AS a means of empowering and uplifting budding talent, Port Elizabeth-based draughts champion Melikhaya Nonyukela will host a draught tournament this weekend. The tournament will commence in Uitenhage on Saturday and conclude in the Zwide Stadium hall on Sunday.Draughts or checkers is a strategy board game for two players, which involves diagonal moves of uniform game pieces and mandatory captures by jumping over your opponent’s pieces.Nonyukela, who was introduced to the game by his uncle and grandfather during his formative years in the small town of Peddie, said his love for the game began at the early age of eight. “At the time I did not take the game seriously as I was very young and just played for the fun of it. It was only when I moved to Port Elizabeth and introduced to great players like Xolisani Pram and Ray Rubu that my love for the game really developed,” he said.Last year the 43-year-old was crowned as the Eastern Cape champion at the Eastern Cape Draughts Association Trials tournament in King William’s Town. The tournament featured teams from East London, King William’s Town, Grahamstown, Mthatha and various other cities and towns around the province.He was also recently (July 21 to August 7) selected to represent South Africa at the World International Draughts competition held in the United States, where he obtained third place and received a bronze medal. Nonyukela describes his experience abroad as transformative. “It was a great experience getting to play against the top players from other countries. I enjoyed every moment and learnt so much. I did, however, have a slow start due to the fact that I had a problem with recording and using the clock which was new for me because we don’t use it in South Africa.”The draught enthusiast added that he desires to share all that he has learnt during his time away in the States with other players. “I want South Africans to learn what I have learnt abroad. The use of clocks and records will make things easier for them when they get a chance to play in world qualifiers.”He noted that finance is a huge challenge as the sport needs funding in order to work.“Sponsorship is really needed as the sport is slowly but surely becoming very popular. With the little that I have I managed to buy trophies, medals and recording papers for the tournament.” He said they are also expecting players from Cape Town and East London to participate in the games.