Nigel's sub-Saharan chess tour

by ChessBase
5/6/2006 – Recently former world championship challenger Nigel Short toured southern Africa, a trip that stirred up some resentment in one of the countries he visited. But mostly it was a rousing success in an area where grandmasters are a seldom seen species. From South Africa we received this lovely report by Jackie Ngubeni.

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IGM Nigel Short's tour in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Jackie M. Ngubeni (RSA)

My good friend Allan Smith called me one evening early March 2006 with the great news that GM Nigel Short is in South Africa. He is on a campaign trail for the Right Move Ticket and he also wants to fulfill his promise to me in India, back in 2002. During the World Cup in Hyderabad, he had expressed a wish to visit the region to help Africa to grow more titled players – and ultimately harvest Grandmasters!

Nigel Short with Jackie Ngubeni of the Chess Academy together with Ngubeni's daughters

The British GM had a back breaking schedule that would see him visit almost all southern African countries. I saw myself able to assist mainly with his developmental agenda on his two-pronged mission. For the political leg I felt it's up to the federations to evaluate and decide. But the idea that a top GM visits your country on a campaign trip and uses the opportunity to assist in developmental work of chess within a federation, free of charge, was truly a wonderful deal. Given that it would cost a fortune to pay for the invitation alone.

South Africa is situated in the southern tip of Africa. With infrastructural development and a world class airways it is unrivalled as an access route to and from the surrounding Pan-African continent. That is problably why Nigel chose to use it as the nerve center of his visit. Chess South Africa (Chessa), to which I am the advisor and consultant on developmental matters, immediately commisioned me to drive the RSA leg of his trip. I also commited to travel with Nigel to Botswana, where I have firm relations with top players.


Soweto had to be the first step for the British icon. The reception was exciting. This township was the epicenter of the youth revolt in 1976. The political history for the liberation of South Africa will always quote the youth involvement in the uprising of June 16. For more information on Soweto history visit the City of Johannesburg website. This is also the township that has a street that two Nobel Peace prize winners came from, viz; Nelson Mandela and Arch Bishop Tutu! (see the Mandela Page). This is also the home of the famous and humorous chess club known as the Soweto Chess Club, the chess birth place of IM Watu Kobese. It is amazing that here you will find chess players with a massive plus score against this fearsome African master. How could this happen? He played many of them from the age of four. Watu went on to dominate South African chess at the age of nine.

Playing with Jackie Ngubeni of the Chess Academy in South Africa

Nigel short playing with a promising young star in Soweto

GM.Short became one of the many VIPs to have visited this one room club. Dr. Max Euwe (World Champion & FIDE president), Florencio Campomanes (FIDE President), GM. R.B. Ramesh (India). Recently, on his first trip to RSA, Geoffrey Borg (Treasurer-Elect Right Move Ticket; FIDE).


Botswana proved to be a tough nut to crack! As you probably know there were some well publicised hostilities directed against grandmaster Short by the president of the local Federation (BCF), Dabilani Buthali, who is a nominee of the Kirsan Ilyumzhinov ticket for the unopposed Africa Continent Presidency. It was not in his interest to allow someone from the rival ticket to air his views in Botswana, and he did everything he could to ensure that this would not happen. But true to the promises made to me back in India, Nigel found the courage to honour his commitment and to host chess workshops, conduct simuls, play blitz matches, not to mention lectures and training to the Olympiad team individually. It was a grueling three days work, and a great victory for those who love the game.

Nigel Short playing a simultaneous exhibition with Botswana National Players

It is not often that one gets an opportunity to face a world-class grandmaster

The players taking this "lesson" very seriously

And some put up a seriously tough fight

With the GM making good publicity for chess in the media and prime time TV news, it was unfortunate that the president, despite the opinion of the BCF executive that the GM has accounted for his visit by far, went on to renege on the agreement to reimburse the Grandmaster's expenses.


Tembisa is a township second largest to Soweto in Johannesburg. Reagile Primary School, situated at the Winnie Mandela settlement, is an under-priviledged learning center where Chessa's one of Ekurhuleni Developmental projects is being driven by my Academy. Upon hearing about this Nigel was excited and looked forward to this trip. As a matter of fact, on that day he woke up at four in the morning, to be at the SABC Africa Radio & TV studios for an interview broadcast to more than 180 million Africans throughout the continent. The GM shared with the viewers his chess experience and highlighted the benefits of the game in schools.

Welcome in Tembisa. From left to right: Deputy Principal Giagile Primary, Mr Ball (Chess South Africa President), Benny Parkerns (Executive Director of Chess South Africa), Principal (Giagile Primary), Raymond Serudo (chess trainer), Jackie Ngubeni (Chess Academy SA), GM Nigel Short, Mr Ledima (South Africa Goverment Official)

The Deputy Principal of the Reagile Primary School supports chess 100%

Children from the Tembisa Township, one of whom will probably be the next world class player, with Lawrence Ball (CHESSA President)

From left to right: Lawrence Ball (Chess South Africa President), Giagile Primary Deputy Principal, GM Short, Giagile Primary Principal and Mr Jackie Ngubeni (Chess Academy SA)

Overwhelming: the GM addresses hundreds of children

Lastly, in the guise as General Secretary and Champion of the Commonwealth, the British GM sampled the delights of the Emperor's Palace hotel. This is the proposed venue of the Commonwealth Chess Championship in RSA 2007. He gave it his full approval. See also the Peermont Global web site.

The delights and the opulence of the Roman emperors could not dissuade the icon of chess to take more than a one-day stay in this luxury. He duly returned to the home of our now mutual friend Allan. Next morning he flew out to Malawi with fond memories.

Many in this region in Southern Africa are indebted to the Super GM's good will tour. People who were opposed to his mission served only to deprive themselves of his unselfish generosity. And to those who attacked his political agenda we ask, where are the other side's grandmasters? Why don't they come and tour our country, as Nigel Short did?

Thank you Grandmaster Short, you have our support!

All photos by Peace Shabangu

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