Chess: CM Kabera, Munyurangabo in tight title race ahead of final round

Candidate Master (CM) Godfrey Kabera maintained his lead after trouncing reigning national champion, Joseph Nzabanita, on Sunday morning in the open section's round 7, at the ongoing 2019 National Chess Championship at Onomo Hotel, in Kigali.

But, 19-year-old Rongin Munyurangabo, second on the table because of Kabera's tiebreak advantage, was also not giving up as he tamed Eugene Mugema Kagabo to keep his title hopes up.        


CM Maxence Murara’s title hopes took a hammer blow, earlier during round 5 when Munyurangabo refused to be intimidated by his senior and more experienced opponent. Murara won his round 7 encounter with another teen Ben Patrick Cyubahiro but much remains to be decided in the final round.


However, if Kabera and Munyurangabo lose their respective final games and Murara wins, the latter would win the championship.


In round 6, Munyurangabo faced Kabera while Murara (playing black) played Ben Tom Zimurinda, and the unbelievable happened. Murara lost, for the second time. But Kabera was also unable to squeeze out a win in what appeared to be a winnable Rook and pawn endgame duel and he shared the spoils with Munyurangabo. 

Nzabanita, the 2018 national male champion, had a rough start on Thursday and Friday and his chances to retain the title diminished. Nzabanita beat Kagabo in round 1, lost to Murara in round 2 and did not show up in round 3. He defeated Florent Niyongira in round 4.

In round 5, the reigning champion was paired against Valentin Rukimbira who he defeated but his chances are still not clear, with his 3.0 points. In round 6 he defeated Ivan Mugisha and was fifth on the table, with 4.0 points. Nzabanita's round 7 loss to Kabera means he almost gives up on the title chase.

In round 8, Kabera was paired with Zimurinda, a man who ruthlessly poured ice water on Murara's chances on Saturday. Munyurangabo also faced Nzabanita whose hopes to retain the coveted title first took an unexpected dive during round 2 on Boxing Day.

Come Sunday evening, Sandrine Uwase will retain the female national chess championship title for a record third consecutive year after she conquered her first four opponents and maintained a convincing lead in the first two days of the tournament. The final round 5 in the women section was also due to started at 3pm.

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