Florent Niyongira powered his way back on top at the end of round five on Saturday after beating reigning champion, Dr Ben Karenzi, in the ongoing 2018 National Chess Championships played at IPRC-Kigali.
Valentin Rukimbira also beat Joseph Nzabanita to stay in the chase, in second position. After round five, only a tie-break advantage separated Niyongira and Rukimbira, who are both level at 4.0 points apiece.
Round five results left Nzabanita and Karenzi – with 3.5 points each – third and fourth, respectively, with a trickier round six tie in which a defeat would see either of them out of the race.
In round six, Karenzi, the former commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital, was paired against Rukimbira in what would be a do-or-die battle of wits. Rukimbira knew he had to win this one to be sure of becoming national champion while Niyongira had to be extra vigilant against Rongin Munyurangabo, 18, a youngster with a never-say-die spirit and who had bagged three points in five games.
Nzabanita had easy prey in youngster Pacifique Iradukunda who has one win so far.
The annual tournament which will be wrapped up on Sunday evening is being held at IPRC-Kigali, in Kicukiro.
Karenzi, and Sandrine Uwase, 16, were crowned 2017 male and female National Chess Champions, respectively, last December.
While it remained unclear who was likely to be the next national champion from the open section’s eight-round contest, Sandrine’s winning streak in the ladies section continued.
The teen from the Kigali suburb of Gikondo won her round five game and continued to lead the rankings with 5.0 points. She was then followed by her neighbor, Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Joselyne Uwase, 15, who also won and is determined to at least maintain second place all throughout the remaining rounds.
The biggest upset, perhaps, in this section, was the defeat of Anna Ngarambe, 16, captain of the Lycée Notre Dame de Cîteaux (LNDC) chess club by Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Christelle Uwamahoro.
The defeat at the hands of Uwamahoro, 14, left Ngarambe disheartened and her aspirations for top three finish in shambles.