Kwa-Zulu Natal Open 2005

Report by Peter Dankelmann, with photos by Shaun Savy

Close to a hundred chess gladiators went into battle when the annual UNITE Programme - Natal Open Chess Tournament took place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 19-21 March 2005.

The 8 rounds chess extravaganza and unofficial championship of KwaZulu-Natal was organized by the UKZN Chess Club in conjunction with the Durban Chess Club.

On offer was a total prize money of R10.000, sponsored by the UNITE Programme and the Durban Chess Club. The UNITE Programme (University of Natal Intensive Tuition for Engineers), based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, provides academic and general development to students who want to study Engineering. The need to develop the mind as well as valuable life skills was behind their agreement to be a sponsor.

Rudi Kimmie, Deputy Director of the programme, was emphatic that chess was the right game to enhance the strategic thinking and problem solving abilities of future engineers as well as most professions. "Good chess players tend to be achievers" he added.

This year's tournament saw an invasion by youngsters, who constituted 40% of the field. 25% were from primary school, with the youngest, Tasnim Amra, celebrating her 8th birthday during the tournament with chocolate bars for all players. On the other end of the age spectrum was Stefan Olah, noted Durban musician and formidable opponent on the board.

Keith Rust, the dominating player of the Durban Chess scene since 1977, when he won the Natal Open Championships, seemed to be set to repeat this feat when he led the field for the first seven rounds. But in the final 8th round, he underestimated an attack by Vincent Choko, who thus claimed the title. Choko is a student at Vaal University of Technology. He has good reason to be pleased, seeing that he is the second member of his family to win this tournament. His younger brother David Choko won the title in 2002 and was this year again among the prize winners.

Vincent Choko winner of 2005 KZN Open
with younger brother David Choko on the right

Another chess family the Durban chess scene will have to reckon with are the Ramsurrups. While Pratish won the prize for the best high school player, his brother Ashish won an upset prize for beating a significantly more highly rated player, and also demonstrated his tactical chess skills by winning the chess puzzle with a perfect solution, just after having set a new national record for discus.

Pratish Ramsurrup receiving his prize
for the best High School player

The fairer sex also left their mark in the tournament. Top female player Suvania Moodliar was the only player to beat the new champion. The doubling of the number of female players in the tournament, this year ten ladies played, is a very positive development in a traditionally male dominated game.

Tournament director Donovan Neethling was particularly happy about the great sportsmanship during the tournament. "It was absolutely delightful to see how older players encouraged the younger members and shared their expertise with them. This is essential for the development and advancement of new talent and it is happening here."

This tournament shows that the Durban chess scene is alive and well. With 110 years one of the oldest clubs in the country and the leading club in the province, the Durban Chess Club has almost all KZN top players among its regulars. The new and energetic Metro Durban Chess Academy, based in Durban's CBD, established an all year chess league. Deputy chairman Cyril Danisa puts strong emphasis on coaching of different age groups. Seeing that Danisa is among the top KZN players, there is no doubt that major talent will emerge from this initiative. In addition, there are numerous clubs catering for younger players of school age, as well as university chess clubs at almost all tertiary institutions. For information on any of the above clubs contact DCC chairman Peter Dankelmann at 2601017.

With such a buzz of chess activity in Durban, it is no surprise that sponsors are showing increasing interest in the game of chess, which has stood the test of time as a powerful tool for mind development. Next year's tournament promises to be an even bigger event.

Desmond Rooplal giving a friend some
tips for next year's tournament

Lastly, here are the final results.

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