After officially opening the Southern African Junior Chess Championship (SAJCC) Grandmaster Wesley So moved to Joubert Park for blitz in the park. There was huge excitement among the chess players who were eagerly awaiting the super grandmaster’s visit to Joubert Park. Many keen chess followers would be very familiar with Wesley’s games but would now get the chance to meet him in person.
The chess contingent arrived at Joubert Park after 1130 hrs and before long, everyone was already getting down to the serious business of playing chess. What else? Wesley played in the park for at least 2 hours and by the time he was done he had accounted for just about everyone.
The grandmaster began by playing on the giant chess board. He played at least 3 games on the giant chess board and there were frantic scenes during the games as players tried to keep up with him in the game. Playing on the giant set is quite demanding physically. One makes a move and has to walk to the clock to press it.
After the games on the giant chess set, the focus now moved to the table where the Grandmaster would be based for the rest of his session at Joubert Park. He started off by taking on the young players who started off with some promise but before long the Grandmaster had started his winning streak.
Wesley was playing with time odds of his one minute against three minutes for the other player. If the players thought that Wesley was going to lose a game at Joubert Park they were in for a big surprise. Wesley did not lose a single game. Not only that but he was winning games quite easily and not really being pressed or put under much pressure in this games. It was starting to look more and more like it would be a complete whitewash in all the games.
Wesley had a smile at various points of his games. He seemed very relaxed and having a good time taking on the chess talent in the park.
Despite these odds he did not lose a single game in the park. Only one player was able to hold him to a draw. That was Bruce Tendai Mubayiwa, the spokeperson for the Southern African Junior Chess Champion. However, the game was not without some controversy. Bruce made an illegal towards the end of the game. The grandmaster did not claim an illegal move even though he clearly saw it as shown in the video of the game.
After the games, several pictures were taken. Everyone wanted a photo with the grandmaster and he was more than willing. It was unforgettable afternoon where many players got to fulfill a lifetime dream of playing a super grandmaster right in the heart of Johannesburg at Joubert Park.
On a warm Sunday morning many chess players in Johannesburg descended upon Joubert Park. It has become a kind of tradition that when a Grandmaster visits the Southern African Junior Chess Championships better known as the SAJCC, he also makes time to visit the park. Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was at Joubert Park earlier in the year and this time it was Wesley So’s turn.
The grandmaster beat everyone else quite easily including chess players much stronger than me. I was watching all the games so had a good chance to see what was going on. Wesley spent very little time in the opening in his games and by the time he got to the middlegame in many games, many players were already facing serious problems.
Grandmaster Wesley So is one of my favourite players and I follow his games quite closely. I am not sure at what point I actually decided to play. Perhaps it was when I realised that there was little chance of anyone else doing it as Wesley had just about played everyone.
The grandmaster was beating people left right and centre. No one was coming close to beating him. No matter how noisy the trash talking was, the result was always the same in the end, a win for the GM.
I saw all this from the sidelines and asked if I could play with the humble request”Can I play this man”? Fortunately I was allowed to get into the ring, or at the table is more like it.
It had been agreed that the Grandmaster would have his last game at 1315 hrs. I wanted to have an opportunity to play the GM. Why not? It seemed that everyone else had been given an opportunity but no one could even match him. Some players had even gone twice with no change in the outcome.
Asking to play was an unusual request because I had been filming the event for our Facebook page. During the other games some of the players were doing some serious trash talking but for me it was very different. I was quiet but I am so sure that no one really gave me any chances in the game.
When I got down to play I immediately got into zen mode, I shut out everything else in my mind.
There was no sound in my mind. I did not think of anything else but the game before me. I had no visual except the chess pieces. I am pretty certain that no one gave me any chance at all in my game against Wesley. I thought I might have some chances if I had the white pieces and it was indeed my fortune to have white pieces.
My plan for the game was quite simple, to get a decent position in the opening.I did not want the position to be too familiar to the Grandmaster because that would be just too easy for him. I thought I would go for something a bit on the sidelines. Wesley is well known for his opening preparation and very difficult to surprise at all. Because the GM had just one minute to my three minutes, I figured that if I played reasonably well and play quite fast, I should be fine. It was a simple plan.
As the game proceeded I relaxed a bit and could hear some of the comments being made by the spectators but I really paid no attention at all.
How would I fair in my game because the Grandmaster was demolishing everyone else. I thought that if I play a sideline I would have better chances that playing well known lines. But the opening I played was not really a sideline I think. Wesley played quickly and emerged from the opening with a better position but I didn’t really worry about that.
My biggest concern was being active. I good piece play in the centre and was slightly ahead in development. However, if I wasted any time Wesley was going to eliminate any edge I might have had. I moved quite quickly and decisively in the game.
I had a really crazy idea that I would have good chances against Wesley So. It was very crazy because I am not even titled in chess. I went into the zone from the first move and I completely believed.
From the first move, there was no distraction whatsoever. I did not think I was playing a super grandmaster. I forgot I was playing someone really strong. I was just thinking of the chess game and position.
When Grandmaster Wesley So pressed the clock and my time started moving, I did not move immediately. I paused for at least 2 seconds. What was I waiting for? I was deciding on the opening I would play in our game.
On my sixth move, I clumsily moved my bishop and dropped some pieces. Where the nerves getting to me? No I was just clumsy. I had no nerves.
Many times I play blitz I look at the clock constantly. In this game I did very little of that. I focussed very much on the moves. I was not thinking about winning on time because I have seen just how good these players are. You have to get the work done on the board.
After the game some players felt I should play Wesley So again. I thought about this briefly and decided I was done with playing chess for the day. At least now I can say the only time I ever played a super grandmaster it was a draw. In fact at this point I am thinking about retiring altogether from blitz completely, just so that I will always remember my last game as probably the peak of my blitz play. Who knows if I will be able to stick to this because as many will readily admit, blitz chess is very addictive. For now I will just enjoy what will probably the peak achievement in my chess. I don’t see myself ever beating this.
Wesley jokingly said I had ruined his record at Joubert Park because he had beaten everyone else. He said it with a smile, in his typically laid back style. It has been such a great privilege and honour having the grandmaster and getting to know him a bit as a person.
The illegal move
PS – In this game an illegal move was made on Move 56. In terms of the rules Black should have claimed an illegal move. If a player does not make a claim the position stands. The position
However, knowing Grandmaster Wesley So, I think he just let me have the draw to be honest. That is the kind of gentleman he is. It’s a fly in the ointment for me because this illegal kind of spoilt the game but I think it’s still my best game.
Invitation to the opening of the Southern African Junior Chess Championship (SAJCC)
You are hereby invited to the Official Opening of the Southern African Junior Chess Championship (SAJCC). The SAJCC runs from 16 to 20 December. A total of 2200 players will participate in the team event with 300 coaches and managers that will support them. 30 arbiters will oversee the running of the event. 24 Regions affiliated to CHESS South Africa across the country will be sending their players.
The SAJCC is the largest tournament in South Africa and one of the biggest chess tournaments on the whole continent. Chess players taking part in the event will be from Under 8 right up to Under 20 according to Hendrik du Toit the tournament director.
Super chess grandmaster and one of the top chess players in the world, Grandmaster Wesley So of the United States will officially open the Southern African Junior Chess Championship on the 16th of December. As part of a continuing drive to raise the profile of the game of chess in South Africa, Grandmaster Wesley So will also play a simultaneous chess exhibition and also host a masterclass on chess. On 18 December the American grandmaster will play in one of the largest ever simultaneous chess exhibition to be held in South Africa. He will face 115 chess players at the same time in what will also be a historic event in Africa. It will be the largest ever simultaneous chess exhibition ever to held in South Africa and probably on the continent as well.
Venue: Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre Boksburg
Opening Ceremony of the SAJCC is 16 December at 09H00 at Birchwood
The champion, Michael James (Credit – Facebook profile pic)
Michael James from Cape Town, using the handle MANDOTA won the 2 hour blitz event on Thursday evening on the 12 of April 2018. It was a fantastic tournament with at least 70 players. In second place was Lindokuhle Xulu (supereu) based in Durban followed by Keith Khumalo (Gupta_Approach).
At 2 hours the event was very tough and it proved to be a brutal affair. By the time the dust had settled there was only one winner and that was none other than Michael James who is already known in the chess circles for his very impressive blitz.
Players are already enquiring about when the next SA Online Chess event will be held. We keenly await details of the next event from Head of SA Online chess – Mfundo Masiya who did a great job in organising the event. There is an SA Online Chess group on Whatsapp where details of these events are shared. This website will also be used to share details of any online chess events coming up in South Africa.
A few stats on the winner in the event.
His performance rating was an impressive 2274 and he played 27 games winning 78 of them and his opponents in the event had an average rating of 2002. That is not too shabby at all. Let us see how how number 2 and number 3 faired in the same event.
How does this compare with the stats for the whole event in general?
The average rating of players in the event was 1808. 500 games were played in the event and the total number of moves was 35, 213. White won 47% while Black won 49% which is quite surprising as you would expect white to win more games than black. Just 4% of the games were draws and the berserk rate was 15%.
Here are a few games from the winner in the event:
In the following game Michael was clearly lost but won resulting in a very upset Themba Nene (shipping) who simply could not understand how a player without mating material was given the win. This game was the subject of a long debate as chess players weighed in on the matter.