My involvement with the South African Chess community

I taught myself to play chess at the age of 11. In the very first Chess tournament I played (The Free State Open-1972), I won the prize for the best schoolboy.

After that, I became the Free State Schools Chess Champion- a title I retained for a number of years. Those were the heady years right after the Fischer-Spassky match and chess bloomed in South Africa. I played chess for about three hours per day all through my High School career. I had wonderful friend (Van Zyl Swanepoel) whom I played against every day. He stayed opposite us and he (almost) shared my enthusiasm.

In those days, the Bloemfontein Chess Club was very active and we had a number of very good players who helped us remain enthusiastic. I will always remember (with great fondness) players like At van der Walt (Oom Attie), Leon Erasmus, Professor Anthon Heyns and others who were a constant source of inspiration.

After my school days, I went to University (University of the Orange Free State) and became the University Chess Champion and chairman of the University club.
Here I had some great Chess friends like George Pauer , his brother James and Jan Breytenbach and Alexander Hundt. We talked, played chess, travelled, and generally had a good time.

In 1985 I became the Free State Senior Chess Champion. My chess was at a peak. I wrote the SA National Tournament Director's Examinations and became involved with running chess tournaments on provincial and National level.

The next big development was when I started teaching at Grey College in 1989. Through my involvement with schools chess I found myself on the administrative side. I was elected the chairman of the Bloemfontein High Schools Chess association.

With the advent of USSASA (United Schools Sport Association of South Africa)
I was elected as chairman of the Southern Free State region. All of a sudden I found myself involved in chess politics and the political side of sport as a whole. One of my functions was to arrange a National Schools Chess Tournament. I was expected to this in just two months!

I was elected the Vice-chairman of USSASA Chess National in 1994. I was awarded the Provincial Pro Merito Award in 1995.

In 1996 I was elected President of USSASA Chess National. Once again I found myself having to arrange a National tournament! Fortunately I was in a position of having some very wonderful people working with me- most notably my wife Tiekie, and the members of the USSASA Executive.

I became very heavily involved in the politics of Chess and sport in this time. Remember, it was a time of great political change in South Africa .

At this stage I was also elected as the Chairman for the Free State Chess Union.

Now you can understand, being the Chairman of four chess bodies simultaneously,
each with its own constitution and electorate, was a very taxing and tiring job.
To complicate issues, each body had different viewpoints and even political motives.

Even so, I learned a lot about chess and the politics of sport from local schools level up to National level. I am still very involved in the planning and organising of chess tournaments. However, I find that being Tournament Director is much more rewarding than just serving on comittees. I have been a TD on National level on numerous occasions, most notably for the SA Open 1999. My wife and I was also awarded National USSASA Colours for our involvement in Chess over the years.

I have however become very disillusioned with chess politics in the Free State. I have found that many people will just serve in structures for their own gain and status. It was hard to accept that some of my earlier "chess heroes" had feet of clay and would lie and cheat for personal gain.