The rise of Grandmaster Kenny Solomon
Chess South Africa handed over Protea colours to Kenny Solomon, South Africa’s very first chess Grandmaster, at a gala event on 23 February 2015 in Cape Town. This is a significant achievement. Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain, and Solomon is one of only 1 300 active Grandmasters in the world.
Twenty-two years ago, Solomon dreamed of becoming a chess Grandmaster. Inspired by his elder brother Maxwell’s qualification for the Chess Olympiad in Manila in 1992, he borrowed a chess book and was soon taken under his brother’s tutelage. Within two years, Solomon was the South African under-16 champion.
Solomon won the African Individual Chess Championship in Namibia in December 2014 and became a Grandmaster, building on his previous excellent performances.
Solomon’s success has motivated many youngsters to play, especially those from his hometown Mitchell’s Plain, associated by many people with poverty, drugs and gangsterism. Although he currently lives in Italy and competes on the European circuit, Solomon often comes home to give back to the community and to share his knowledge.
“I would like to help to develop the chess scene in South Africa in some way, perhaps by becoming involved in a training centre,” said Solomon. “There are many chess players in South Africa and the country has its own chess culture. However, most tournaments are not FIDE-rated. In junior tournaments, the emphasis is mainly on qualification for international junior events. South Africa needs more FIDE-rated events.”
Solomon spoke highly of his sponsor Andre Baard. Baard was the head of South African Bunkering and Trading (SABT) in 2009 when the company first gave him the support he needed to become a top player. “Thank you for sticking with me and sharing my vision. Your belief and support, through good and bad times, was a very important factor in my journey to the Grandmaster title.”
”Kenny is an inspiration to all in South Africa and we believe that this title will make players in South Africa and Africa, realize that it is possible to dream,” said Advocate Lyndon Bouah, Chief Director of Sport.
“Chess plays an important role in our children’s lives as we prepare our next generation for the future,” said acting Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Minister Anton Bredell. “I think you (Solomon) will bring a lot of hope to our youth. Thank you for your contribution and congratulations on your prestigious award.”
Inspirational stories such as these show what is possible. The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) continues its quest to unearth hidden talent and to celebrate the victories of our sports stars so that we can achieve our goals better together.
Grandmaster Kenny Solomon, we salute you!