Reflections 4 on the Chess Western Province League by Dr Lyndon Bouah


August is traditionally dedicated to women’s activities with the crescendo reaching its culmination normally at various women’s day events normally around the weekend of August. 9 August is associated with the day in 1956 when 20 000 women marched on the Union buildings in Pretoria to protest against the pass laws.

The Chess Western Province league proceeded in Bellville South on 10 August 2019. Two rounds were played. We will look at the results in a page or so. Let’s first look at some pertinent dates relating to women in chess in South Africa.

The late Leonard Rietstein wrote in his wonderful book A history of Chess in South Africa (2003 p:

  • that a few women were present at the first South African Open in 1892 but none played. At the turn of the last century matches were traditionally held between Colonial and European sides. In the 1907 match in Cape Town, in which 86 players participated, four ladies played for the Colonial team. Seigheim commented in the Sunday Times that ” the four competitors were unfortunate in being drawn against opponents who were mean enough to win their games”!

That same year in the British versus Foreign Born match in Johannesburg a Mrs. Bell won both her games. In 1919 in the match between Home Born against Dominion and Allies, two women played for the Home Born side, a Mrs Wakefield, defeating the then Durban club secretary, Mr. H.

Fairbridge. Rietstein noted that a Miss J. Bailie, who played in the 1923 Durban Championship acquitted herself well and beat J. McCurd and scored a credible 50%. A lady from Mossel Bay, Mrs F. G. Hughes, in the 1930’s composed problems and joined the South African Correspondence Chess Association and competed in its events for several years. I leave you with an example of her work. The solution follows at the end of the article.

In South Africa the first Women’s Championship was held in 1975. The event was won by Wynie Robbertse. In South Africa women have been competing regularly at school level. In 1993 Caroline Bijoux and Yvette Erwee competed alongside me in the African Junior Championship. If my memory is correct, then Bijoux became South Africa’s first Women International Master.

The SA Closed for women was first held in 2000 and was won by Michelle Minnaar who is now running a food blog called Greedy Gourmet and she runs it from England. She is also a food photographer. Her Greedy Gourmet blog was a few years ago named one of the top blogs by a South African. The champions over the last twenty years are:

2000 – Michelle Minnaar

2001 – WIM Cecile Der Merwe

2002 – WCM Mignon Pretorius

2003 – WCM Mignon Pretorius

2004- WCM Carmen De Jager

2005- WIM Denise Frick

2007 – no closed held

2008- WCM Carmen De Jager

No closed between 2008-2012

2013 – WIM Denise Frick

2015 – WIM Denise Frick

2017 – WIM Jesse February

In the Chess Western Province league 2019 there are a number of Olympic and Protea players. South Africa in 1998 sent a Women’s Olympiad team to Kalmykia for the first time. Of that team only WIM Anzel Laubscher (Steinitz) is still an active player. In 2000 WIM Denise Frick (Steinitz) also joined the Olympic family and in this league, we have WFM Lauren Willenberg (UWC), WCM Rebecca Selkirk (Stellenbosch) Robyn Van Niekerk (MRL) and WFM Michelle Fisher (Bellville) who have all played at the Olympiads for South Africa. Megan van Niekerk (MRL) represented South Africa at the Zonals in 2018 which she won. WFM Dantelle Joubert (Cape Town) obtained her senior colours at the 2017 Zonals in Zambia.

Two UWC students who are also competing are Kaylin and Tegan Fritz. Tegan plays for UWC and her sister plays for Capablanca. Kaylin was the first women player in living memory to have played the the Grob Attack 1.g4 in a round at the 2015 SA Closed!

UCT chess leader Ursula Hardie sent me this email which I quote in full

“Hi Lyndon,

Here is some information about the Female Players in UCT. They both play league.

Talia Ndlovu

Talia, one of our most humble players, told me at the start of league that she was terribly out of practice. She could not have been more wrong.

She notably, in round 3 of the 2019 league, played a 4.5-hour game against Lwazi Msondlana. The position she had was favorable to her opponent but, persistent as she is , she never gave up. The game ended in a draw. Her rating is 100 points shy of Lwazi’s.

Round 3 started 20 minutes after that, and she was back again winning her game against Gregory Baker.

She studies civil engineering at UCT and has previously been captain of the Gauteng Girls team in 2017. She is the coach in the Fuller House chess team (internal UCT team) and placed 3rd in the females section at USSA in 2018.

She finds chess to be de-stressing and she gets a lot of enjoyment from playing.

Gontse Molefe

Gontse Tsholofelo Molefe studying towards a BCom Financial Accounting degree. She has written the following:

I started playing chess in 2010, my dad taught me and I joined my school (Prestige College) chess team. I improved really fast because I had 3 dedicated coaches (Coach Daniel Mathe, Neo Mathe and Coach Makapane) and I loved chess. My life started revolving around chess with regard to my social life and reputation at the school.


The first match I won was with a fools mate against another beginner player. Got me really excited to learn more.

I did a lot of chess puzzles to further improve my chess.

Played my first nationals at UJ. They put me in u/18B.


I learned my first repertoire as white; played e4 Scotch.

Participated in the Commonwealth 2011 which were in Empirers palace. I gained +100 points.

Qualified to play the SAJCCC

Played my second nationals in PE.


Played SA Open, was hectic so my coach recommended I read “My System”. Very good book.

Came out position 4 at the SAJCCC and qualified to play the World Youth in Slovenia that year. Was my chess highlight.

Won all the school team chess tournaments up to national level where my team & I, Prestige College, were the national champions for 2012 and 2013.

2013-2015: Played the SAJCCC, Womens Open, SA Open, School Champs, etc. A whole lot of tournaments.

2015: Got 10,5/11 for League and got a board price. Got the UCT best girl player of the year award.

Was last active then, started playing this year again.

My biggest help was the opportunity and support I was exposed to. I went to the same school with Tshepang Tlale, WIM, and that challenged me to continue improving myself.

My school chess team was strong, so I had to be strong in order to make the team. Chess became my whole highschool life and opened alot of doors for me as I was also recognized by Allan Gray who are currently my University sponsor.

Some comments from me:

As a female leader of the team I am unbearably proud of the above-mentioned players. I have only been involved for chess for a year as my friend Andrew McInnes asked me to play for the USSA in 2019. I can say that my interaction with strong females in chess such as above, has influenced me to take the lead of this club. I am not a strong player, but I have fallen in love with the chess community. I knew I was taking a risk accepting this Leadership Position, but I hope that people recognize I don’t need to be good at a game to love it. I may not be the best, but I will move mountains for my club.

All the best,

Ursula Hardie”

WGM Katya Toma played for Steinitz a few years ago and I recently congratulated her on an excellent British championship which she had in August 2019. She beat grandmaster Keith Arkell in a lovely sacrificial game. She had the following advice to offer “Last few years, especially since I’ve

moved to UK I didn’t really do any chess trainings. We all know that Caissa is ruthless and I have faced the consequences when I went to India. First in 2017th I have lost 80 Elo points but somehow it didn’t bring me to any conclusions…. And then in November last year I have lost 114 ELO points

reducing to 2164!! I haven’t been that low in 15 years, shame! That made me really upset and I’ve realised I have hit the bottom line and either I will change something or I should say goodbye to chess…. I love chess so I just couldn’t let go…. So it was “now or never”. I did research, I got a coach

and started to work on myself. I must admit it has been tough this last few months to bring my brain from “nothing to something”. I work full time as a vet and often meet my coach for session after 10 hours of work! I am exhausted but happy as I enjoy it greatly. So move by move, day by day British Chess Championships has arrived. And my brain clicked. Suddenly “I woke up” and realised I still know how to play joyful chess and create memorable games and beautiful sacrifices. I also realised I need to work even harder to eliminate plenty of bad moves (Qe3? in seventh round or a5 in ninth round). What really makes me happy is to know that improvement is still possible even though I am 34 years old amateur WGM :))) And it’s always good idea to do something kind for yourself!”

1.e4g62.d4Bg73.Nc3c64.Nf3d55.h3dxe46.Nxe4Nd77.Bd3Ngf68.c3O-O9.O-Ob610.Neg5h611.Nxf7Kxf712.Nh4g513.Ng6Re814.Ne5+Kg815.f4gxf416.Bxf4Nxe517.dxe5Nd518.Bxh 6Bxh619.Qh5Nf420.Rxf4Qxd321.Qxe8+Kh722.Qxe7+Kg823.Qf7+Kh824.Rf3Qd725.Qg6Qg726.Qe8+Q g827.Qxc6Be628.Rd1Re829.Rd4Re730.Rh4Qg531.Qa8+Kh732.Qe4+Kg833.Kh2Rg734.Rf6Qg3+35.Kh1

1-0 K Toma vs Arkell (Jul-31-19)

Well done Katya.

Murray Steenkamp from Bellville chess club has sent me some interesting statistics relating to women’s chess in the 2019 chess league. The stats are encouraging and should be used by clubs to plan their organic growth trajectory. Murray analyses the number of female players per club as well as other pertinent information.

The second group of graphs show the total number of female players (108 out of a total of 784 players that participated thus far), and their distribution between the various clubs. They make up only 13.78% of the total player pool.

The third group of graphs is more encouraging. 86 of the female players are youth (under 20s). Now they make up 22% of the total player pool.

I have taken a few photos of some of the women players in various divisions.

Let’s have a look at the league.

1. Analysis of Section E

Simons Town Military A won the division and gains promotion after having won 8 matches and drawn one. Well done to Simons Town Military! Crossroads C also secured promotion as they scored seven wins and two draws. Thando is a force to be reckoned with and the development of these Crossroads players augur well for the future development of chess in the Western Cape and South Africa.

Let’s have a look at the stats from this division

404 players competed in this division. 36 teams competed in this division. Teams came from as far afield as Drakenstein and Stellenbosch. Well done to Bellville Juniors who competed with four teams in this division. Kraaifontein had four teams in this division. Well done Burton and his team out in the Northern suburbs. I have also been impressed with the dedication and commitment of Stellenbosch. They fielded teams in every division and in this division, they had Stellenbosch E and F competing. Many of the teams in this division had many female players and one team, I think it was 2Knights had an all-girls team. Well done to Chess Western Province and the arbiters. Running a Development section is not easy but the fact that 36 teams competed in this division is highly significant towards the future development of the game.

2. Analysis of Section D

In the morning round Drakenstein Dragons beat Bellville D with only Dr. Eustace Moses gaining the victory against Arthur Natus. I asked Arthur why the name Drakenstein Dragons and he said because it rhymes!

Kraaifontein B beat Grassy Park 5-1 as well. My old friends Andre Rhoda and Deon Brown plays for Kraaifontein and I am sure they will be itching to get promotion.

UCT C narrowly beat Stellenbosch D 3.5 to 2.5.

Crossroads C demolished Manyanani 6-0. The youngsters from Crossroads went all out!

In the afternoon round Manyanani made up by beating Bellville D 4-2.

Stelenbosch D and Crossroads B drew 3-3 in a bruising encounter with all games decisive!

So, after six rounds UCT C and Kraaifontein B is leading with 11 points each. Drakenstein Dragons A is breathing fire in position number three with Crossroads also with ten points in position four. It’s going to be tight!!

3. Analysis of the C division

In this division Sanlam started the day with a 4-2 win against En Passant. Kraaifontein is continuing their march when they defeated Steinitz C 5.5 to 0.5. Many of the Kraaifontein players have tasted Premier Division matches and my money is on them to be one the teams vying for promotion. Aaron Boyisi plays board one supported by Edwin November.

Maties snuck past Grassy Park 3.5 to 2.5

In the afternoon rounds Sanlam took out some insurance by beating UWC 5-1. Manyanani B beat African Chess Lounge 4.5 to 1.5. Mr Mohamed Slamang is playing on board two after a long absence on the chess scene. I was a young man when I first met Mr. Slamang. He played on a board next to me at the 1988 CAPSA Open in Westridge, Mitchell’s Plain. It is good to see you playing again sir.

The surprise results were Grassy Park holding Kraaifontein 3-3. Some notable upsets here with Edwin November losing to Rehaan Moollajee.

So, after six rounds Kraaifontein A is leading with 11 points after having won five matches and drawn one with Manyanani in joint second with Stellenbosch C with 8 points.

4. Analysis of B section

In the morning game Steinitz B beat Capablanca 4.5 to 1.5 in a good result for them.

UCT B beat Mitchell’s a Plain 4.5 to 1.5.

CPUT A beat Blackjacks 6-0. A good victory for them as they wish to play in the Premier again.

UWC beat Grassy Park 4.2 with their star performer Keegan Agulhas sweeping all before him with military precision!!!! No one messes with him in that military jacket and beard!!

Crossroads B beat Bellville 5-1 in a good encounter for Crossroads. The impressive results of Crossroads are astonishing to behold and has been a revelation.

UWC drew 3-3 with Elsies River in their individual encounter. The students are doing their best to also gain promotion!

Mitchell’s Plain b lost to Stellenbosch 4-2.

Grassy Park beat UCT with a good result of 4.5 to 1.5

Elsies River beat Bellville 5-1.

In the afternoon round Stellenbosch beat Steinitz B 4.5 to 1.5 in a good result for them.

Crossroads beat Blackjacks 3.5 to 2.5.

CPUT beat Capablanca 5-1.

5. Analysis of Premier Section

In the morning round action was found in all the matches. An exciting match took place between Cape Town and African Chess Lounge. IM David Gluckman was making his debut in the league and would play Reuben Salimu. FM Paul Gluckman would be playing IM Watu Kobese who is in devastating form. The match ended on 4-4. But what a match. David defended solidly against Salimu and secured the all-important draw in the final game of that match. On board one IM Kobese had a queen against Rook and Bishop with pawns on the kingside. I was glancing at the board and thought that FM Gluckman was going to try to set up a blockade. IM Kobese has a tremendous will to win and he plays for the win no matter what the material count. He brought the point home.

MRL beat Mitchell’s Plain but the upset for the round was probably Seth Riley Adams holding SA Closed Co- Champion Calvin Klaasen to a draw on board one. The players appeared to have played a Dragon set up but despite pressure from Klaasen, he couldn’t break the young man down. One of my colleagues remarked that the league is getting stronger. I mentioned to him that many young players are now playing in the a Premier and B section at a younger age which allows them to gain experience which will serve them in future years. MRL won 6.5 to 1.5.

Blackjacks beat Belhar knights 5.5 to 2.5. Blackjacks brought some experienced players in Bjorn Pick and Heinrich Johnson. These former Boland players are battle hardened with Pick also getting his SA junior colours in 2002.

In the match between Steinitz and Manyanani the emotion was palpable for all to see. We started the match a bit abruptly when two old war horses Deon Pick and Mark Lewis decided to draw after not yet making ten moves. Mark had the White pieces and Deon was happy to take the early draw with the Black pieces. So now both teams had a half point on the table. I was playing against Gordon Lawrence the SA over 65 champion. Gordon won the WP Open in the early 1970’s and has been a top player for many years. In 1991 he beat me at my second SA Closed championship. I was then a young man who wanted revenge! However, it took Gordon and myself twenty three years to play our second game in a league match between Belhar Knights and Steinitz. I got my revenge!

In this encounter in round five I was faced with many choices on and off the board. I had some peanuts with me. Now the question I had was ” do I share my mixed with my opponent or not”? What happens if he says yes and eats all my peanuts? I wondered about this deep philosophical question. Mmmmm. What to do??? In the end, discretion was the better part of valour and I offered him some of my mixed nuts!

On the board though an interesting situation arose. There was a possibility that I could sacrifice a piece for two pawns. Now I enjoy taking a risk when the occasion demands it. Sacrificing in a league match has to be carefully considered. You immediately put all your teammates under pressure (one of my teammates told me afterwards that she was not sure if I blundered or sacrificed!) and of course you will be a hero if it works and a zero if it doesn’t. I have learnt to appreciate artistry in chess. One must win beautiful games! Why else does one play chess?

One of the books that I enjoyed studying years ago was one called the Art of Sacrifice in Chess by Rudolf Spielmann (1935). The author says in the introduction ” Sacrifices represent in chess an exceptionally important phase of the struggle. Beauty is not the sole object. They have the common aim of increasing the effectiveness of other pieces outside of the normal routine, if possible, suddenly. In equalised position their purpose is to gain time. But mostly they serve to increase

already existing advantages and they are consequently particularly adapted to the exploitation of mistakes by the other side. It may be that an advantage in development is turned into a grand assault, or that a weak point in the enemy lines is ripped open in the same way. The advantage to be exploited need not be a general nature; it can be merely local. Particularly in such cases does the sacrifice provide an indispensable weapon; for placid play is apt to dissipate an advantage, with resultant drifting into a drawn position. A sacrifice at the right moment takes opportunity by the forelock. The opponent may gain material, but he is tempted or forced to make some temporarily useless moves, his troops become disordered and the disconnected forces are beaten before they can put up a united front to the enemy”.

The game continued

1. .. Nxg4 2. hg Bxg4 3. Bg2 Rd8 4. Bb2 g5 5. Ne2? Nxf3 + 6. Bxf3 Bxf3 and White is unable to recapture because the rook is pinned!

An honourable mention must be made of Dr. Omar Esau who defeated his opponent Glenn Willenberg in their individual encounter. Dr Esau played with chutzpah and ensured that he brought

his team closer to the victory. Dr Bhawoodien outplayed Micheal James on board one while the encounter Craig Willenberg versus Warrick Erlank had everyone on the edge of their seats or in this case on the edge of their toes. Erlank had the advantage playing with two rooks against rook and Bishop but Willenberg knew that a draw would guarantee Steinitz a share of the match. He fought bravely and at the end Erlank blundered a rook which brought the full point home to Willenberg and Steinitz. Some fortune there for the defending champions but full credit to Manyanani who played hard and was certainly no pushover.

In this round the UCT students showed their mettle by winning with 6.5 to 1.5 against Bellville. Gerrit Meiboom seems to be a points machine for Bellville.

Stellenbosch narrowly defeated Grassy Park 4.5 to 3.5. The match was tightly fought with Stellenbosch dominating the top boards but Grassy Park making a play at the bottom boards.

In round six UCT continued to fight hard and took 2.5 off the 2017 champions MRL. The students have a good mixture of players form board one to board eight.

Steinitz beat Mitchells Plain 6.5 to 1.5 with Reggie Wilson beating Craig Willenberg in a well-played game by Wilson. He found some incredible small moves which placed Willenberg under pressure. Micheal James beat Seth Riley Adams after some sacrifices to open lines by James.

In the match between Bellville and Blackjacks there were fireworks aplenty with the teams sharing 4-4 but with no draws!

In the Belhar Knights versus Cape Town match Cape Town won 5-3 which was essentially a relegation battle. A good day for Cape Town as they earlier the day drew with ACL and now secured this win which will ease their plight.

Stellenbosch Beat Manyanani 6-2 which is an impressive result. Stellenbosch showed no fear and led by Prof Wagner took the easy win.

ACL narrowly beat Grassy Park 4.5 to 3.5. ACL dominated the top three boards but after that Grassy Park nearly caused an upset.

So, at the end of the third Saturday Steinitz, Stellenbosch and MRL are all still in the lead as they have secured six wins each from six matches!

I leave you with the solution from Mrs Hughes – a puzzle from 1936!


Dr Lyndon Bouah

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Adesewa Oyewole is a lawyer and a content writer. She studied Law and graduated from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University Ile- Ife. She later attended and finished from the Nigerian Law School, Kano campus, after which she was called to the Nigerian bar. Her passion for writing led her into content creation, which she has done professionally for over four years. Adesewa takes on freelance writing gigs, and she is a full-time Content Curator and Correspondent for BruvsChess Media.


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