Mdina Malawi Open Chess Championship, which starts this Friday, June 15 at College of Medicine in Blantyre has atttacted 12 foreign players from Mozambique (4), Zambia (6) and Zimbabwe (2) while Malawi will feature 70.
The championship, in its third year as an international Open, will be played in 9 rounds in all sections with a rate of three games a day.
According to Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) publicity secretary Makhosi Nyirenda, it will be played in three sections -- section A is of players of rating of 1800 and above and Malawi's highest rated player is Candidate Master (CM) Joseph Mwale with a rating of 2178 is the highest rated player in this section followed by his compatriot CM Chiletso Chipanga at 2162.
Zambian Timothy Kabwe is third at 2126 and other top players include Fide Master (FM) Gerald Mphungu, Petros Mfune, George Mwale, Joseph Nyambalo, Alfred Chimthere, Mozambician Ignacio Caricoa and Zimbabwean Fortune Gandawa.
Section B is for players of rating 1800 and below which has attracted students from various Colleges like MUST, Poly, Chanco, KCN as well as veterans such as Gershom Chima and Stanley Kafere. It also has primary school students such as 2017/18 Young Sportsperson of the Year Yebo Sanga.
"It's quite an interesting section where there will be a crash of generations," Makhosi said.
The ladies section has some top players such as Ellen Mpinganjira, Woman Fide Master (WFM) Linda Jambo, Desiderata Nkhoma, Tupokiwe Msukwa, veteran former ladies champion Celiana Sanga Nkata, Zimbabwean Talidyne Chaparadza, Mozambicans Sheilla Sitoi, Nuzela Fanela and girl pupil Daisy Huwa of Alipo Private School.
As a warm up, CM Joseph Mwale won the MRA sponsored Lisiti Langa Chess tournament in Lilongwe with 6.5 points out of 7 while CM Alfred Chimthere was runner up with 5.5 points while FM Gerald Mphungu and Razoblade Petros Mfune tied on 4.5 points to finish on position 3 and 4 respectively.
Ellen Mpinganjira won the ladies category with 6.5 points, followed by WFM Linda Jambo also with 6.5 points and Daisy Nkhoma was third with 5.5 points.
All eye will be on national and African Amateurs chess champion Chiletso Chipanga to see if he shall emulate his recent achievement at the Africa and World Amateurs.
He was drowned African Amateurs champion in Zambia in February and he qualified for World Amateurs that were held in Cagliari, Italy where he finished an impressive 6th position out of 49 participants.
Out of nine rounds played at the World Amateurs, Chipanga won six and lost three to garner six points, just one point behind eventual winner, Singh Arvider Preet of India, who had 7 points tieing with Galavato Miguel Angel of Colombia, who came second.
But his form dipped on his rerurn in which local players managed to outwit the Candidate Master. He came third in the day-long Masterplate Chess tournament that took place at Country Club Limbe in Blantyre and in the following tournament he came third in the Sempha Investment tournament that took place at Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe in which he scored 5.5 points from a possible seven.
In an earlier interview, Chipanga vowed to represent Malawi well at this 9th edition of the Mdina Malawi Open that was launched in 2010 as a local tournament before turning international in 2016. Ever since no player defended the title and none won it twice.
"It seems every player is working hard to stop me in my tracks and that's a welcome development because it keeps us on our toes," Chipanga said. "It means we will for sure represent Malawi well at the Mdina Open."
First local champion was Kajani Kaunda, Edgar Khan did it in 2011, Candidate Master (CM) Chiletso Chipanga in 2012, Fide Master Gerald Mphungu in 2013, Peter Jailosi in 2014 and (CM) Petros Mfune as the last Malawian in 2015.
When it turned international, Zambia CM Godwin Phiri won it and the feat was achieved by another Zambian, International Master Chitumbo Mwali. Ever since, 10 Zambians have participated.
Makhosi said all systems are set for the Mdina Malawi Open, which is trending well on africachessmedia.com where tournament sponsor Tiwone Mdina was awarded with the honour of the 11th Wonder of African Chess for being the first African sponsor to flight a chess billboard in an African city advertising the Malawi Open.
Under the theme "Amazing African Chess Achievements", africachessmedia.com reports: "Tiwone Mdina and Mdina Engineering Company went down in history to be the first African chess sponsor to flight a chess billboard in an African city for close to six months.
"With the words 'Mdina Engineerinng and Mdina Chess, Les Meilleurs... a gift to Malawi's Chess' easily readable on the imposing billboard, the artwork is being rotated in different strategic places in Blantyre, the commercial city of Malawi in readiness for the 2018 Mdina Malawi Open."
Mdina is based in South Africa where his firm is quite established in which among other things, trades in road construction.
Also recognised is another Malawian, Joseph Mwale, who is the 8th Wonder for being the youngest ever chess champion of an African country in 2007 at the age of 13.
According to africachessmedia.com, the other player closest to breaking this record was Namibian champion Dante Beukes, who became Namibian champion at age 14).
"Popularly known as 'The Fear', Mwale now lives and works as a chess coach in Durban, South Africa from where he also travels to various tournaments, and has won numerous events to his credit," cites the website.
The first wonder is Grandmaster (GM) Amin Baseem from Egypt, the first African to cross the 2700 rating barrier in 2017. The second is another Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly, Zimbabwean Robert Gwaze, Olympian Board 1 Gold Medalist is third; Woman Grandmaster Mona Khaled from Egypt 4th; Zambian GM Amon Simutowe 5th.