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Joburg Teens Endorsed By US Chess Grandmaster To Develop Their Game In Europe

Their skill and tenacity in their bid to beat grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura has seen two Johannesburg teens being endorsed by the four-time US chess champion, who has offered to sponsor them in developing their game.

The strategy shown by Khanya Mazibuko and Keith Khumalo, both 16, resulted in Nakamura selecting them to benefit from his assistance by possibly going to play in the circuit overseas or in training camps in Europe.

The two faced Nakamura at the South African National Junior Chess Championships in Boksburg, currently underway and concluding on Friday.

Following his record-breaking 101 simultaneous chess game exhibition in Johannesburg – which saw him play for almost six hours, walk more than 5km and make 3 500 moves – Nakamura endorsed the two teens he had faced during the tournament.

“During the simultaneous exhibition grandmaster Nakamura felt Khanya and Keith showed tremendous talent in their games against him and could do with further assistance to develop their chess,” said tournament director Hendrik du Toit.

The details around the exact nature of the sponsorship or assistance are still to be confirmed.

‘It’s a lot like life’

Mazibuko was one of only two of the 101 participants to claim a win against Nakamura.

The Grade 11 pupil from Soweto, who faced the grandmaster for almost six hours before coming out victorious, tried to humbly dismiss his win as a lucky break.

“I tried to suss him out, and I suffered a few inaccuracies. At one point I was holding the game, then we were equal. He made a mistake [and I capitalised]. I suppose he was tired,” he laughed.

Mazibuko started playing five years ago, when Mokorotlo Primary School established a chess club.

“I like the concept of the sport – having to out-think your opponent, outplaying and outsmarting the person opposite you. It’s a lot like life; you have to consider your next move or you can become a loser very quickly.”

Khumalo, from Yeoville, said he nearly fainted when he heard Nakamura had endorsed him.

“I am very lucky because this is a great opportunity. I do think I deserve it because we had a good game, but I know I could have done even better,” he admitted.

Dreams and expectations

At the age of 11, he literally stumbled upon the game while walking home from school.

“In Joubert Park, a group of people had been playing and a man asked me if I would like to learn the game. I was interested, he taught me and I later started taking part in tournaments,” he recalled.

What he likes most about the game is having to think out of the box.

“And winning, of course,” Khumalo joked.

He believes he has what it takes to be just as good as Nakamura, and that the grandmaster saw his ability, resulting in him being selected.

“I have never been overseas and going to Europe has always been my dream.”

Mazibuko said he, too, was excited about developing his game and potentially learning to become even better in Europe.

“He sees potential in me and I hope I can prove him right. I am grateful he has selected me out of everyone,” he said.

“I want to become better. I hope I live up to his expectations.”


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