Chess has now been written in yet another language… the language of Xhosa. Author IM Watu Kobese has made chess available in this language again showing the game’s universality. It will aid in reaching the rural areas of South Africa.
The first time I heard the language of Xhosa was at an International Conference at my alma mater, Chicago State University. During one of the workshops, a man from South Africa was demonstrating a language that was accented by a series of different, syncopated clicks. I sat there amazed at how he was able to perform these sounds so effortlessly and rapidly.
Years later, I took an International Education class during graduate studies and on the first day a classmate introduced herself with a loud click! Her name began with an “X” which is one of the Xhosa clicks. Of course legendary singer Miriam Makeba made famous this click language in her songs.
Miriam Makeba in “The Click Song” at 1966 performance in Sweden.
Xhosa is one of the languages widely spoken in South Africa. International Master Watu Kobese decided to write “Masidlale Uthimba” in this language to reach rural children who are not functionally literate in English. The book was launched a few days ago and follows the Zulu version which was written several years ago.
IM Watu Kobese at 1998 U.S. Masters in Honolulu, Hawaii.
He had beaten Judit Polgar in Cap d’Agde that year.
Photo by Jerry Bibuld.
Kobese is a legendary player whose name appears prominently on this site as one of the trailblazers and original professional chess players of Africa. He spent years studying in Germany under Grandmasters Ludek Pachman, Miroslav Filip and Lothar Vogt. Watu was perhaps hampered by the politics of South Africa during his rise but is now sharing the expanse of his knowledge with this book project. Bravo Watu!!