South Africa's  FM Kenny Solomon on the Rise!
South Africa South Africa South Africa

"First Chess Grandmaster from Cape Flats?," South African Press Association, 24 June 2003 (Johannesburg, South Africa).

A young man from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town has taken a step closer to his dream of becoming a chess grandmaster, the first in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenny Solomon, 23, won the South African Closed Championship in Johannesburg last weekend, to establish himself as the country's top chess player. This tournament is held every two years and the top 12 players in the country are invited to compete.  "My goal is to become a grandmaster and by winning this tournament could open up doors for me," said Solomon.

Winning the tournament meant he qualified to play in the African Championships in Libya in August. "If I finish in the top six at that tournament, I will qualify to play in the World Championships, which has been my goal for the past five years."

FM Kenny Solomon. Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

FM Kenny Solomon. Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

Solomon, who started playing the game relatively late at the age of 13, said he was introduced to chess by his elder brothers. "Chess has become a passion. It helps build logic and creativity, and I enjoy the psychological aspect of it as well," he said.

He is one of only two black professionals playing the game at the moment, and his victory at the Closed Championship was at the expense of his friend and arch-rival,
Watu Kobese from Soweto. "We are friends, but over the board we are rivals," said Kenny.

Kenny and Kobese ended on the same score, but because Kenny had not lost a single game he was declared the winner on a tie break. The two players and another,
David Gluckman, who ended third in the tournament will now represent South Africa in Spain next week at the Olympiads.

Lyndon Bouah, president of Chess Western Province, said Solomon brought an amazing temperance to his game. "At his age he is very patient, is methodical and works hard on the board." Bouah said that to become a grandmaster -- the highest level a player could aspire to -- one had to play in international tournaments which have at least ten grandmasters competing.

"My goal is to become a grandmaster and by winning this tournament could open up doors for me."

"You must score a 60 percent 'norm' during the tournament, with three norms of 60 percent making you eligible to be called a grandmaster," he said. Bouah said Africa had only three grandmasters, two in Tunisia and one in Morocco, with none in the Sub-Saharan region. "Players like Kobese and Zambia's Amon Simutowe have managed to score one norm, but with Kenny winning last weekend's Closed Championship undefeated, he has signaled that he has arrived and has the potential." Bouah said chess in South Africa was healthy, and predicted the country could soon challenge Egypt as top chess country in Africa.

Solomon's father,
William, said he was proud of his son's achievements. "He longed for it (success) for years, he fought for it and now what he has put in, he is getting out." Solomon senior said he had never encouraged Kenny, the second youngest of eight children, to play chess, saying he had started with the encouragement of his elder brothers. "Kenny first started playing marbles and then suddenly switched to chess. He had no coach and built himself up," said the father.

Solomon, who turned professional this year, has won several tournaments this year alone, including the Ndaba Caissa tournament, the Cape Open, the Mossel Bay Open, the ATKV Open, the Reserve Bank Open and the Mohaile Open.

Editor's Note: Kenny truly has the potential to become a Grandmaster. His tenacity is one of the things that sticks out the most. He never quits fighting and once he's on the prowl… he's relentless. Players who followed the Wilbert Paige Memorial Tournament witnessed his budding talent. Hopefully, Solomon will receive more invitations to earn title norms.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 27 June 2003