YOLANDE DU PREEZ
A TEAM from the Waterkloof Chess Centre has done SA proud, coming second in the Intercontinental Youth Chess Challenge in Oslo, Norway.
The nine pupils from Hoërskool Waterkloof not only proved that SA could compete internationally, they also had the opportunity to meet Norwegian chess grandmaster Simen Agdestein.
Agdestein, who is a chess coach at the NTG chess academy in Norway – one of the top ones in the Scandinavian country – coached the pupils and ensured they were ready for the big challenge on June 21.
An organiser of the Waterkloof Chess Centre, Marisa van der Merwe, said although different teams from the centre had competed internationally, it was the first time SA had been invited to an intercontinental challenge.
“We competed against Norway and the US. It was a very tense game. In the first round we were ahead with one point and in the second round they (Norway) beat us by only one point,” she explained.
Van der Merwe said the pupils also met international master Nicolai Getz, who gave them a few tips and took it upon himself to give them a personal tour of Oslo.
“He (Getz) really treated the pupils. They went hiking in a forest and on a boat cruise in the fjords.”
Team captain Jeandré du Randt, who is in Cape Town competing in the SA Open Chess Championships, said he was very proud of his team.
“They worked very hard and I think we represented our country well. It was an honour for me.”
Du Randt said one thing he learnt from Agdestein which he would always treasure as a very valuable lesson was the short- and long-term advantages of a chess position known as “dynamic and strategical”.
“It is difficult to explain if you don’t know chess… strategical is like being in Grade 1.
“You don’t have any advantages then, but when you reach Grade 12 you will have the skills to further your studies and eventually go out and find a job while dynamic is your personal growth as a person.”
Van der Merwe said it was a great opportunity for the pupils to compete at international level.
“Getting international exposure is difficult and expensive, but we proved that we are just as competitive as any other team out there,” she said.
It was not easy for the team to raise funds for the trip and three members could not go as they did not have enough money.
“The team did not get any funding from a chess or sports body and most of the money raised was done by private fund-raising,” Van der Merwe said.
The two week trip was not only to compete in the challenge but also to introduce and promote Moves for Life (MFL) in Norway.
The Moves for Life programme was initiated by Hoërskool Water- kloof’s sports academy.
The aim of the outreach project is to teach the value of chess as a means of improving logic and lateral thinking among pupils, and so to assist in maths and science education.
With President Jacob Zuma as its patron, the Moves for Life programme is now rolled out in more than 300 schools countrywide.
It is divided into two subprogrammes.
The Mini Chess programme is aimed at children between four and eight, while the Master Moves programme caters for those older than eight.
The unique feature of the Moves for Life programme is that it enables an innovative and structured implementation programme for chess education from the lowest grades.
“The Moves for Life programme in co-operation with businesses, schools and the community is growing from strength to strength.
“More than 11 000 pupils participate in the mini chess programme on a weekly basis across the country,” Van der Merwe said.