South Africas First Chess Grandmaster

A chess player who grew up one of eight children in a township notorious for gang violence and drug abuse has become South Africa’s first grandmaster. Kenny Solomon, 33, was awarded the title after winning the Africa individual chess championship in Namibia last month. He is only the second grandmaster in sub-Saharan Africa after Amon Simutowe of Zambia. Solomon started playing chess as a 13-year-old in Mitchells Plain, a township on the Cape Flats, after his older brother was flown to the Philippines to take part in a Chess Olympiad. He read a book about former world champion Anatoly Karpov, taught himself to play and won the under-16 national championship two years later. In 2013, Mitchells Plain, where most residents are of mixed raced ancestry, was identified as having the highest crime rate in South Africa with 1.8m serious offences reported over the previous year.


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