Sahaj Grover dominates South African Championships

by Erick Takawira
7/25/2017 – The South African Open Chess Championships returned to Durban this year after a 21-year break. It was held from the 14th to the 22nd July and was won by GM Sahaj Grover from India. In fact he won not only the Classical, but Rapid and the Blitz Championships as well! | Photo: Rayven Moodley

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A clean sweep

The South African Open Chess Championships returned to Durban this year after a 21-year break and was held from the 14th to the 22nd July at Glenwood High School in Durban.

The tournament has a long and established history dating back to 1962! It was initially run every two years but has been held annually since 1995. Recent years have seen the strength of the field increase dramatically and notable players who have previously won the title include GM Gawain Jones (2011), GM Abhijeet Gupta (2013), GM Merab Gagunashvili (2014), GM Nigel Short (2015) and GM Aleksa Strikovic (2016).

Former World U/10 Champion GM Sahaj Grover from India became the latest to add his name to the champions trophy. The 22-year-old Indian GM was in fine form and recorded a rare clean sweep of the event as he won the Classical, Rapid and the Blitz Championships! His impressive score of 10/11 in the main event saw him best the field by a full 1.5 points as he saw off some stiff competition from some of Southern Africa’s most talented International Masters.

Sahaj Grover and Mrs Marcelle Agulhas

GM Sahaj Grover receiving his trophy from Mrs. Marcelle Agulhas, secretary of Chess South Africa | Photo: Rayven Moodley

The Championship section attracted players from South Africa, Botswana, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They played alongside hundreds of juniors who participated in the development sections with the event attracting more than 450 players in total.

There were upsets from as early as Round 1 when Glenwood High School’s own FM Naseem Essa (1682) draw against the second seeded IM Daniel Jere from Zambia (2380). Sahaj was also lucky to escape in Round 3 when CM Nashlen Govindasamy (2087) lost his way after the engines had accessed his position as +8 at one point!

The games from the top 14 matches were broadcast live each round and were carried at IM Daniel Jere from Zambia and IM Rodwell Makoto from Zimbabwe also lived up to their seedings and duly finished second and third respectively.

IM Daniel Jere

IM Daniel Jere from Zambia placed 2nd in the main event | Photo: Rayven Moodley

The B section for players 1500 and below was won by local player Cyprian Meyiwa while the C section (1200 and below) saw Sipho Mtoboyi take the win with the only 100% score of the entire tournament.

Grover continued his dominance in the Blitz where he scored 6.5 out of 7 and in the Rapid where he needed a tiebreak after sharing first place on 6/7 with Spencer Masango from Zimbabwe.

One young man that did put up some resistance was the talented and fast junior Keith Kumalo who can be proud of the two draws he secured against Sahaj in both the Rapid and Blitz events!

Keith Kumalo center

Young Keith Kumalo (in Blue) secured draws against Grover in both the Rapid and Blitz events | Photo: Rayven Moodley

The KZN Chess Association are very grateful for the sponsorship they received from the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, the Beier Group, the National Lotto Commission and many others.

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Top 15 Places

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Grover Sahaj 10,0
2 Jere Daniel 8,5
3 Makoto Rodwell 8,0
4 Masango Spencer 8,0
5 Kobese Watu 8,0
6 De Abreu Roberto N 8,0
7 Zwakala Ntando 8,0
8 Mwali Chitumbo 7,5
9 Mnguni Jacob Dumisani 7,5
10 Choko Siyabonga V. 7,5
11 Bhawoodien Mohamed Ozayr 7,5
12 Wilken Justin Barend 7,5
13 Solomons Deon 7,5
14 Pesa Mofoka A. 7,5
15 Jacobs Kevin T 7,5


President of Chess KwaZulu Natal as well as the Executive Director of KZN Chess Academy, Erick Takawira is originally from Zimbabwe. He moved to Durban in 2009 and set up his academy to service the needs of the chess community within Durban and the surrounding areas.


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