UFH - Chess Open wrap

It took a gruelling three-hour match for Joburg-based Brighton Mthunzi to emerge victorious from the University of Fort Hare Chess Open after outmanoeuvring Romeo Tokoyi in Alice at the weekend.

The encounter had the spectators on the edge of their seats as Mthunzi, who travelled more than 900km to get to the tournament, outduelled one of the tertiary institution’s finest.

In the A section for advanced players, Tokoyi eventually placed seventh and Zandi Ncokotwane sixth to finish as Fort Hare’s top male and female competitors.

The university’s chess club coach Xhanti Mafongosi said the level of competition put the UFH Chess Open, which was first hosted in 2014, firmly back on the map after a year’s hiatus.

“It meant a lot to have it up and running again,” he said.

It is recognised by both the Chess RSA Federation (CHESSA) and International Chess Federation (FIDE), which means national and international ranking points were at stake.

Mafongosi said the status of the tournament created a sense of excitement among the region’s chess-playing community as most top events were traditionally held in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

“This means that for our players to test their skills they have to travel to these places, which can be costly. As we know, the Amathole area is one of the most disadvantaged in the country.”

UFH - Chess Open wrap

Players from around the country and abroad took part in the UFH Chess Open tournament in Alice at the weekend. Brighton Mthunzi of Johannesburg won the A section. Photo: Tim Wilson

The Open has attracted top players from around the country in the past and this year it did not disappoint either. One of the best clubs in the country, Gauteng’s Hyenas, were present and on the prowl for silverware.

“Some of their members actually play chess for a living and are constantly participating in high-level events, so that always makes them difficult opponents,” explained Mafongosi.

Besides the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, competitors came from as far as the Western Cape, Ekurhuleni, North West and Zimbabwe.

To attract a competitive field, the club embarked on a fundraising journey to put together R8 000 in cash prizes, 60GB of Vodacom data and R1 000 in SPAR vouchers.

A total of 97 participants competed across the A (33), B (55) and C sections (9).

The top woman in the A section, Thimna August, hails from Mdantsane. She secured two wins and four draws to remain unbeaten against much older players.

In the B section, for intermediate competitors, eleven-year-old first seed Ethan Mazikana finished tied for seventh. Olwethu Mzizi, fifth, and Zinathi Mbaba, fourth, were Fort Hare’s best-placed men’s and women’s players in this section.

Following his triumph, Mthunzi had nothing but praise for the tournament.

“In many years of playing the game of chess, it has been a while since I’ve attended such a well-organised event – and I go to a lot.”

Mafongosi said the champion’s feedback, as well as that from other participants who suggested more tournaments should be hosted by Fort Hare, showed that they were on the right track.

“We were honoured to hear that from one of the best players in the country.”

He thanked those who had made the event possible. They include the UFH Sports Department, Vodacom, Kwantu SUPERSPAR and Twins Supermarket.

The top performers were:

A section (advanced): 1 Brighton Mthunzi, 2 Raymond Magagula, 3 Kulasande Mafanya, 4 Luzuko Ndinise, 5 Thimna August (best female), 6 Zandi Ncokotwane (best UFH female student), 7 Romeo Tokoyi (best UFH male student).

B section (intermediate): 1 Tyler Botha, 2 Ovayo Kani, 3 Alizwa Mbengo, 4 Zinathi Mbaba, 5 Olwethu Mzizi.

C section (juniors): 1 Isiphe Mabongo, 2 Atidaishe Nyamukamba, 3 Kazimla Gqirana.