– Danie Keet.

Grand master (GM) Adham Fawzy of Egypt won the first Cape Winelands Rapid Online Chess Championship held on Saturday 6 June with 6 points out of a possible 7 (4 wins and 2 draws). 

The South African International Master (IM), Daniel Cawdery, also with 6 points (4 wins and two draws) was second, with Dutch GM, Twan Burg, in the third position with 5 victories, one draw and a loss.
The championship, which had 90 participants in two sections, was held on the lichess.org platform. Each player had 10 minutes to complete all their moves in each game.

GM Fawzy, the seventh highest rated player in Africa, drew his games against Cawdery and Burg, while beating all his other opponents. Cawdery, after winning his first game easily, drew his next two games against Fawzy and current SA champion, Fide Master (FM) Daniel Barrish, whereafter he accumulated 4 points in a row. Burg lost to the strong South African FM, Banele Mhango, who achieved the fourth position.  Nico Martin from Rondebosch Boys High School had a strong showing that earned him the fifth position. 

Alexander van der Merwe, a Paul Roos Gymnasium learner and the best Stellenbosch player, ended in the sixth position with 5 victories and 2 losses.

The junior section was won by Waylon Brander of Delft (Kraaifontein Chess Club), with Thato Mokwena second and Nkosihle Khumalo third.

The open section of the tournament drew a very strong field of numerous titled players, including several grandmasters. The SA Open champion of 2016 and champion of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, GM Aleksa Strikovic, was one of the invited players in this inaugural online event. Participants were from as far afield as the Netherlands, Egypt and Thailand.

In South Africa participants were from all corners of South Africa, from Vosloorus to Constantia. Online chess has been flourishing since over the board games came to a halt with the Covid -19 pandemic. According to Daniel Rensch from the chess website Chess.com, they hosted more than 279 million games in April 2020.  Some 10 million people logged on only to watch games played by other players.

Lichess.org also recorded more than 75 million games in May alone, up from 40 million games in November 2019.

Numerous elite tournaments are being hosted on the internet to fill the void being left by the lack of over the board tournaments. Some of these tournaments boast substantial prize funds. The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour has a total prize fund of $1million. The International Chess Federation has also launched a worldwide project called Checkmate Corona. This consists of continuous online tournaments on various platforms in all member states. The prizes include tickets to the next Chess Olympiad in the Russian Federation.

In South Africa the online chess scene has also been very busy during the past two months with numerous events. Earlier this year IM Henry Steel from Stellenbosch won the “Clash of the Titans” in the final against GM Sahaj Grover. This competition was a series of knockout matches between several strong South African players hosted by the chess personality, Justin Wilken.

Stellenbosch Chess Club clinched the second place in the first Chess Western Province online blitz team championship behind Steinitz Chess Club over the weekend.  A South African women’s team, which included candidate master Rebecca Selkirk from Stellenbosch Chess Club and FM Michelle Fisher from Maties, took part in the Woman’s Nation Cup which was held online. South Africa ended 13th out of 15 nations, with India taking the honours.

Chess South Africa is busy drafting guidelines for online tournaments, as it seems that online chess tournaments are here to stay.