RWANDA’s Open and Women teams on Tuesday got off to a bright start with wins against Antigua and Barbuda as well as Sierra Leone, respectively, in round two of the ongoing Chess Olympiad 2018 in Batumi, Georgia.
The country’s ten players, including four teenagers, who are mostly debutants on international stage, missed round one on Monday after arriving in Batumi late. The Rwandan contingent left the country for Georgia on Sunday night.
Earlier, the Women team was initially pitted against Sierra Leone but the pairing changed at last minute when Team Burundi arrived at the competition, with the latter facing Rwanda.
But that last minute change did not bother youngsters Joselyne Uwase and Layola Murara Umuhoza, both 15, as they went on to trounce older opponents, Yvonne Nahimana and Francine Kwizera, respectively, and bag two points for their team.
Uwase is playing in an Olympiad for the first time.
Only Odile Kayitesi, playing on the lead board suffered a loss. On board four, Aline Niyonsaba, bagged a point without making a move as the Burundian team was one player short. Countries field four players during a match – and the match ended 3-1 in favor of Rwanda.
Reserve player Christelle Uwamahoro, 14, was rested for the day.
In the male-dominated Open section, another Olympiad debutant, Ian Murara Urwintwari, 16, showed his brilliancy when he sacrificed a Castle, then a Queen, to quickly tame Antigua and Barbuda’s Seymore Smith on board four. Urwintwari was Rwanda’s first victor of the day in the tough contest. Twenty moves was all the teen needed to outclass his unsuspecting opponent.
On the three other boards, Urwintwari’s father, Maxence Murara, dispatched Jerry Aska while Fidele Mutabazi, playing on board one, overpowered Matthew Bailey.
Joseph Nzabanita battled Hannibal Fleming to a draw on board three and the match ended Rwanda winning 3.5 – 0.5.
The squad’s fifth player, Alain Niyibizi, also rested as he patiently waits the moment when team captain Valentin Rukimbira sees a tactical advantage in fielding him.
Organized by the world chess federation (FIDE), the Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament that attracts the best players from all over the world to compete. It comprises open and women’s tournaments, and other events designed to promote the game of chess.
This is the 43rd Chess Olympiad.
Games start at 1PM local time (3PM in Batumi) every day. The world’s biggest chess tournament started Monday – and will climax on October 7.
Tough round three encounters
When round three starts today, Wednesday, however, there are no illusions over the fact that Rwandan players will have to climb a very steep mountain.
In the team pairings released earlier this morning, Rwanda’s Women team face Mexico while their counterparts in the Open section confront El Salvador.
Rated 1551, Uwase is arguably Rwanda’s strongest player on the women team. But their Mexican opponents are all titled, and rated above 2000. On board three, Uwase will confront Woman International Master (WIM) Ivette Ale Garcia Morales, rated 2013.
The highest rated Rwandan in the Open section is Mutabazi, with 1818 rating points.
The lowest rated player on the El Salvador squad is International Master (IM) Carlos E. Burgos Figueroa (2222).
It will not be a walk in the park but the Rwandan players will still relish a moment, a good battle, against some of the world’s best.
Rwanda chess federation president, Kevin Ganza, who is in Batumi told Times Sport in a telephone interview that, “our players are determined to play good games today and, hopefully, collect some rating points from their opponents.”