Speaking Notes for the Keynote Opening Address to the South African Open Chess Championship
Madame President Emelia Ellappen, and the executive of Chess South Africa
International Master David Gluckman, and the Western Province Chess Federation executive
Grandmasters Adly, Abergel and Fernandez, various International Masters, women International Masters, Candidate Masters, World Chess Federation (FIDE) Masters
Parents, supporters and the chess players gathered here today, ladies and gentlemen.
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".
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.
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, and learn that life is about choices and that there are consequences for every choice you make.
I indicated then that the chess revolution would entail:
- Liaising with the 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 making 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 two of the highest ranked 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 on-line chess websites.
I am glad to announce that since then, approximately R150 000 has been allocated in this financial year towards the development of chess in the Western Cape, including Braille chess.
Furthermore, 24 chess clubs will soon be part of the Department's sports club development programme.
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 to create 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 that 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!
This year is particularly important from a number of historical perspectives. In 1892, exactly 120 years ago, the first South African National Championship was held in the Metropolitan Hall in Burg Street, Cape Town. Today we celebrate that history.
In June 1992, South Africa was re-admitted to international chess. We are particularly proud of the fact that the team consisted of players from across the racial divide and geographic spectrum of Cape Town. We had players from Grassy Park, Mitchell's Plain, Belhar, Sea Point, Claremont and Constantia, as well as players from Soweto in Johannesburg representing South Africa.
Chess players are important role models. The SA Olympiad team that participated in the Philippines, president of Chess Western Province, International Master David Gluckman, International Master Watu Kobese, the Chief Director of Sport and Recreation Adv. Lyndon Bouah, and Candidate Master Adv. Maxwell Solomon, please come to the stage. Ladies and gentlemen, let us applaud these stalwarts. The other members of the team, Charles De Villiers and Mark Levitt, were not available tonight.
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.