The FIDE (World Chess Federation) rated 2017 Ultimate Blitz Challenge organised by Terrian Chess Academy and held at the BoBo’s Foods in South C on Sunday 16th July was expected to be a dogfight and it lived up to its billing, as it featured the country’s crème de la crème in chess!
Making their arrival minutes within each other in that order were the former National Blitz Champion Githinji Hinga, the 2017 Ultimate Challenge Champion Mehul Gohil and the reigning National Champion Candidate Master (CM) Kenneth Omolo. There were some anxious moments as FIDE Master (FM) Martin Gateri failed to arrive at the appointed time, and the organisers, players and spectators alike, made frantic efforts to reach him on phone but to no avail.
Moments later, he however swerved his imposing frame round the last bend heading to the main entrance, and from the corner of my eye, he looked like an athlete on the final stretch sprinting towards the tape to claim the ultimate prize! And upon his arrival in the playing area, all present sighed with relief and he was welcomed with enthusiasm, albeit veiled with trepidation from the players, not knowing how armed he was for the impending crossfire on the board.
Gateri was a late replacement for the reigning National Blitz Champion Joseph Methu who pulled out citing pressure from his academic pursuit, and Omolo replaced Ben Nguku who had to travel out of the country on official duty.
Motochess Ventures, our live broadcast partner were represented by their CEO International Arbiter (IA) Paras Gudka who had done a commendable job in ensuring that all goes well. Present too was FIDE Arbiter (FA) Stephen Ouma, who got the match underway within no time. The atmosphere was electrifying and the internet and mobile phone devices were every chess aficionado’s best companion at such a time as this, as it was being relayed on the Follow Chess App as well as the Motochess Ventures and Terrian Chess Academy websites.
After 3 rounds of the scheduled 12 in which each player faced off with each other 4 times, the intermittent power outages curtailed the otherwise seamless live transmission of the games. An executive decision was made in consultation with the players to proceed without the broadcast, given that the power situation was not showing signs of improving, and indeed it did not for the duration of the match. We convey our sincere apologies to the fans for the disappointment.
Back on the 2 boards setup, the players were treating the gathered fans to an entertaining match with breathtaking moves, not to mention their telling body language. Of course obvious blunders were made in equal measure to missed opportunities, as expected in rapid chess. Here, each player had 3 minutes and an additional 2 seconds per move from move 1 to finish the game, so no much luxury was accorded to proper planning in coming up with precise and winning combinations.
Mehul took off the blocks like a man possessed by chess demons, as he held a comfortable lead at the half way mark. Hot on his heels was the duo of Omolo and Githinji, as the pulled-out-of-retirement Gateri struggled to come to grips with over the board chess (he has been hibernating in cyberspace plying his trade on chess.com!)
It was interesting to see the players engaging in casual conversation, as if to demystify the magnitude of the moment on their mental acuity, coupled with the emotional drain experienced on the battlefield. This was a tough event.
As round 7 went underway, Omolo was steadily adjusting to managing his time well, an aspect that had cost him dearly in some games in spite having favorable positions. On the other hand, with his win over Mehul with the black pieces, Gateri was slowly but surely morphing into a suicide bomber, whereas Githinji was having a mixed run by losing to Omolo having lost to Mehul in round 6.
At the end, it was Mehul who was crowned the 2017 Ultimate Blitz Champion having amassed 9 points out of a possible 12, and took home KES 5,000. On his way to victory he beat Omolo 4 – 0, Githinji 3 – 1 and only managed a 2 – 2 draw against Gateri. In second place was Omolo on 5.5 points and pocketed KES 2,000 having defeated Githinji and Gateri 3 – 1 and 2.5 -1.5 respectively.
Githinji came in third with 5 points by beating Gateri 3 -1 having lost with the same scoreline to Mehul and Omolo. He was rewarded with KES 1,000 for his efforts from the total prize fund of KES 8,000 raised by the players with each having contributed KES 2,000.
On the sideline of the prize-giving ceremony, Gateri challenged Mehul to a 10-game blitz match, which was gladly accepted, with each player poised to stake KES 10,000. Details shall be communicated once all contractual obligations have been met, to the satisfaction of the appointed organiser, Terrian Chess Academy.
On the other hand, Omolo informed me that his 4-0 humiliation by Mehul was unacceptable and profusely apologized to his fans for the embarrassment caused. Githinji was obviously disappointed with his performance, and promised to work on areas he had identified as his Achilles heel.