MPHO Bowers (Under-8 player), left, takes on grandmaster Levon Aronian as SAJCC president Hendrik du Toit keeps an eye on the opening move.

Super grandmaster Levon Aronian of Armenia, one of the top chess players in the world, officially opened the SA Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC) on Saturday.

He made the ceremonial first move of the tournament to get the championships under way.

Grandmaster Aronian is a former Fide (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) No2 and was at one stage the fourth-highest rated player in chess. He is currently rated No6 on the World Live Chess ratings list.

Fide is an international organisation that connects the various national chess federations worldwide and acts as the governing body of international chess competition.

As part of a continuing drive to raise the profile of chess in South Africa, grandmaster Aronian will take part in a number of activities to promote the game this week.

The SAJCC is one of the premier junior sporting events of any sporting code in South Africa. The history of this tournament dates back more than 30 years and the tournament typically attracts in excess of 2,500 junior chess players and officials. The championship consists of a team event and a wild-card event. 

The team tournament features regional teams of between 6 and 10 players who compete in age categories ranging from u/8 to u/20. The wild-card tournament, is an individual age-group event which serves as one of the key qualifying routes to the South Africa Junior Closed Chess Championships (SAJCCC). 

From this year, regional teams from across Southern African have been invited to participate for the first time and this exciting new development will bring an international flavour to one of the longest running junior sporting events in the entire region.

The SAJCC runs from January 4 to 8. At least 2240 players and 262 teams will participate in the event with 300 coaches and managers that will support them.

The SAJCC is the largest chess tournament in South Africa and one of the biggest on the continent.