Wednesday, 10 January 2018

SA Junior team championships

The South African junior team championships for 2017/18 were held at the Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg from 3rd to 8th January 2018. Detailed results for all the sections can be found on, for example, here is a link to the results of the under 20 A section. There were more than 250 teams with about 2 500 players taking part in the team event, which was divided into multiple sections in each age group, from under 8 up to under 20. For purposes of this report, I will note the sections and summarise the results of team KZN:

Firstly, our Ilembe district sent 4 teams. They finished 7th in the u10C section, 3rd in the u12C, 5th in the u14C and 4th in the u18C section.

Our King Cetshwayo district sent 6 teams. They won a magnificent 2 golds and a silver! Their golds came in the u10C section and u12D section, with silver in the u16C section. Their other teams were 7th in the u12D, 4th in the u14C and 6th in the u14E section.

The Ethekwini district sent the most teams, which were all competing in the A sections of each age group. They were 2nd in the u8A, 3rd in the u10A, 3rd in the u12A, 5th in the u14A, 3rd in the u16A, 4th in the u18A and 5th in the u20A section. Considering that the results were better in the younger age groups, this bodes well for the future. Perhaps the most disappointing result was the u16A, which won a gold medal last year, and could have won gold again, had all the top players been available.

Lastly, I must mention that Joseph Mwale won the very strong blitz event with a perfect score of 7/7, showcasing once again his talent at blitz.

Photos and videos from the event are available on Facebook.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Know the rules

There was an unbelievable incident at the recent World Blitz Championship, held on 29th and 30th December 2017, which showed that top players and an International Arbiter did not know the FIDE rules of chess! I am referring to the first round game between Carlsen and Inarkiev, where the following incident occurred:

As can be seen in the video, White plays Rxb7+, which was answered by the illegal move Ne3+. Carlsen should have claimed the game immediately, in terms of Blitz rule A.4.2, but instead played Kd3. At which point Inarkiev stopped the clock, claimed that Carlsen made a move in an illegal position, and somehow got the match arbiter to give him the point!!

Soon after this, the Chief Arbiter correctly told Inarkiev that Kd3 was not an illegal move and asked him to continue the game. Black refused, knowing that he had a lost endgame after the Rooks were swapped off, so the CA gave Carlsen the point.

This decision then went on appeal, and the appeals committee ruled in White's favour. You can find an interesting interview with Takis Nikolopoulos and another interview with Malcolm Pein about the incident and the relevant rules. It is worth noting that from 1st January 2018 the FIDE laws for Blitz and Rapid have been changed so that the second illegal move loses the game, but at the time the game was played, the first illegal move in Blitz or Rapid lost the game.

The moral of the story is know the rules! You can download these from the FIDE rules website.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

9th JZ Open

The annual Presidential chess tournament was held at the Sibusisiwe Hall in Mandeni on 22nd December 2017. This was the 9th such event. The hall comfortably accommodated almost 300 players, who pitched up from all over KZN. The A section was open to all players, many of whom entered on the day, which delayed the start of play. Another reason for the delayed start was that we could not access the hall until it had been cleared by the sniffer dogs. The B section was for teams of 10 juniors (5 boys and 5 girls) with the hosts Mandeni being the top seeds. Play started in both sections at about 11 am. We could have started play earlier in the B section, but the conditions were far too noisy, with the DJ blasting non-stop music at full volume.

Each round took about an hour to complete. Most of the games in the A section finished quite quickly, as there were lots of easy points on offer for the top players. Things were different in the B section, where the top teams started meeting each other from the second round. Pairings for round 5 in the A section were ready when we heard the presidential chopper fly over the hall, so this round went ahead as usual. The last few games from round 4 in the B section were still being finished as this happened, so we stopped play in this section, pending the imminent arrival of President Zuma.

Prizewinners with President Zuma, with Mabusela holding the cup
Mandeni were clear winners in the team event, with Ethekwini in 2nd place, and Ugu surprised us with 3rd place. I have published all the details on The open section was still undecided after 5 rounds, as there were 6 players tied with 5 wins each, namely Cyril Danisa, Wanda Khanyile, Johannes Mabusela, Bheki Mgobhozi, Tshediso Mpya and Musa Nyathi.

Whilst the president visited the junior players from the team event and played a few games against them, a round robin blitz play-off was held for the A section. This was won convincingly by the new South African champion, IM Johannes Mabusela, with 4 wins and a draw, so he took home yet another trophy!

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Novotny theme

The last few months I have been playing through games from old issues of the magazine "South African Chessplayer" and also trying to solve the positions from "Test Your Chess" and "Test Your Chess 2". These volumes are all about South African chess, and they were all edited by Leonard Reitstein. You are probably wondering, what is the Novotny theme? I first came across it in puzzle 217 from "Test Your Chess":

Korostenski vs Friedrich, Transvaal League 1978
The solution is given at the bottom of this article. Korostenski is a well known problem composer as well as a former SA champion, so he probably found the winning idea very quickly. According to an article on Wikipedia, "The Novotny theme occurs extremely rarely in actual play." Imagine my surprise to find a previously undiscovered Novotny in the pages of the "South African Chessplayer":

Naylor vs Parkin, Randburg Open 1984, after 36.Rf7
Black has just promoted his passed a-pawn, so he ought to be winning, but is threatened with tricks like 37.Rg7+ Kh8 38.Rxd7 and 39.Rf8#. The game continued with 36... Rxd8 37.Rg7+ Kh8 38.Bxd8 Qf1+? 39.Kh2 Qc1? 40.g5! Nf6? 41.Rxf6 Qa3 42.Bxc7 Qb4 43.Kg3 Be2 44.Rf4 Qa3+ 45.Kg2 and Black lost on time. How can Black escape this fate? The answer is given below.

Solution 1: 1.Bg6! so that White can mate on h7 or g7.

Solution 2: either 36... Nf6!! or 36...Qf1+ 37.Kh2 Nf6!! is a rare Novotny theme, with the Knight en prise to 4 different pieces, but it forces the swap of an attacker and wins on the spot. Some lines are 37.R3xf6 Rxf7 38.Rxf7 Rxd8 or 37.Rxc7 Bf1+ 38.Kg3 Qxe5+ or 37.Bxf6 Rxf7 etc.

Game of the year

After an extended break, my blog returns with an award for game of the year. There is little doubt that this was Nashlen Govindasamy's game against visiting GM Sahaj Grover, played in round 3 of the South African Open, on 15 July 2017. The game was broadcast live and attracted considerable interest, mainly because of some brilliant sacrifices, and the feeling that Nashlen was beating the GM. You can download the game here with brief notes by myself.

Nashlen could not have expected the GM to go pawn grabbing on move 7, which makes the Rook sacrifice (diagram above) on move 15 absolutely brilliant. He must have found 15.Rfb1!! over the board, rather than preparing it at home, as a similar sacrifice has only been played once before in a master game. By move 19 all the engines concur - Black is dead lost! I'm not sure why Nashlen spent so much time on his 19th move (nearly 34 minutes) as he dearly needed that time later in the game. On move 20 he consumed another 23 minutes, leaving him just 11 minutes plus increments to make the time control. All went well until move 27, when White missed two easy wins, then tragically blundered on move 28 with less than a minute left on the clock. This could have been the game of Nashlen's life, but alas it was not to be. It is hard to defeat a GM!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

New tournaments

There were several new events announced in September:

1) The 2017 Ethekwini Chess League started on 3rd September and should finish by the end of October. No fewer than 25 teams entered the league, with defending champions Umhlanga Chess Club being the top seeds. Each team has to have 6 players for each match. The league is happening once a week on Sundays at the Open Air School in Glenwood, and the tournament can be followed on (tnr300689).

2) The uShaka Marine World sponsored a doubles tournament on 16th September. I don't have any photos or results from this event, but here is a copy of their flyer:

3) On 23rd September, the Zululand district is hosting their annual open tournament in Vryheid. It will be a full day of 7 rounds of rapid chess, played at the NRS Primary School in Vryheid. For more information, here is the tournament brochure, which has contact details for the organisers, Nathi Masuku and Eugene Barnard.

4) Ethekwini is holding its Heritage Day Open on 23rd and 24th September. This will be a 60/60 rated Swiss held over 6 rounds, the venue being the Open Air School in Glenwood. For more information, here is the tournament brochure, which has contact details for the organisers, Ayanda Gumede and Mbongeni Sithole.

5) The Ethekwini Youth championships are to be held from 3rd to 5th October, at the Open Air School in Glenwood. This will be a 90/90 rated Swiss held over 7 rounds, for invited players only. Here is a tournament brochure which has more information.

6) An Inter District team championship is planned for the weekend 29th September to 1st October. It will be similar to that held in June 2016 at Coastlands, with teams selected by each of the 11 districts in KZN. The event is being organised by KZN Chess Association, and I will publish team lists and match results on

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ethekwini Youth Squad

The Ethekwini Youth selectors met recently, and have announced the squads for the annual South African Junior Team championships, to be held in January 2018 at Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre near Johannesburg. Here are the squads (names in alphabetical order). All these players are requested to attend a training workshop on Sunday 20th August, from 9 am to 1 pm (at Open Air School).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

SA Schools Winter Games

The South African Schools Championships took place in Durban for the second year in a row. The Winter Games is an event organised annually by the Departments of Sport and Recreation, together with Basic Education. There were over 2 000 participants from all over South Africa, taking part in sports such as soccer, rugby and volleyball, as well as the more intellectual game of chess.

Play commenced at Brettenwood High School on Monday 10th July and finished after 7 rounds of hard fought chess on Thursday 13th July 2017. Here is what the school hall looked like at the start of play on Monday, and when the hall was set up for the prizegiving:

There were no under 13 chess players this time, which reduced the numbers to 252 players. Each province had a team of 28 players, split equally between the under 15 and under 18 age groups, with separate boys and girls teams. Only the top 6 scores were added together to get the team rankings. The top seeded teams in each group were Gauteng and Western Cape. These two teams dominated the field, with Western Cape eventually taking all the team gold medals, and Gauteng all the team silver medals. Here is a photo of the gold medal winning squad from Western Province:

The contest for the bronze medals was extremely close, with Mpumalanga (u15 boys), Eastern Cape (u15 girls), Free State (u18 boys) and KwaZulu-Natal (u18 girls) all taking home medals. Possibly the most under-rated team was that from Mpumalanga, who won more than their share of medals in the rating categories. Team KZN were close to the medals in all age groups and can be pleased with their overall result:

Results were published daily on so I have only given the team rankings below:
under 15 boysunder 15 girlsunder 18 boys, and under 18 boys.

Thanks to Leon de Jager for supplying all the photos, and to all the organising team who helped make this event a success.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Fun in King Cetshwayo

King Cetshwayo district organised a fun tournament over the weekend of 24th/25th June 2017. Many of the children took the opportunity to dress up in chess themed costumes:

Yasthi Naidoo had a Queen hair accessory

Keane Reddy & Paityn Reddy won the best dressed prize
Liam Naidoo, the Rook, with Paityn Reddy

Lisa Griffiths forwarded me the following message from one of the parents, Justin Moodley, who decided to play in his first tournament, together with his kids:

Somebody once said, "The measure of a man is not how  he starts but rather how well he finishes". This is what I have inculcated in the every day living of my kids. Today was just that day, when I came to realise, I was not only going to swallow those words but digest it too. My name is Justin Moodley, husband to a wonderful and inspiring wife, Jean. And not forgetting father to my wonderful, disciplined and hardworking kids, Jamie and Jurina, who are very much involved in chess. When my kids asked me to enter the King Cetshwayo tournament dated for the 24th & 25th June 2017, little did I realise that they were not joking. I won't forget their words which convinced me; "Dad you play reasonably well, if you win or lose it does not matter, just play to have fun". Guess what, I did just that, at first I was a bit nervous as I was the only wild card entry from the Dads category. So what did I learn from every encounter when I participated; At times I felt as though every bit of oxygen was slowly being sapped out of me, BUT somehow a little voice within me kept telling me never to give up. Game after game, in order to succeed, that's what our kids have to endure at the Provincial District level or the National level. I encourage all parents, be it Mums or Dads that can play chess, just join in the game and have fun. You are never too old to do the extraordinary, by sharing in your child's dream. Today for me was one of the greatest moments that will never be forgotten but cherished, NOT only did I participate for the first time in a chess tournament with both my kids, they also coached me whilst faced with their own challenges. Through it all they both succeeded in finishing 2nd in the under 12 & under 14 age category. My message to all kids; in a game of chess you cannot always expect victory but you can always plan for defeat. Best regards, Justin Moodley.

Justin Moodley, seated on the right
The final results were as follows: under 10under 12under 14under 16 and open sections.