Rongin Munyurangabo, Eugene Kagabo Mugema, Ian Murara Urwintwari, Elysée Tuyizere, Ben Patrick Cyubahiro, Ben Tom Zimurinda, Fidele Mutabazi and Methode Twizeyimana are the eight players who on Sunday made it to the second phase of Olympiad qualifiers set for March.
Three of them – Munyurangabo, 19, Ian Murara Urwintwari, 17, Ben Patrick Cyubahiro, who turns 16 on Tuesday – are teenagers.
The qualifiers to pick Rwanda’s flag bearers – in the open section – for the 44th Chess Olympiad started on January 18 at the University of Rwanda’s Gikondo Campus – formerly SFB.
The first phase’s favourite, Munyurangabo, also stretched his unbeaten run to a record 13 competitive games after he drew with Cyubahiro in round 6.
Munyurangabo, Urwintwari who played in the 2018 Olympiad, Cyubahiro, and Twizeyimana, 20, are among Rwanda’s new generation of up-and-coming chess stars.
Starting March 14, however, these Olympiad hopefuls will face a much tougher challenge when the second phase of qualifies – to be played over two consecutive weekends – brings in four stronger players who did not partake in the preliminary phase.
The local chess federation had earlier planned it such that the four – Candidate Masters Godfrey Kabera and Maxence Murara, as well as Maranatha Nduwayesu and Joseph Nzabanita – the only active players with Elo ratings above 1800, would come in later.
Named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-American physics professor, the Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in zero-sum games such as chess.
CM Kabera is the reigning male national chess champion while Nzabanita was the 2018 former national champion.
Murara snr, Urwintwari’s father, on the other hand, is the most experienced player at the highest level. He has played in a record nine Olympiads starting with the 34th Chess Olympiad, played in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2000. Opponents will also be wary of little-known 21-year-old Nduwayesu, another force to reckon who has recently tamed stronger opponents.
When the second round of qualifiers ends, on March 22, only eight best players will continue to the third and final round of qualifiers.
The next phase, in March, will also mark the beginning of the qualifiers in the women’s section.
Five players are selected in each section.
The final phase starting on May 16 – and running for two consecutive weekends – will be in a single round robin format.
Organized by the world chess federation (FIDE), the Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament bringing together teams from all over the world.
The 2020 edition will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, from August 5 to 18.
At the 2018 Olympiad in Georgia, Rwanda was represented by 10 players – five in Open Section and five in Women’s Section. Two teenage girls earned titles; the Woman FIDE Master (WFM) and Woman Candidate Master (WCM) titles.
Joselyn Uwase, then aged 15, secured the WFM title, making her the highest titled Rwandan in world chess ranks.Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames