Best join local chess fight

2015-07-14 06:00
The South African Open Chess Festival took place in Cape Town last week. Here are (from left) grandmaster Aleksa Strikovic, grandmaster Nigel Short, Adv Lyndon Bouah, grandmaster Abhijit Kunte, South African grandmaster Kenny Solomon and Mark Lewis.

The South African Open Chess Festival took place in Cape Town last week. Here are (from left) grandmaster Aleksa Strikovic, grandmaster Nigel Short, Adv Lyndon Bouah, grandmaster Abhijit Kunte, South African grandmaster Kenny Solomon and Mark Lewis.

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The battle lines were drawn at the Cape Sun Hotel last week as some of the world’s strongest chess players gathered to contest this year’s South African Open Chess Festival.

The event was supported by the Western Cape department of cultural affairs and sport.

Advocate Lyndon Bouah, chief director of sport and recreation, says: “In developing a winning nation it is important to improve international sports successes by supporting events at all levels.

“Achieving an active and winning nation is underpinned by an enabling environment.

“The staging of this event at the Cape Sun is part of our campaign to bring big sport events to the Western Cape.”

South Africa’s first ever grandmaster, Kenny Solomon, marked his return to competition on South African soil, which was also his first tournament on home soil after officially receiving the title of grandmaster earlier this year.

Solomon, originally from Mitchell’s Plain and a previous winner of the tournament, placed fourth in this year with a score of 8.5.

“It was a tough tournament with a lot of strong players. I am happy that we were able to have four grandmasters participating this year,” he says.

“It is important that foreign grandmasters participate in South African chess events – this is how chess can grow in our country.”

The tournament also incorporated the SA schools individual chess championship. The championship saw some of the best junior players in the country come up against each other.

Former national junior team coach Calvin Klaasen believes that young players have an opportunity to make a career of the game if the support shown at the SA open continues to grow.

“It’s important for young players to identify with heroes, to have something to strive for.

“There are limited opportunities for young players in South Africa to progress to a professional level at the moment, but that can change if we are supported correctly. Kenny’s grandmaster title is just step one in South Africa becoming a powerful chess country,” he says.

Solomon, who now lives in Italy, believes that events of this nature need to happen more often if we are to produce more international-grade players.

“Chess events like these help people build connections as we were there competing for over a week, so apart from the playing there is also the post-game analysis and it’s in these sessions where chess players can take the opportunity to learn even more,” he says.

English chess legend grandmaster Nigel Short emerged victorious at the end of the 11-round event. He gained the title based on a tie-break system, after ending on nine points alongside grandmaster Aleksa Strikovic from Serbia and India’s grandmaster Abhijit Kunte.

Short has been playing with the best since he became a grandmaster at age 19. He was regularly placed in the top ten in the world between the late 1980s and late 1990s.

He became the first English player to play for the World Chess Championship title when he played against Garry Kasparov in 1993.

Solomon will next travel to Gauteng along with Short to play in a qualifier for one of the biggest chess tournaments in the world taking place in Las Vegas.

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