CAPETONIANS have shone in the last week.
Top of the achievements is Kenny Solomon’s grandmaster norm. Playing in the Padua Open, Kenny scored eight out of a possible nine, third equal behind the joint winners Epeshin and Malerov. If Solomon does gain the title he will become the first South African to hold Fidé’s highest nomenclature for over-the-board play, but it is the rating that climbs ever nearer 2 600 that really matters.
Other Capetonians in the spotlight include Tiffany Darling, who won the under-12 gold medal at the African junior in Lusaka. Then, at the South African Junior, which ended this week in Port Elizabeth, Mohamed Bhawoodien creamed the top (under-20) section, while Daniel Barrish, aged 11, but playing in this section, finished equal third.
Other heavy scorers in lower age groups were Paul Darling, Paul Gluckman and Raoul Chagan.
Both Bhawoodien and Gluckman are sons of Fidé title holders and must benefit from Dad’s encouragement and coaching.
The main attraction outside the tournament was the presence of former Women’s World Champion Susan Polgar, who, apart from her three-day seminar on women in chess, gave a simultaneous exhibition against mainly girls, including WGM Melissa Greeff.
The sight of one player taking on many opponents never fails to impress, but as the famous Belgian, Count Alberic O’kelly de Galway, told me, “My legs get more tired than my brain.”
Meanwhile a new world record was set for blindfold, simultaneous play. Until a few weeks ago, since 1947 only one player had played as many as 35 blindfold games at once under well-controlled conditions.
That successful master was Marc Lang of Günzburg, Germany, who handled 35 opponents in November 2010, surpassing blindfold champion George Koltanowski’s record of 34 simultaneous games set in Edinburgh in 1937 (in 2009 Lang had set a new German record of 23).
Lang’s goal was to exceed 45 games to gain the world record. For the past year he prepared by taking on 46 opponents under strictly controlled conditions, facing a blank wall while his opponent’s boards were shielded from view by opaque screens. Even the wearing of chequered T-shirts was excluded.
It is remarkable that Lang is only a Fidé master, with an ELO rating around 2 300.
Except for Koltanowski (who did achieve an International Master’s rating in 1950 and was later awarded an honorary Grandmaster title by Fidé in 1988), the greatest simultaneous blindfold players of the past were top world-class tournament and match players like André Philidor, Paul Morphy, Joseph Blackburn, Harry Pillsbury, Alexander Alekhine, Richard Réti and GM Miguel Najdorf.