Liberia: Junior Chess Players Battle for Continental Championships

Some of the chess players showcased their dynasty at the Monrovia City Hall.

More than 20 Junior Chess players are currently battling at the Monrovia City Hall for the coveted title of African Junior Chess Champion in the 2021 edition of this prestigious tournament which is being hosted by the Liberia Chess Federation (LCF) in collaboration with the African Chess Confederation (ACC). 

The 2021 African Junior Chess Championships kicked off on Tuesday, December 29, 2021 and will be concluded on Tuesday, January 4, 2022. This 9-round continental Chess event has two sections — Open Section and the Girls’ Section — with participants from Algeria; Egypt, Botswana, Cameroon, Mauritania, Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone and host country Liberia.

After five rounds prior to the Rest Day on Saturday, Woman International Master (WIM) Lina Nassr of Algeria scored a perfect 5/5 in the Girls Section to top the table followed by her sister, WCM Manel Nassr, while the Algerian FIDE Master (FM) Lamine Brahami led the Open Section only on tie-break, having scored 4 out of 5 possible points.

With an Elo rating of 2212, FM Brahami is the strongest player at the 2021 African Junior Chess Championships. However, he lost to the 14-year-old Mauritanian wonderkid, Mohamed Abderrahim Taleb Mohamed, in Round 3 on Thursday. Taleb’s Round 3 victory over FM Brahami shocked spectators at the Monrovia City Hall and online because the Algerian FM had played the first two rounds almost flawlessly and the rating difference between the two is huge.

Going into Round five, Taleb Mohamed was the clear favorite to win the Open Section because he followed his spectacular Round 3 win with a victory over 10-year-old Egyptian rising star David George Samir. But West Africa struck in Round 5. Eyetonghan Denyefa Callistus of Nigeria beat the high-flying Mauritanian with Black in Round 5 which blew the tournament wide open. 

With four rounds left, the Girls Section will certainly be won by one of the Nassr sisters of Algeria but the Open Section is still being intensely contested. Liberian Junior players have scored at best 2.5/5 before the Rest Day on New Year’s Day. Morlue Kerkula, David Leroy Debblay, Jacobs Mitchell and Wallace Williams are all on 50% performance (2.5 points) heading into Round 6.

Until Sunday night, Round 6 was still being played.

Rounds 7 and 8 is being played on Monday, January 3 and the tournament will end on Tuesday with Round 9 at 10:00 AM, with the Closing Ceremony at 6:00 PM.

The African Junior Chess Championship is an annual chess tournament open to players in Africa who are under 20 years of age. The tournament was first held in 1980, and since its second edition in 1989, has been held annually with the exception of 2010 and 2020.

In accordance with the regulations of the world chess governing body (FIDE), the African Junior Individual Chess Championships are open to all players from federations on the African continent.

Aside from cash prizes and medals, the winners of the open and girls' championships earn the right to participate in the next World Junior Chess Championships. In the open championship, the top three players earn trophies and medals titles, while the first-placed player additionally earns a norm towards the Grandmaster title. In the girls' championship, the top player after tiebreaks earns the Woman International Master title, while the first-placed player additionally earns a norm towards the Woman Grandmaster title.

The 2021 African Junior Chess Championships registered 18 players in the Open Section (9 Liberians) and 10 players in the Girls Section (7 Liberians).