SA’s first chess grand master

2015-01-09 15:29

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It’s a long road from Mitchells Plain to the World Chess Championships but that never stopped Kenny Solomon on his quest to become South Africa’s first International Grandmaster. The International Grandmaster title is the highest official title (other than that of world champion) awarded for over-the-board play. Over the last 10 years Africa has seen champions from all over the content join the 1 444 internationally recognised Grandmasters and Solomons’ win has finally put South Africa on the highly competitive global world map.

“I started moving chess pieces at the age of eight or nine years old, but took it up seriously when I was 13 after I saw off my elder brother to the airport as he headed to represent the country at the 30th Chess Olympiad in Manila, Philippines in 1992.” Kenny tells a reporter from the African championships on the morning of his historic win, “I grew up in a rough neighborhood back home, and mostly preferred playing outside with the other boys in the hood, where the real action was so I never really understood what my brother was doing indoors studying chess until an eventful moment. I borrowed a book from him, Karpov's Collected Games by David Levy, and seriously studied it. With guidance from him, I became South Africa's U-16 champion two years later! I haven't looked back since.”

Kenny explains what it takes to actually become an International Grandmaster, “To become a Grandmaster you have to achieve three Grandmaster norms. One grandmaster norm means playing a nine round tournament and facing at least three Grandmasters. Over all one needs to have a performance rating of 2601 after 9 games to secure one Grandmaster norm. There is a difference between performance rating and one’s actual rating. The second requirement of becoming a grandmaster is that one needs to have the actual rating of 2500.”

What’s next for this inspiring leader? “Chess is a beautiful game that impacts positively on the lives of those who play it, I’d like to be part of whatever is necessary to help more South Africans appreciate that.”

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