An historic event, the 19th MSO Oware Olympiad Championship was hosted online on the PlayOK platform. It featured 71 participants out of 104 who registered to participate, hailing from 23 countries. Registration began at 19:15 UK time GMT+1. Unfortunately due to unfamiliarity, many players including two of the favourites from Benin and Ghana could not participate, ending up as observers.
This Championship also for the first time in history featured live commentary delivered by Chris Fung (MSO) and Seth Bonti-Asamoah (OWS) and broadcast on Youtube, which can be viewed via this link:
The competition started at 19:30 UK time GMT+1 prompt, those that could not log in to the tournament room or couldn't change their status from observer to player were subsequently left out, to the disappointment of all involved. The commentary added an extra welcome dynamic to affairs, in covering this fast and furious competition. Each player had 7min + 2sec increments, so players had to be quick with their moves.
With the favourites out of the runnings, there was no doubt who the new favourites were. What was to be decided is which one between them would be declared the champion. However we still held out for upsets and close calls and we were not disappointed. Being a fully automated tournament the switch between rounds was almost instantaneous, making management of the championship very efficient, fast and furious.
With the combination of the numbers, 35 tables in all with one bye, commentary and interest generated before hand, it was an exciting atmosphere to behold. Full of upsets, jostling for positions and intrigue from the two favourites Serik Aktayev and Yernur Mereshev both from Kazakhstan.
Hudson Kyagaba a MSO veteran from 2003, 3WNG, Nomad Universe - Ethno Festival and Omweso Grandmaster, the most improved player came close to defeating the new favourites Yernur Mereshev & Serik Aktayev both from Kazakhstan in nail biting matches. In between those two matches he defeated Anarbek Dzhamakeev Kyrgyzstan Toguz Korgool Grandmaster in a match where Anarbek conceded defeat.
The new players on the scene from PlayOK did not disappoint Ryszard Eggink representing Poland took a few scalps, beating veterans of Oware championships. However he missed out by one position of a medal spot to place fourth.
In the end the new favourites from Kazakhstan, let fate decide the gold and silver position between them, by accepting what could be interpreted as a dubious draw after two moves of their match, a disappointment to all watching. Serik Aktayev placed 2nd and Yernur Mereshev came first, claiming the title MSO Oware Olympiad Champion 2020.
In the excitement of what was taking place, focusing on the drama unfolding between Serik, Hudson and Yernur we had not noticed the three times MSO Oware Olympiad Champion Dario de Toffoli rising up the ranks to take the bronze medal position. It came as an utter surprise since aliases are used on PlayOK, and it was only after some investigation the next day that his identity was revealed.
This was a mixed championship with no distinction between players. All genders, and juniors participated, with separate medals being awarded to juniors. As usual the South Korean contingent the largest with 24 players continued their dominance of the junior category which they have done for the past five years by winning all three medals. The junior medallist also featured quite favourably in the overall rankings by coming in 12th Bonwha Go, 14th Jihee Back and 15th Junseo Jang.
The female players were also represented, with at least 15 known players participating. The highest ranked female player was Ainur Zhakapbayeva representing Kazakhstan. Glenda Trew the 2nd positioned female, representing Jamaica and a two times former MSO Oware Olympiad Champion trailed her in 13th position.
This championship, due to present day circumstances being online turned out to be the most well competed in the championship's history, with 23 countries represented. That number would have been at least 30 if all the players who wanted to participate and showed up in the tournament room could do so. It bodes well for online Oware playing and tournaments.
All responsible are to be commended for making this event possible: PlayOK or enabling the championship to be hosted on their platform by reintroducing Oware after a long absence. MSO for continuously scheduling Oware in the Olympiad, The Oware Society for managing & promoting the event, Chris Fung (MSO) and Seth Bonti-Asamoah (OWS) for providing the commentary and last but not least Paul Smith five times Oware Olympiad & Decamathalon Champion for initiating the process.