Interview with South Africa's Kenny Solomon

Tauriq Jenkins, "Interview with International Master Kenny Solomon: a Warrior of the Grey Zone,"

Mitchell's Plain is an area in CapeTown that resonates with extreme contrasts. Situated on the Cape Flats on the False Bay coast between Strandfontein and Khayelitsha, it is a grey zone with a reputation of gang violence and drug abuse.

This neighbourhood with its matchbox townships, once described as "model" by the apartheid government. Yet still, though fertilised in an unsavoury quicksand of memory, it stands as a future-facing flower of immense beauty. One of its sons is
IM Kenny Solomon.

Development is a big word," utters Kenny, "to develop the nation, one has to target the top players and invest in them, so that juniors will aspire to them and see them as role models". He continues, "...there is not enough development of Black players from the townships in the Western Cape, this really has to be improved."

IM Kenny Solomon. Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

IM Kenneth Solomon
(Photo by Jerry Bibuld)

He mentions that if transport can be sourced for these players to get to the venues, it will certainly help in their participation. "We should have produced a GM already."

On being questioned on his thoughts about development, the IM spoke of a common trend of having tournaments that are not sponsored and run on high entry fees. He spoke of the need for more closed events, sponsorship and a larger drive for marketing the sport will bring chess onto a level that can be compared to other sport codes. "
The inside fighting of CHESSA is impacting chess as a whole in SA".

Kenny has been criticised in the past for playing "dull" chess, and has developed a reputation locally as a conservative player. Testimony to this is the fact that most of his top tournament games are over 65 moves long. I asked Kenny about this perception. His response was,
" I find joy and vibrancy is positions that others find boring".

"We should have produced a GM already."
~ IM Kenny Solomon ~

In our discussion he revelled in the fact that there is as much beauty in a simple endgame as in the middle game, and agreed that most players look to the middle game for its beauty. Over the past two years, Kenny has gone through a phase of opening up his repertoire and has been seen to play more aggressive and dynamic systems. "I did this to improve my overall level of the game, to experiment, and to set new challenges for myself. I think to improve, on has to take a step backward to move two steps forward. Moving out of a comfort zone and face new challenges builds character."

Having recently returned from the broils of tournaments such as Capelle Le Grande, in France (Dunkirk), and the famous Gibraltar (The Rock) tournament, Kenny is looking rather relaxed. In France his 5.5 out 9 was in his view average, having achieved draws against GM L. Tolsky, IM Nasar Firmian (2481), and IM Mateo (2417), and conceding to IM M. Wojiech (2463), and IM E Gasanov (2477).

IM Kenny Solomon at the 2006 Chess Olympiad in turin, Italy. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

IM Kenny Solomon playing top board for South Africa at the 2006 Chess Olympiad.
(Photo by Daaim Shabazz)

In Gibraltar, a British territory bordering Spain, he lost to defending South African Open Champion, British GM Gwain Jones who was an IM last year in July when he took the SA crown in Port Elizabeth. Solomon later compensated with a solid draw against British GM Chris Ward in a game spanning 82 moves.

Kenny's goals for 2007 are quite simple. He wants to do well in the African Championships and qualify for the World Champs in December in Russia, and hopefully after qualifying, "
I will take it from there and do the best that I can."

The South African Open which starts at the end of this week at Rustenburg Girls High School in Cape Town promises to be a tournament of titan proportions where SA's best will battle it out for the title and for a shot at the SA Closed. No matter how well players do well overseas, their consistency back home is of paramount importance.

Posted by The Chess Drum:  16 July 2007

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