Mary Lloyd, “Chess Wunderkind Ricky has Right Moves,” The Cape
Argus, 14 January 2004 (Cape Town, South Africa).
Ricky Rossouw from
Elsies River in Cape Town has been called a chess genius with the potential to
become the South African champion. Photo: Leon Muller, Cape Argus
Staring down at his pieces, Ricky Rossouw's huge, soft eyes make him
instantly endearing, but don't be fooled. By all accounts, the 11-year-old is a
demon; a demon chess player, that is.
"It's intimidating for older guys
to lose to him," says Eugene Steenkamp, chairman of the Elsies
River Chess Club, where Ricky practises three times a week.
Tipped by the
team captain as the club's most promising player, Ricky has come into his own in
the past year, causing two upset wins at a league tournament and stunning
seasoned chess players.
At the Elsies River Library, where the club
meets, Ricky was recently spotted by the former president of the South African
chess body and invited to a tournament for underprivileged kids. His enormous
talent was quickly recognised by Nick Barnett, chess columnist
for the Cape Argus, who decided to show him chess's most famous game.
daring match, played by 20-year-old American genius Paul Morphy
some 150 years ago, fascinated the youngster. When challenged to find the
winning move, he spotted it straight away - a queen sacrifice.
To see how
well Ricky had actually understood Morphy's strategy, Barnett then asked him to
play through the game. "This kid managed it first time," Barnett
Following the tournament, a story ran in the UK press quoting chess
enthusiasts saying Ricky should go to England for specialist training.
was his older brother Angelo, 16, who first encouraged Ricky to play chess three
years ago. They can both be found playing chess most afternoons at the Elsies
River Library, where the club provides tutoring and sets up matches for anyone
interested in the game.
Because equipment is limited, blitz games are
played so that everyone can have a go at a five-minute match.
adrenaline pumping," says Steenkamp, who likens this form of chess to arcade
games. He believes it is the fast pace of these games and the need for quick
thinking that keeps youngsters coming back.
Improved discipline and focus
are two other effects Steenkamp is quick to point out. Ricky explains it simply:
"It opens up my brain cells."
Academics concur. Research by Dr
Robert Ferguson of Bradford in the US shows that chess improves
children's' ability to think rationally, increases cognitive and communication
skills, results in higher grades in languages and mathematics, and fosters a
sense of self-worth, commitment and responsibility for one's actions.
look at Ricky's grades supports this theory. He achieved an A in maths and two
Bs for geography and natural science. Ricky is in Grade 6 at JS Klopper Primary
Ask Ricky what he wants to do when he grows up and he replies
with determination: "To play chess professionally." And his main ambition? To
Solomon, the current South African champion, who hails from
"We're behind him 100%," says Steenkamp.
limited resources, the club is struggling to seize all the opportunities open to
them. They currently have only two clocks, and Steenkamp says they need 18 more
for all members to take part in competitions.
A few of their players
were selected last year for the Western Province team that competed in
Bloem-fontein, but were unable to go as they could not pay for the
With help from the Golden Arrow Foundation, however, the club held
an open tournament, which allowed their members to compete with the South
African champion and other top 10 players. This year they will again be looking
For more information call Eugene Steenkamp on 083 945