Speaking Notes for the Keynote Address to the DSK Chess Open | Western Cape Government

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Speaking Notes for the Keynote Address to the DSK Chess Open

25 July 2012

Master of Ceremonies,
Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Herrmann,
Our host, the principal of Deutsch Internationale Schule Kapstadt, Mr Battenberg,
The Chairman of the Management Board, Mr Wido Schnabel,
Representative of the Kasparov Foundation, Mr Graham Jurgensen,
Western Province Chess Federation Chairmen, International Master David Gluckman as well as Grandmaster Markus Stangl from Germany and Nida Siddiqui who is the top female chess player in Pakistan,
Parents, supporters and the chess players gathered here today,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for the honour of inviting me to speak at the opening of the DSK Chess Open 2012. When I took the decision early this year to throw my weight behind a chess revolution, I did not in my wildest dreams imagine the unbelievably positive response that I have thus far received from the chess playing community. Thank you so much.

It is also appropriate that this tournament takes place at a school which is firmly associated with excellence. The Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt has a history spanning 28 years, but it is also clearly focused on the future. The DSK is guided by the principles of quality, values and diversity. We in the Western Cape value the contribution of the DSK and congratulate the principal, Mr Batten, and the chairperson of his management board for contributing so effectively to the development of our youth and for understanding and appreciating the value of chess as a platform to shape the characters and potential of those whom this school educates. I am also glad to learn that this tournament carries the seal of the Gary Kasparov Foundation which is awarded to only to the best of tournaments in the Western Cape and South Africa. Clearly this reflects the quality of the leadership present at the DSK.

In 2011 I had the opportunity to visit the Konigplatz in Munchen where I was introduced to the concept, Spielen in Der Stad. This involved closing down the street and allowing parents and children to have fun in the city. My dream is to see a Western Cape meets Bavaria chess event on the streets of our city.

Earlier this year I had the honour of having dinner with Gary Kasparov, the chess grandmaster who in 1985 at the age of only 22 shot to international fame as the youngest ever world chess champion. When recently asked about the impact that chess has on education and youth development, he stated:

"It's about the sense of responsibility: they know that it's entirely up to them to make all the difference, and learn how to operate within a legal framework, because the rules are there and you cannot play the game unless you follow the rules."

Mr Kasparov's words are in line with the provincial government's view that progress is only sustainable if one takes personal responsibility for making a move on the chessboard of opportunity. Progress comes from embracing the opportunity and entering the game.

The former world champion Alexander Alekhine stated:

"I have shaped my character by means of chess. Chess, in the first place, teaches you to be objective. In chess you can become a grandmaster only if you get to know your own lapses and defects, just as in life."

Following Kasparov's visit, I announced that I would initiate a "chess revolution" in the Western Cape as there is enough evidence to suggest that through chess learners can:

  • Improve their maths and science abilities.
  • Increase their self-discipline.
  • Learn to think before making a move in life as in chess; learn that life is about choices; learn that there are consequences for every choice you make.

I indicated then that the chess revolution would entail:

  • Liaising with Western Province Chess Federation to further advertise and market chess as a school sport.
  • Supporting WP Chess to arrange street chess games in local communities, like our street soccer programme does. I recently went to the Rocklands Library where I handed over a huge outdoor board and 24 smaller chess sets. I am hoping that we can launch street chess in Mitchell's Plain very soon.
  • Supporting chess playing at our cultural and tourism sites. I note with appreciation that the latest world championship between grandmasters Gelfand and Anand was played in the world famous State Tretyakov Gallery.
  • Encouraging public libraries across the province to promote chess reading material and make chess sets available at all library facilities.
  • Encouraging the establishment of open air chess boards at public facilities.
  • Using young chess achievers as role models. I note with pride that the two of the highest rated players in South Africa, Henry Steel and Kenny Solomon, hail from Stellenbosch and Mitchell's Plain respectively.
  • Introducing an annual chess player of the year at our Sport Awards Ceremony.
  • Working closely with the chess federation and Moves for Life to increase donor funding for chess.
  • Popularising the best online chess websites.

Chess has a long history in the province. We take particular pride in the fact that the oldest chess club in the country - Cape Town Chess Club - was founded on 19 March 1885.

As government, we believe that clubs are the building blocks of the community and must be promoted and supported. We will support them financially with equipment, attire and transport to league matches in rural areas. Clubs are also important sites to actively promote social inclusion. The vision of the department is a socially inclusive, creative and active Western Cape. I believe that chess encapsulates all of these intentions. The diversity I see in the room tonight speaks to the social inclusion which the Western Cape Government is building. The fact that players must be creative in their chess is a given. It is of course debatable whether chess players are active, but my Chief Director Advocate Lyndon Bouah assures me that all chess players are fit and participate regularly in vigorous physical activity!

Tomorrow I will be hosting the Western Cape's final Magnificent Friday Campaign. The campaign is aimed at galvanising support for the SA Olympic Team representing us at the 2012 London Olympics which kicks off tomorrow evening. I encourage you to wear SA colours tomorrow and fly the SA flag in support of our sportsmen and sportswomen.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen and chess players, I am told that the trick is not to know the best move on the chess board, but to find it. Dr Tartakower said the mistakes are always present; all they want is to be made.

I end off with what to me was a profound statement by Manfred Bohm:

"In chess, just like in life, one's greatest opponent is himself/ herself."

I wish all you chess players well. I thank you.