I am currently on flight EK 121 travelling to Istanbul. It is once again Chess Olympiad time. The South African players are making their way to the event and are very excited to be competing against the best in the world again. I have much to share with all the readers and will through a series of reports share my views, opinions, analysis and stories with the readers.
In April 2016, the 42nd Baku Chess Olympiad organisers issued their invitation to all national federations. They invited all national chess federations to participate in Baku, Azerbaijan and introduced Baku as the capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on the coast of the Caspian Sea. It is the largest city of Azerbaijan with a population of almost four million inhabitants. The city is described in the invitation as a fascinating combination of both Oriental and European influences, with a distinctive touch of modernity.
The venue of the Olympiad is the Crystal Hall, situated on Baku Bouvelard, which was built in 2012 to host the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan and has since become one of the emblematic buildings of the city. The schedule commences tomorrow 2 September 2016 at three pm. There will be eleven rounds played with one off day after round five.
Our contingent consists of the following :
1. President Eldo Smart who is the head of delegation
2. Winston Dalpat captain of the women’s team
3. Lyndon Bouah captain of the open team
The open team in board order is
1. GM Kenny Solomon
2. IM Daniel Cawdery
3. IM Watu Kobese
4. IM Donovan Van Den Heever
5. FM Calvin Klaasen
Women’s team in board order
1. WIM Denise Frick
2. WIM Anzel Laubscher
3. WIM Jesse February
4. WCM Michelle Fisher
5. WFM Lauren Van Niekerk.
A few highlights that I will be expanding upon in my subsequent reports include :
1. GM Kenny Solomon is currently standing on 97 Olympiad games played and he is sure to become an Olympian Centurion at this event.
2. IM Watu Kobese is currently standing on 92 Olympiad games played and he will all things being equal become an Olympian Centurion as well.
3. Both players have competed in other team events and individual events for South Africa already but this special century mark of games played at the highest level is a milestone that all of us in South Africa must celebrate.
4. Calvin Klaasen makes his Olympic debut at this event and becomes the fourth Eastern Cape player in the modern era ( post 1992) to represent South Africa. (The others were Lyndon Bouah, Ewan Kromhout and Jacques Ophoff.)
5. In the women’s team WIM Jesse February and WFM Lauren Van Niekerk make their Olympic debut.
6. The team is very diverse and says a lot about chess in South Africa. Consider the following :
GM Kenny Solomon who now resides in Italy hails from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, Daniel Cawdery is from Johannesburg, Watu Kobese is from Soweto although he now resides in Cape Town, Donovan is from Springbok in the Northern Cape but now resides in Cape Town and similarly Calvin is from Somerset East but resides in Cape Town.
All the women except for Jesse reside in Cape Town but they schooled in Pretoria ( Denise), Bloemfontein (Anzel), Jesse is from Nelson Mandela Bay, Michelle is from Johannesburg and Lauren was born in Paarl and completed her schooling in Cape Town. Lauren is the sister of Robyn who made her Olympiad debut in Norway 2014. This is the first time a sister has also represented a family after the Solomon brothers( Maxwell and Kenny), Gluckman brothers ( David and Jonathan) in the modern era.
So this team is truly a representative team from across the country. Let’s support our teams.
7. Winston Dalpat is making his debut as a captain of the national team. Winston Dalpat and I attended the same high school in Port Elizabeth, called Bethelsdorp Senior Secondary and in our last three years at high school led Eastern Province to victory in the team event as well as winning the national schools title between us for three years from 1988 to 1990.
8. South Africa has a long history at the Olympiad and I will during the course of the next two weeks reflect on this history. For the record our first Olympiad was 1958 in Munich. I will delve a bit into the history and readers must note that South Africa stopped playing international chess during the 1974 Nice Olympiad. We rejoined in 1992.
9. As many of you know I enjoy delving into the history of the country I am visiting and it will be no different here. Let’s learn more about this country during this event.
10. Enjoy the games. The games can be followed on the Olympiad website which you can simply google under www.Bakuchessolympiad2016 and the games will be streamed live.
Signing off Somewhere over the Middle East
Dr Lyndon Bouah