Malawi’s highest-rated chess gladiator Joseph Mwale on Sunday won the Mdina Open Individual Chess Championship in Blantyre to break foreign players’ stranglehold on the prestigious trophy.
Since the competition was opened to foreigners in 2016, Malawian players had been playing second fiddle to Zambians. International Master (IM) Chitumbo Mwali, who did not come for title defence, and Godwin Phiri respectively took the ultimate glory in the two previous editions.
But this time around, Mwale, buoyed by his triumph in the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA)-sponsored Lisiti Langa Tournament the previous week, did not feel intimidated as Zambians Dennis Mwape and Douglas Mwale along with Mozambicans Wilton Calicoa and Izdine Gafar tried to stand in his way to the K250 000 winner’s prize in the 18-contestant open A category.
The South Africa-based player was unbeaten in the three-day nine-round tournament where he managed an incredible score of 8.5 points, one and a half points ahead of his runner-up Calicoa and three in front of third-placed Candidate Master (CM) Chiletso Chipanga, the current Africa Amateur Chess champion.
“It was painful to see foreigners dominating a tournament in my homeland and I am happy to have ended their reign,” said the 24-year-old, who settled for third and second positions in 2016 and 2014, respectively.
The 47-player open B category saw Stanley Mpinganjira winning the title and K80 000 first prize with 8.5 points. Kaguta Stanley Kafere and John Mkumba finished second and third on eight points and seven points, in that order.
Mozambican Sheila Sitoi grabbed the ladies crown and K150 000 first prize with 7.5 points while Zambian Constance Mbatha was the runner-up. She tied on 6.5 points with Malawi’s face saver Desiderata Nkhoma, who finished third after being separated by a Buchholz tie-breaking system. Last year’s winner Phyllis Mwilolo was not available for title defence.
Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) president Kezzie Msukwa, who was accompanied by Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) board member Kanjedza Kamwendo, said he was pleased that Malawian chess players have upped their game against the international heavyweights.
Jeka Chipofya, representative of the annual competition’s sponsor—South Africa-based engineer Tiwone Mdina, said they are happy with the conduct of players in the competition.