Equity Bank pipped arch-rivals KCB Lions 3-2 in Nairobi to retain the Kenya National Premier Chess League title as the 2018 season came to a close over the weekend.
It was billed as the game of the season and it did not disappoint. While tension and drama on the boards was almost too much for the players to bear, spectators gleefully followed the proceedings on a giant screen outside the playing hall, with animated analysis of their own.
The win saw Equity claim their third title in five years after finishing on 56 points, one ahead of Deadly Bishops, who also claimed a 3-2 win over Black Knights.
Former champions KCB ended the season in third place with 54 points.
Equity team manager Bernard Wanjala, who is also the Chess Kenya Federation president, lauded his charges for a brilliant season.
“I think our consistency and fighting spirit is what won it for us this season. We had to hold our nerves going into the final day of the season and I think the players did excellent,” Wanjala said.
The surprise omission of the highly rated and tactical Ugandan FIDE Master (FM) Haruna Nsubuga for KCB proved to be the talking point. FM Harold Wanyama, Candidate Master (CM) Ben Magana, Joseph Methu, Mehul Gohil and Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Goretti Angolikin (1701) lined up for the Lions.
Equity entrusted their hopes on International Master (IM) Arthur Ssegwanyi, FM Patrick Kawuma, Peter Gilruth, Moses Andiwoh, and Daphne Mwikali. And it was this team that delivered the championship.
On board one, Ugandans Ssegwanyi and Wanyama sized each other up before agreeing to a draw after 35 moves, which was followed by the demolition of the national champion Magana by Kawuma in 33 moves on board two to give Equity a 1.5- 0.5 lead.
Mwikali then obliterated WFM Angolikin on board five.
Bank of Africa won the best corporate title on their debut. They won their last match against Mombasa based Lighthouse Chess Club. A dramatic draw by team Captain Charles Waiyaki sealed the 3-2 win. Stima Club finished second, while Central Bank of Kenya finished third in corporate section.
Technical University of Kenya emerged the best University followed by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
The winners will be feted during the 2018 Kenya National Chess Championship to be held at the Parklands Sports Club from December 12 to 16.