Massive week for African Chess with Super Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura in South Africa
The first week of January in 2018 was an unforgettable one for many chess players in South Africa who attended the South African Junior Chess Championships. Some very lucky chess players got to meet and even play one of the best chess players in the world, super grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura from the United States.
It was an incredibly busy week for GM Nakamura. After an incredibly long trip to Africa, Nakamura had his speedchess chess.com match against world chess champion Magnus Carlsen on 3 January. The Grandmaster played that match at the OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg.
GM Nakamura makes the first move of the South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC)
GM Nakamura then followed that up by officially opening the South African Junior Chess Championships, which with more than 2000 players is one of the biggest chess tournaments in Africa and certainly the biggest one in South Africa. The SAJCC is an annual chess tournament in South Africa where the best juniors in the country battle it out over one week to choose the very best players across several age groups from Under 8 to Under 20 for both boys and girls. Chess players travelled thousands of kilometres to attend this event.
A few days after opening the SAJCC The Grandmaster visited Joubert Park which is the lion's den for chess hustlers in Johannesburg. If you really want to get a feel of chess culture in Johannesburg, simply referred by the locals as Jozi or Egoli (the City of Gold), then a visit to Joubert Park is a must. The seasoned hustlers there can be seen playing chess all day and when you play you have to be completely focussed as they employ all kinds of tricks and distractions during the game which often have many spectators as well.
Grandmaster Nakamura during a game at Joubert Park. He is completely surrounded as everyone wants in on the action on the board. CREDIT - Lennart Ootes
The Grandmaster played anyone and everyone on time odds of his 1 minute vs their 3 minutes. Local players certainly fancied their chances against Nakamura but they had no idea just how good he was. It was after a number of games they realised just how difficult it is to beat Nakamura. It was an Incredible, electric atmosphere where players simply could not believe their luck of playing one of the world's best players.
"Very focussed, you can the GM plans to win every single game in the park. CREDIT - Lennart Ootes
Nakamura took it all in his stride appearing very relaxed as he took on one player after another. During the course of the afternoon he lost only one game to the South African Closed Champion International Master (IM) Johannes Mabusela. After losing the first game against the International Master, the grandmaster asked for a return game and restored parity by winning that game. The visit to Joubert Park took place on a Saturday.
Here are two videos from the visit.
There was a bit of controversy in one of the games regarding an illegal pawn promotion. Check it out for yourself.
Just see the reaction of IM Mabusela after he beats Nakamura in the park.
Grandmaster Nakamura takes on 101 chess players in Johannesburg
On the following day, a Sunday, Grandmaster Nakamura then played in the largest ever simultaneous chess exhibition in South Africa. He took on one hundred and one chess players at the same time and played in exhibition which lasted almost 6 hours and where he worked more than 5 km and played at least 3500 moves across all the chess boards. In the chess simul Grandmaster Nakamura 92 wins, 7 draws and lost just 2 games.
It is just hard to believe the amount of chess that the Grandmaster played during that week. If you consider that he had started his week with that match against Carlsen and by the end of the week must have played over 150 chess games in total.
Here are the two games that Nakamura lost in the Simultaneous exhibition on Sunday. The first game Nakamura lost was against Alexander van der Merwe who had a rating of 1460.
Here is the second game that Nakamura lost. This one was against Khanya Mazibuko. This was the last game to finish, going for almost 6 hours.
But that was not all after the massive chess simul. Grandmaster Nakamura was so impressed by two chess players from the simul that he decided to assist and sponsor them. 17-year-old Khanya Mazibuko from Tshwane and 16-year-old Keith Khumalo from Tshwane are incredibly talented juniors who are the very lucky recipients of this wonderful act of generosity. The players simply could not believe their good fortune. What an amazing gesture from the American grandmaster.
A very big thank you to everyone who was involved in making Grandmaster Nakamura's trip to South Africa a reality. And to think that it is only January, who knows what the rest of the year holds. These are certainly exciting times for African chess.