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Chess Tension Mounts As National
Championship Gets To conclusion

The ongoing National Chess Championship reached a high pressure point over the weekend when Defending Champ Bobby Ballah faced his protegee, David Leroy Debblay, in Round 9 on Sunday afternoon for a chance to regain the lead in the cross-table standings.

This fixture on Board 2 was evenly matched by a titanic clash on Board 1 between former Champion Thomas Saah and tournament favorite, Joel Ebiekuta.

Round 9 began on Sunday afternoon with a raft of options for top spot finishing that included up to six players: Joel Ebiekuta, Bobby Ballah, David Leroy Debblay, Harold Evans, Thomas Saah and Kennedy Kengo. The top field was separated by just half point after 8 rounds of classical chess.

At the end of Round 9, Thomas Saah got his revenge against Joel Ebiekuta who dramatically replaced him on the team that went to the 2022 Chess Olympiad during the qualifiers in June this year.

In this decisive game on which was followed closely by many chess fans across the continent and in the Liberian diaspora, former Champion Saah deployed his usual aggressive Sicilian as Black and Joel was insufficiently prepared for the avalanche of attacks that rained down the a, b, c and e files which ended with a ‘loss of exchange’ for the tournament leader Joel.

With 3 pawns a side, a pair of Rooks against a Rook and Knight was easy for the former National Chess Champion of Liberia to convert to a win.

Saah’s win on Board 1 provided an opportunity for the current National Champ to clinch top spot, which happened in an entertaining style.

With the White pieces, Bobby conducted an ‘Opening Clinic’ from his hidden pages against his student, Leroy Debblay, and broke his castle wide open in just 13 moves. The game was over at move 25.

This victory, following a loss for Joel on Board to Thomas Saah, put Bobby on top of the table with two rounds left in the tournament.

For the other contenders going into Round 9, Kennedy Kengo won with the White pieces against Harold Evans on Board 3 (1-0); Former Champion FM Barcon Harmon won with White against Martin “The Specialist” Dunbar on Board 4 (1-0); FM Jacob Jallah lost to 2022 Olympian Arnold Smith on Board 5 (1-0), while Former Champion James Tondo won on forfeit against CM Daniel Kolliemelen (1-0F).

National Champion Bobby Ballah now leads the tournament by half a point with 7.5, followed by Thomas Saah (7pts), Joel Ebiekuta (7pts), Kennedy Kengo (6.5) and David Leroy Debblay (6.5). Bobby will play the theoretically grounded Arnold Smith on Board 1 in Round 10 on Monday, while Thomas Saah plays David Leroy Debblay on Board 2, Kennedy Kengo plays Joel Ebiekuta on Board 3, James Tondo plays FM Barcon Harmon on Board 4 and Harold Evans plays Foday Kondoh on Board 5.

After 9 out of 11 rounds, the 2022 National Classical Individual Chess Championship is still up for grabs. The pressure is high on all six players on top of the table in the Open Section.

In the Women Section, Defending Champion Abigail Karyah is the presumptive winner as she has played through all of her tough fixtures and leads by half a point with two rounds left. Meleh Davis sits in second place followed by Atty. Windor Tarplah and Georgina Sackie.

The 2022 National Chess Championship is organized by the Liberia Chess Federation in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports with support from the University of Liberia and other sponsors. The games are played in the Tubman Auditorium on the Capitol Hill Campus of the University of Liberia.

Round 11 being the final round, will be played today 20, December and will be followed by a Closing Ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday in the same auditorium at 4:00PM.

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