My name is Sikhanyiso Persivaal Sihlongonyane—The current National Chess Champion of Estwani. My Chess story goes as follows:
I learned to play chess at the age of 13 from my mother’s computer. I kept wondering, “What is this game with horses in my mother’s computer?” So, I moved the pieces on the computer out of curiosity until I understood their movements very well.
I went to high school at Salesian High School and led the school’s chess team to a bronze medal finish at the National School’s Chess Championship. It was a lovely moment for me to have received recognition as the school’s leading player.
In my maiden tournament—the Eswatini International Chess Open was held at St. Juliana Conference Centre in Manzin, Eswatini, on 26-28 November in 2016; in the first round, I played an 87 move draw with Selatela Khiba from Lesotho. “This draw motivated me to fight in upcoming competitions, considering it was game in a competitive tournament.
Sooner than later, I started getting chess lessons from William Siame. William became my manager till this present moment. By January 2017, William played a massive part in my rapid improvement as a player. I got my first FIDE rating on 1st June 2017 after an excellent performance at the Phela Live Chess Challenge held in Manzini 26-28 May 2017. I drew my own coach William and the then Eswatini number one Wandile Simelane.
I participated in a tournament outside of Eswatini for the first time in 2018; the Lesotho International Chess Open was held at Blue Mountain INN Hotel in Teyateyaneng, Lesotho 2-4 February 2018. I made it to the National team for the first time as a Wild Card. I went on to participate at the Mozambique open held in Maputo from 14-16 September 2018.
A week later, I was part of the National Team Squad, representing Eswatini at the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia, from 23rd September to 7th October 2018. In this tournament, I was playing as the reserve.
Interestingly, I pulled a historic performance ever by a Swazi chess player at an Olympiad, won 4 games in a row, drew four, and lost only 3 to finish the tournament with a 6/11 score. I became Eswatini’s first-ever Candidate Master and made history by being the top rating winner at Olympiad. And one of the top rating winners ever in the history of an Olympiad with a whopping 174 elo gain.
My most memorable win was against a player that was rated 700 elo more than me. In this game, I played a smooth endgame. “I conducted a smooth pawn ending where, after transposing into the endgame, he resigned two moves later.” I was rated 1408 when I beat him; he was the first player rated over 2000 that I had ever won in my entire career. The others were losses and draw” I felt satisfied that I achieved something remarkable.
I will live to remember my win against Theko Khanyapa of Lesotho at the Olympiad. It was as if I recalled a scene from a favorite movie:
“The killer blow may have seemed like a dubious combination to some and a beautiful masterpiece to others. It surely made me feel invincible as I went on to beat my next opponent in the same Batumi Olympiad brutally. I gunned down the Lesotho star with a stunning aggressive attack, reminiscent of the legendary Mikhail Tal. Of course, the Mosotho could have defended and survived, but he was stunned and buckled under the attack.” It was these stunning results that earned me the Candidate Master title at The Batumi Chess Olympiad.
The Manzini Chess Club player has won many tournaments in Eswatini with other exceptional performances:
1. Nhlangano Chess Open June 2018(Gold)
2. Steki Chess Open September 2018(Gold)
3. Nhlangano Chess Club Open December 2018(Gold)
4. Nhlangano Chess Club Blitz Open December 2018(Gold)
5. Mbabane Chess Open May 2019 (Gold)
6. Nhlangano Chess Open June 2019 (Gold)
7. Steki Chess Open September 2019(Silver)
8. National Chess Championship 2019/2020(Bronze)
9. Mbabane Chess Open 2020(Bronze)
10. Nhlangano Chess Open 2020(Silver)
11. National Chess Championship 2020/2021(Gold)
12. Sportsman of the year nominee 2018.
CM Persivaal, for the first time, participated in the African Individual Chess Championship, held at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi, 17-28 May 2021. He won 4 games, drew 1, and lost 4 to finish the tournament with 4.5/9 and gained 64 FIDE elo.
Chess has taught me a lot of things about life, and it gave me so much more. It brings me happiness; it has taught me discipline, accountability, respect, sportsmanship, creativity. Also, I learned there is more to life than what always seems. In chess, I realized that creativity, logical thinking, and decision-making are essential life skills.
Full Name: Sikhanyiso Persivaal Sihlongonyane
Born: 02 October 1998 (age 23)
Title: Candidate Master(2018)
National Champion(April 2021 till Present)
National Ranking: 1 (October 2021)
Peak National Ranking:1 (June 2021)
FIDE ID: 20700784
Sikhanyiso Persivaal Sihlongonyane is a Swazi Candidate Master from the Kingdom of Eswatini. He is the number one chess player in Eswatini and the current Eswatini National Chess Champion.