SOUTH AFRICA-BASED Zimbabwean chess international master Rodwell Makoto has backed local players to do well at this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Chess Open set to run from December 31 through to January 4 at the Holiday Inn in the capital.
The former Prince Edward High School student will lead the Zimbabwe charge at the high profile tournament which has already attracted the region’s top chess players.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport, Makoto said he was confident local player would do well at the tournament, having struggled to stamp their authority against the Zambians in recent years.
“It’s a nice tournament to play because most regional players do come and play. I hope us (the local players) will challenge for the top honours and prevail at the end of the tournament,” he said.
“At the past three Zimbabwe Opens we didn’t do that great. We struggled even to finish in the top three as the Zambians players dominated us. At the moment I’m fully prepared both psychologically and physically, but I’m lacking tournament play as my last tournament was at the Chess Olympiad in Norway where i performed decently got 8/11 points. So i need this kind of form at Zimbabwe Open.”
Makoto won the South African Open in 2012, and has featured for Zimbabwe in their Olympiad team. He became an International Master in 2013.
He will lead the Zimbabwe charge, which will be supported by Zimbabwe National Chess Champion, Emerald Mushore, Candidate Master Dion James Moyo and national team players Spencer Masango, Lloyd Moyo, Castro Sibanda and Thabo Elisha.
Zambia will be led by International Master Chitumbo Mwali, whilst his compatriots Kelvin and Stanley Chumfwa, Godwin Phiri, Andrew Kayonde and a few others are also expected to challenge for top honours.
Kelvin Chumfwa of Zambia is the defending champion for the Zimbabwe Open, having won the event last December.
South Africa will throw into the fray, International Master Johannes Mabusela and he is one of the players to watch for top honours at the event.
Candidates Master Persson Abrantes of Mozambique will also be hoping to prove a point, after narrowly missing an opportunity to beat Grand Master Sergey Kasparov during the Easter Open held at the same venue in April.
This year’s Zimbabwe International Chess Open will feature an International FIDE Rated Prestige A Section where 40 top chess players with international ratings above 2200 will battle it out for top honours.
The participants who are drawn from the hosts Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi will take part in the tournament which has a $5 000 cash prize fund.
The winner of first place will take home $2 000.