Commonwealth Chess Championships debut in Africa!

by ChessBase
6/26/2011 – The Championships are being held from June 25th to July 4th in the spectacular Emperors Palace Hotel in Ekurhuleni, South Africa. The field of over 700 participants boasts more than 40 titled players and is headed by three times past champion GM Nigel Short from England. The chess promises to be exciting, but the surrounding wildlife even more so. See for yourself.

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Commonwealth Chess Championships debut in Africa!

Report by Graham Jurgensen, Convenor of the Championships

A record field of over 700 chess fans (and fanatics) have gathered at Emperors Palace Hotel Casino and Convention Centre in Ekurhuleni, South Africa for the hosting of the 2011 Commonwealth & South African Open Chess Championships. The field boasts more than 40 titled players and is headed by three times past champion GM Nigel Short from England. There is also a strong Indian contingent present including former World Junior Chess Champions GM Abhijeet Gupta and IM Harika Dronovalli.

View Larger Map – use the mouse wheel to zoom and the left mouse key to pan

View Larger Map – use the mouse wheel to zoom and the left mouse key to pan

A number of top players arrived early to experience a true Africa’s safari and several GM’s enjoyed game drives within famous reserves such as the Kruger National Park and the Pillansberg Game Reserve. The animals seen in those three days were spectacular with the chess-tourists coming within three meters of a pride of lions feasting on a recent buffalo kill! This truly African experience has already made the tournament extremely memorable for the players involved!

IM Harika Dronavali assisting in the identification of rhino dung

GM Gawain Jones smoking elephant dung, a traditional remedy for sinus problems and headaches

Two elephants have a minor disagreement in the middle of the road...

... whilst a giraffe has a more leisurely stroll

The players were also lucky to witness this rare African dinner at close range

The days before the tournament have also seen a number of GM simuls, presentations and lectures. The tournament schedule was opened by a short lecture by top seed GM Nigel Short, who hosted an entertaining and enlightening discussion and shared his insights on a wide variety of topics. This was followed by a simultaneous exhibition by six of the top grandmasters who payed a combined total of 120 players and gave up only six draws and one loss between them! Hopefully this tournament can pave the way for more of the world elite making their way to play in large African tournaments.

GM David Smerdon deep in thought at a Simultaneous exhibition at a local chess club

These 110 youthful players sang the national anthem during the opening ceremony and
then went on to play their own tournament next to the Commonwealth Championship

Now the pretournament activities have been completed, the chess begins in earnest – can defending champion R.R. Laxman repeat his effort from last year, or will top seed GM Nigel Short continue to impress with another dominating African performance! Too add some extra incentive to the Commonwealth Gold medal, the winner will receive a seven night stay for ten people in a five star privately owned house on the border of the Kruger National Park:

LeoLapa is perched on the scenic banks of one of the Kruger National Park's greatest rivers – the Crocodile River – and is surrounded by tens of thousands of hectares of raw African wilderness. LeoLapa accommodates ten guests in five private bedrooms. Every bedroom has an en-suite bathroom plus an outside shower with a patio looking onto the Crocodile River. The long passage opens up to a large lounge and dining room area where visitors can enjoy a sunset drink while watching a variety of bird and animal life. This room further extends to an enormous patio with an infinity pool and braai area where many a bush story has been shared. This self catering Five Star house has air conditioning, ceiling fans, pvr satellite tv, a fully stocked kitchen and bar along with maid service daily. Quite a prize for the Commonwealth Champion.

Harika providing some free advice to Mike Hugo, one of the sponsors of the first prize

The tournament is a big step forward for local chess organisers in Africa and will hopefully be setting benchmark for similar events in the future. Results and live games for the first ten boards are available at the official tournament website.

Top starting rank list + schedule

The Championship Section and the B-Section will be run in parallel on the schedule given below.

No. Title Name FED
1 GM Short Nigel D ENG
2 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND
3 GM Jones Gawain CB ENG
4 GM Lafuente Pablo ARG
5 GM Kunte Abhijit IND
6 GM Smerdon David AUS
7 IM Harika Dronovali IND
8 IM Huschenbeth Niclas   GER
9 IM Grover Sahaj IND
10 GM Laxman Rajaram IND
11 IM Sachdev Tania IND
12 IM Mokal Prathamesh IND
Date Time Activity
Saturday 25 June 10:00
Round 1
 SA Blitz Championship
Sunday 26 June 10:00
Round 2
 Round 3
Monday 27 June 10:00
Round 4
 Round 5
Tuesday 28 June 15:00 Round 6
Wed. 29 June 15:00 Round 7
Thursday 30 June 15:00 Round 8
Friday 1 July 15:00 Round 9
Saturday 2 July 15:00 Round 10
Sunday 3 July 10:00 Round 11, Prize giving
Monday 4 July 10:00 Departure foreign players

Tournament opening ceremony and round one video

Round two video

Videos are by Vijay Kumar IBS [Retd], Fmr Chief Producer TV News & Sports, Doordarshan Indian TV Network


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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