugene Mugema Kagabo and Valentin Rukimbira to contend with in the tournament set to be played over two consecutive weekends.
The 10 competitors in the open section are playing in a Swiss format system and will play eight rounds.
Meanwhile, it is a single round robin format in the women section where eight contestants will play seven rounds.
In the women section, Aline Niyonsaba, Layola Umuhoza Murara, and Odile Kayitesi have snubbed the championship.
But, rather surprsingly, the defending champion looks set to overcome her biggest rival Joselyne Uwase, 15, in their round one encounter on Saturday afternoon.
At the end of the 43rd Chess Olympiad, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) confirmed the title of Woman FIDE master (WFM) to Olympiad debutante Joselyne who showed force by winning seven out of her nine games.