I guess all great things start with a (crazy) idea. So, when Chrystal Samuel from PRG mentioned that PRG wants to host an Open chess tournament, the Stellenbosch Chess Club immediately agreed to assist. Maybe it was a case of fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but we were convinced it would be great to host a rated tournament in Stellenbosch that could cater for youth development and novices to the Elite players. Stellenbosch of course has a rich history of great chess players with IM Henry Steel just one of many. Schools chess is also alive and well with Ikaya, Eikestad and Idas Valley Primary Schools, and Stellenbosch High School all taking part and PRG winning the Under 19 Division in the Western Cape Top Schools Tournament in 2016.
So, the fools (or maybe angels?) went ahead and planned the tournament in just over a month. We were incredibly fortunate that PRG made the fabulous Markotter Sports Complex, traditionally known for rugby, available and we had a dedicated LOC who went above and beyond the call of duty to plan the event. There were many flutters of anxiety along the way of which, “if we host it – will the players come?”, being foremost in many of our minds.
Chess Western Province supported us by providing clocks, sets and even a visit by the President of Chess Western Province, Dr Deon Solomons, on the opening night. They also added to the profile of the tournament by adding the tournament as a qualification tournament for Western Province (Federation) colours.
As the registrations in all sections skyrocketed during the last few days of registration and even on the first day of play, our fears were allayed. We had a brilliant cast of 229 players in all sections, including players from as far afield as Eden and from the ACL. The official opening and welcome of the tournament was done by Mr Stephan Jordaan, PRG first team rugby coach and head of sports.
The eight players in the Elite Section included big names and was fiercely contested in a round robin with two players, Michael James (the winner) and Daud Amini on 5 points, closely followed by Stellenbosch local Heinrich Basson on 4.5 points. The Prestige A-Section was one of the strongest fields seen lately in any Western Cape Tournament, with the five top players all ending on 5 points and the top order being decided by (the dreaded) Buchholz. In final order, they were Nathan Amsterdam (another Stellenbosch local), Cherwin Kleinsmidt, Jordan Vester, Veroe September and Andreas de Jager (who also got the prize for the best youth player in this section). Rebecca Selkirk, also from Stellenbosch, showed the boys her mettle, ending in 6th place overall.
The B-Section had a clear winner, one and a half points ahead of the pack in Corné Briedenhann, a PRG player. Keagan Palmer, another PRG player, placed third, with Matthew Saunders second and Migael van Schaik as the best junior. The C-Section, with a whopping 140 players rated below 1200, clearly indicates the need for rated tournaments around Stellenbosch. Matthew Lee won this division with 6.5 points, followed by Christian Maxwell, Nathaniel Nkuna, Sharné Kruger (best female) and Antonie Steenkamp (best junior) all on 6 points.
The D-section with the U10 players only playing on the Saturday morning, was as always, a treat with lots of smiles, tears and illegal moves… but that is how everyone learns. Arbiter William Coetzee and Stellenbosch chess mom and stalwart, Sonja Jacobs, assisted with these budding stars (and their parents). Jordan Randelhoff from Rhenish Primary was victorious with a perfect 7 out of 7 games. Two other locals, Zak Steyn from Eikestad, and Earl Erasmus from Kylemore, took second and third places.
The tournament ran like clockwork largely because of the great management skills of the chief arbiter, Mr Ricardo Minnaar, ably assisted by Mr Andrew Talmarkes and Mr William Coetzee. The Elite, Prestige A-and B-Sections also played in an air-conditioned venue upstairs, with a tea and coffee station, and a beautiful view over the Stellenbosch mountains (not that they had much time to admire the view during the games…). The younger (and some older) kids had the wonderful rugby fields to play soccer and a few cricket and rugby friendlies between games, while their parents could sit under a shady tree or watch them from the pavilion.
The prize giving was a highlight with Mr Neville Rothman of Paul Roos as MC, Mr Eldo Smart, President of Chess South Africa, doing a word of congratulations and IM Henry Steel handing over the medals. There were many happy faces with a total prize money of over R8 000 – also for the best female and junior players. PRG did well with CM Andrew Flores Bartoli participating in the A-Section, the brilliant performance of Corné Briedenhann (first place) and Keagan Palmer (third place) in the B-Section and Justin Korkie (best senior PRG player) and Odin Mostert (best junior PRG player) in the C-Section. Alex van der Merwe also received a special mention as the youngest player in the PRG chess club participating in the B-Section.
As the sun literally set on Sunday night over the Stellenbosch mountains, it was a fitting conclusion for a brilliant event. The LOC from PRG and the Stellenbosch Chess Club was exhausted but incredibly happy that the event was a success. We have already said to each other that next year it will even be bigger and better. So mark March next year on your chess calendars for the second installment of the PRG open in association with the Stellenbosch Chess Club. You do not want to miss it!!!
And for those of you in and around Stellenbosch, the Stellenbosch Chess Club meets every Thursday evening from 18h30 and chess players of all ages are welcome. If you want to stay connected, please send your contact details to Ulrich Wolff at firstname.lastname@example.org or Freek Geyser at email@example.com.
For a full list of the winners and pictures, see https://chessstellenbosch.wordpress.com/blog/
The LOC (Chrystal Samuel, Carla Briedenhann, Sisteen and Freek Geyser, Andries Nieuwoudt, Antoinette van der Merwe and Ulrich Wolff)