Chess is alive and well at Jeppe

Bronze medalists: The under-15 chess team.

Chess has a long history as an extra-mural activity at Jeppe and the current club is thriving. There are about 20 regulars who take the sport seriously and compete in interschool competitions and a further 50-odd who play socially and try to fit chess in among their other activities.

The club reached a new height last weekend, however, when the under-15 team won the bronze medal at the Gauteng Provincial Chess Championship in Pretoria. That’s the best a team from Jeppe has done for as long as anyone can remember, according to the MIC Mr Gabriel Janse van Rensburg.

“We have been in the top 10 before, but never made the top three. The best we have done has been about 7th place.”

Mr George Dor was with the team and he explained the road they followed to get there. “The initial rounds are played on a cluster basis, against your local schools. The under-15s won their cluster and the under-17 team qualified for the next level – the interdistrict competition – out of theirs.

“At the interdistrict competition, both teams won their tournaments to qualify for the provincial tournament in Pretoria where they were up against the 20 top schools in Gauteng.”

Mr Janse van Rensburg explained that the championship is run according to the Swiss competition system which sees teams matched against ever-stronger competition throughout the tournament until the top team emerges.

“Our under-15s ended up playing Waterkloof, the eventual winners, and lost by a single point. Brandwag came second and they were one of the schools we never played against,” he said. “At Waterkloof chess is taken very seriously and they even offer chess as a school subject, which makes our result a very good one.”

In fact, Mr Dor said, a lot of the schools who play at this level have chess as a major activity. “Jeppe has so much going on and there is pressure on the boys to do multiple things, so very few see chess as their main focus. We beat schools where that is not the case, which makes the performance of these boys special.”

The serious chess players attend practices on Friday afternoons where they play long games, do exercises and study game openings and strategies, Mr Dor explained. “The boys all play a lot of chess every day, though. There are “blitz” games in every break where time is limited, and proper games involving the serious and social players on Fridays.”

It’s safe to say that chess is alive and well at Jeppe.