For this purpose of this article, IM Watu Kobese would be referred to as IM W.K. Please note that this article was transcribed from the original interview video. Some words have been edited for an easy read. Click to watch the full interview. Original interview date: 8/06/2020.
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Moderator: I am sure most of our viewers would love to know, you’ve played and won so many tournaments. So far, who would you consider as your greatest competitor? And why?
IM W.K.: I will tell you, in 1998, I played against Anatoly Karpov, he was the reigning champion from Russia, and it was incredibly challenging because I must admit, many of the moves that he was playing, I did not see, I felt that I was playing against another level, you know, I could feel it, the pieces were moving differently, and I’ve never, felt like this against many players, even many strong grandmasters, but there, I somehow felt the pieces moving differently, and I was, it, (chuckles) was a strange thing. I was playing him and I was admiring him at the same time, I was impressed. So, it was not easy.
Moderator: So far, what do you find fascinating about chess?
IM W.K.: I find chess fascinating because, when you play chess, you are not playing against your opponent, you are playing against yourself. Different levels play a role in chess. Your skills and understanding of where you are is one part. Another big part of it is how you view yourself, in relation to the world, how you view yourself in relation to your opponent also plays a role. Do you think your opponent is superior or inferior and so on.
These are important parts of chess and very important for you to understand. Chess also shows how much self-knowledge you have of yourself. I would say that the more you are in touch with yourself and your self-knowledge, the higher your thinking realm and your thinking pattern. Then you are vibrating at a higher frequency, than if you have less knowledge of who you are. I find chess fascinating because chess reflects all of these in you.
Moderator: So in the light of this, how much time do you devote to studying chess?
IM W.K.: When I used to play professionally, I used to spend about 8 hours daily studying chess.
Moderator: Okay.., so you are an author of Chess in Xhosa?
IM W.K.: Yes
Moderator: When should we be expecting a new book?
IM W.K.: Well, the thing about that book is that in a way, the book was ahead of its time. It was written for a South Africa that claimed to be free, but one that is still far from being free. We understand in South Africa that we need our indigenous languages because of its part and parcel of who we are. My book was written in the Xhosa language, and by the way I have other books. We have nine languages in South Africa, and eh, I have written and translated (not myself but with the help of friends) the book into all these languages, still, it is a long way.
The book got me one of my greatest achievements outside chess. I won the ‘Language Enrichment Award’, for that book, because, I wanted the book to reflect the historical lifestyle of South Africa. It was fascinating, but more than anything, I wrote that book because I feel that, for us to move forward as South Africans, we need all the experts in all their fields to think about writing in our languages. We need doctors and professors in Medicine to think about translating it into our languages, and so on.
Why must you study in English or Germany? So I wrote the book because I believed with this I will start the process, but as I said, we are not ready for this process. I however have some ambitious ideas, I am talking with someone to make a chess website, where I will try to write about some of my chess findings. I will like to also make departments and write in languages like Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Tsonga, Venda, and so on. yeah, so that is the idea.
Moderator: So apart from playing chess, what other sports do you enjoy?
IM W.K.: I love soccer, I love watching golf, I love Basketball, I love table tennis, and I’m not a bad player. I used to be in a club when I was in Germany. Basically, I love to watch anything. But for me, what is more, interesting is not just the sport, it’s the character in the sport, the people in the sport, because it’s a reflection of society, who you are, what you do and how you handle challenges, what you represent, Can you inspire ‘us’? Can you wake ‘us’ up? This for me is more interesting.
…”Get yourself a good coach to walk the journey with you”…
Moderator: Obviously as one of the finest chess players in South Africa, you have so many people looking up to you, so many upcoming chess players that would want to know a thing or two on how they can improve. If you were to address these categories of people and chess players in general, so what would you tell them?
IM W.K.: Well, I would say what they have to do is, they have to approach chess in a very educational manner. Try to find out as much as possible, from the past world champions. Study the past world champions games, try to understand what each world champion brought to the chess world, try to understand various grandmasters, look at various e-videos, materials. There’s a lot of materials out there on chess.
I think though if you make a part for yourself and say “I want to be better and I am going to, you will. Get yourself a coach, a good coach to walk the journey with you. I mean, I coach and if anyone is interested, I am available. We have many players who are coaching also. Getting a coach is the fastest way, but it is not the only way. If you have a coach, then he can guide you in the right direction.
Sometimes you can go in the wrong direction. You can find you are doing things that are not necessary, and then you spend 5 years of your life going the wrong direction. Even if it is to get a coach for direction, it’s important.
Anyone can try to get better, you need to study and get the right information and don’t take chess lightly like a board game, monopoly, where you are gonna roll the dice and move pieces quickly. Yeah, that’s what I would say.
Moderator: Thank you so much for your time, I am sure a lot of people would benefit a lot from this interview, the insight you’ve given on chess development in Africa is amazing. Thank you so much, for taking the time to have this interview with me. I’m truly honored and it’s a pleasure to meet you.
IM W.K.: Thank you so much
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