Chess has a rich history in South Africa, with the first South African Chess Championship held in 1892. Finally, we have our first grandmaster – the highest title a player can achieve in the game.
Cape Town has had a good year of chess status thus far. It’s enjoyed a resurgence as a good chess-playing province in the overall South African standings and it’s had the young 11-year-old Daniel Barrish beat Garry Kasparov, who’s pretty much the benchmark in chess achievements.
Now, Kenny Solomon, 32, and a father who grew up in Mitchells Plain, has achieved the highest title a player can receive for playing the game – the title of grandmaster.
Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Ivan Meyer said:
We await with great excitement for the confirmation of his new status … making him only the second chess player from sub-Saharan Africa and only the eighth in Africa to ever achieve this.
His anointment with the title came at the weekend after he and four other South Africans had been competing at the 2012 World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul for the previous two weeks.
In order for Kenny to have become a grandmaster, he needed to consistently achieve a certain “rating”. Chess rating systems are not easy to explain, but the general premise is that players’ ratings go up if they perform better than expected and down if they perform worse than expected, and that a higher rating indicates a stronger player.
The Cape Times couldn’t reach Solomon because he was flying from Turkey to Italy, but Anant Dole, who Kenny taught chess to for five years, said his rating had been around 2 600 (to become a grandmaster, 2 500 is the target) over nine rounds at the Olympiad, as well as at three other previous tournaments, and in general of late.
On his way to earning the title at the tournament Kenny had beaten three grandmasters, and also drawn against one.
The best rating in the world is 2 880. Kenny has been working very hard for the grandmaster title – even while he trained me he was preparing himself. He deserves it. Dole who lives in Constantia said Solomon moved to Italy last year to hone his skills. Playing top-class chess in South Africa is very difficult because there are few top-class players. Kenny was number one here, but for him it was not enough.
Kenny started playing chess at the age of 13, and you can read more about his background on his blog, HERE.
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