South Africa in Black and White (Part 1/2)

7/12/2013 – This is the last time the Commonwealth Championship is held in an Open format, with countless side events: a blitz tournament, FIDE arbiter and trainer seminars, simuls, lectures, photo sessions, safari trips and more! The proportions of this tournament are truly huge and it started with a spectacular opening ceremony. Here is an illustrated report by Alina L'Ami.

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South Africa in Black and White (Part 1/2)

By Alina L'Ami

The best things in life aren’t things – the table mat under my English breakfast wisely stated.

The Boardwalk - I feel like Alice in Wonderland here

I’ve just arrived in South Africa, just sat foot on the world’s most epic continent and I am already given food for thought! Ok, I can still enjoy my coffee while my mind is stepping out of line...There are many different aspects and views on this matter that I can understand.

The view from the room

An irresistible shot

Sometimes a chess player's life is a series of hardships.... sometimes.

Some may say God, some may say Peace, some might mention Happiness, Love or Family. But I would personally say all those things including one word: passion! Not that passion which eats you inside-out, but its more subtle sibling, the com-passionate one. I am not sure if this common conclusion popped out from the rather uncommon table mat inscription or from my beautiful omelette.  Probably it is the fault of the wonderful hard-bitten South African soul...

Port Elizabeth - typical beach town, very popular amongst tourists, foreigners
and locals alike.

The opening ceremony was...

...spectacular! It was a light, music, and water show.

Beautiful!

And there I was, standing in a circle with the other members of the Port Elizabethan family who had invited me for dinner, linked to each other by holding hands while they were singing prayers of gratitude to the Lord for the food laid on the table. Even though this is unusual in modern Europe, I was surprised to find everything very natural; I would define the moment as sublime.

Chess friends: WGM Nadig Kruttika, Alina L'Ami, Pakistani national player Nida
Siddiqui, Indian WGMs WGM Mary Ann Gomes, and Soumya Swaminathan

A grand event such as this would not be complete without a few simuls

Now that some time has passed, I am wondering how this could happen. When I received the invitation the evening before the tournament start, coming from a completely unknown person, I was kind of surprised and met it not without some hopefully well hidden reserve. I could refuse and continue living with my short-sightedness, or accept it and realize the absolutely honest and friendly nature of its background. Fortunately, I chose the latter!

Tournament is officially open on the first board of top seed, Sergey Fedorchuk

Lauren Van Niekerk from South Africa was his opponent

When I arrived at their home, after my relatively short first round win, I was immediately assaulted by cats, dogs and the family. My inner discomfort vanished at once and I felt that the stranger I was became a part of the family, in complete harmony with all the other members, bipeds or quadrupeds...

IM Jovanka Houska from England

Tshepang Tlale from South Africa

You may understand now that the culminating moment described above did indeed come quite naturally, without meaning a sudden religious revelation or things of the kind. It does not matter whether you are a believer or not; after receiving such a warm welcome, you will never be the same person again!

Vladislav Tkachiev

And I feel that this kind of open friendship is characteristic of most of the South Africans. The spirit of the country the way I perceived it, reminds me of a bouquet of wild flowers: colourful, fresh, natural, without any intention of astounding, but captivating one’s soul all the same...

I found some sort of (possibly only symbolic) explanation for it. In South Africa there are no less than eleven official languages. The only way to avoid ending up like the workers at the Tower of Babel is mastering the universal language of the soul. And if you add to it a dash of passion, like South Africans do with almost every occasion, things are guaranteed to work out.


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