Today South Africa played Sweden in the Open section. I smiled because there was a time in my life when I spent some time there. Allow me to tell you, the reader, about my time there!
In 1993, former World Champion Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov visited the University of the Western Cape (UWC). He was the guest of Professor Andre Odendaal from the History Department. Grandmaster Karpov was, at the time, the President of the World Peace Foundation and a member of the Russian parliament. He came to UWC and made a speech in the auditorium. We met him for lunch at Aunty Val’s, the local upmarket restaurant at the university. Later, he also went to Claremont Chess Club, where he gave a speech.
In that speech, he said we should study the classics and all the great players and world champions, including him! All of us immensely enjoyed his visit. I met Grandmaster Karpov again at the 1994 Moscow Olympiad a year later. He remembered me and said “South Africa” when he saw me! I smiled, and we chatted a bit. I was pleasantly surprised
when in mid-1995, while I was completing my last year of law studies, Berte van Wyk (now Professor Van Wyk) showed me a fax that had arrived the previous day.
For the younger readers, fax was how we communicated before email! In the fax, Grandmaster Karpov invited me to join the Karpov School of Chess in Sweden for a few months in 1995. As I was completing my last year of law studies,
I could not go in 1995, but I certainly wanted to!
I knew that 1996 would be unique. In January 1996, I started to attend the UCT School for Legal Practice. We started saving, but of course, it could never be enough. After completing law school in June 1996, I sold my student car, and, with a contribution from my mother and Berte, I was funded for Sweden. I wrote my board exams in early August 1996 and then, within that week, flew to Sweden.
When I arrived in Sweden to attend the Karpov School of Chess, I was met at the airport by Mr. Jan Berglund and we traveled to Harnosand, a city three hours from Stockholm. I stayed at the local Folkhogskola (local high school). I played in two blitz events in the first week and won them both! I still have the beer glasses I won in the one blitz event.
On the first night, we went to Fagervik Chess Club in Harnosand. We played a round-robin blitz event, and I scored a whole house of points with something like 15/15. Many of the older players asked me where I was from. South Africa sounded so foreign to them that I had to say, “The land of Nelson Mandela”. His name was instantly recognizable to all.
On a Thursday night, we traveled to nearby Sundsvall, where we played at the local chess club. One of the people that welcomed me upon arrival was Otto Nakapunda from Namibia. He had arrived in Sweden a year earlier and stayed in the street opposite the school. I was very happy that there would be someone from Africa and, to boot, someone that would be able to converse in Afrikaans with me. Otto stayed in Sweden for a few years. We had met at the Olympiad in Moscow in 1994, and I was the first person to take him to a Mcdonalds’, just off Red Square!
The Karpov School of Chess was founded in September 1994. It had reached a unique agreement with representatives of the Swedish educational system, which made it possible for students to be invited from all over the world to Harnosand to study chess and other subjects at any school level. The chess students would be able to choose between two different programs. The elite players would receive deeper tuition in the game itself, and the chess administration students would be given a broader education in other aspects of the game. Other students included Amelia Payet from
Seychelles and, in the first year in 1995, the Angolans Eugenio Campos and the late Aderito Pedro.
I really enjoyed my sojourn in Sweden. I was exposed to a different type of chess and a different world. I read a bit of the Swedish newspapers since the Swedish language is similar to Afrikaans as they are both from Germanic families. I discovered that there was a municipal library, and in the library, there was a Wilbur Smith section. I ended up reading everything about the Courtneys and the African continent!
But let us get to the chess. My philosophy in chess was always to play to win in every game. You know, the Bobby Fischer thing. If you do not play to win, you don’t have any business on the chess board! However, I found out that a different philosophy existed in Sweden. Players played not to lose and were happy if the game ended in a draw. I think I was always playing for all three results in every game. I played hard and did not mind whether I would win, draw, or lose, as long as I played hard and gave my best.
In Sweden, however, players played not to lose, with safety first; when an opportunity arose, they would go for the win. Of course, I am generalizing a bit, but it struck me that a different ethos was at play. I realized that players adopted the position that they are playing for two results (draw and win) and not three results (draw, win and lose). So, with that realization, let us get down to the games. I played at two chess clubs, Fagervik in Harnosand on a Tuesday night and then at Sundsvall on a Thursday night. Our club was also registered for the local district league and the national club league. So, I was settled. Besides the chess playing, there would be loads of time to study some chess.
In this regard, one of my fellow students was Tor Stromesson from Norway, with many chess books I could use.
Mr. Jan Berglund arranged for us to visit Grandmaster Harry Schussler in Uppsala, where we received a chess lesson one afternoon. A few years later, Grandmaster Schussler visited Cape Town, where he gave a simultaneous display and a talk. Mr. Berglund also took us to the Olympiad in Armenia in October 1996. It was interesting visiting the Olympiad as a journalist instead of a player. We filed reports for some newspapers and were delighted to meet GM Karpov again. I was also glad that South Africa played well against Israel in the first round.
We lost to Sweden. IM Watu Kobese drew his game, but we lost on the other boards. On board one, GM Kenny Solomon lost to GM Nils Grandelius. GM Grandelius is known for his tactical prowess, and in the game, he had an advanced passed pawn which he used and then the two bishops came through. On Board town IM Daniel Cawdery lost/ sacrificed a piece and had a preponderance of pawns. However, they were not enough! On board three GM Tiger Persson Hillarp sacrificed his queen against Barrish and proceeded to mate FM Barrish. An excellent tactical melee! I’ve always been partial to his games! On board four, Watu had two rooks for a queen and was able to hold the position.
In the women’s section, we played Honduras. Honduras is a country in Central America.
We outrated them on all the boards and easily won 4-0. This will mean that we will have a tough draw next round, but I am so glad that the women’s team has recovered from yesterday!
Enjoy the evening, and let’s watch our players!
Dr Lyndon Bouah