On cold Monday evenings, unity in chess comes into play in the central part of one of the least populated nations in the world. Namibia is not just home to the oldest plant in the world, in the Welwitschia Mirabilis but she is also providing a platform for one of the most exciting chess evenings in the universe.
The Namibia Chess League has been running for the past five (5) years, with every year proving to have more participating teams and it has continually grown in popularity. The 2018 chess league season is no exception in growth, boasting a total of ten (10) premier league teams, eight (8) more in the first division and a further six (6) in the junior league, that play a double round robin format to eventually crown the best in each category for the year in view.
Capablanca Chess Club, a club widely referred to as “Los Cubanos” or more commonly the Cubans, is a team named after the former world champion GM Jose Raul Capablanca and has dominated domestic team chess, winning the premier chess league for a record five (5) times since inception. The ever present members of Capablanca are none other than, Current Namibian National Champion CM Charles Eichab, Multiple Olympian CM Otto Nakapunda, Former National Champion Peter Gallert, under the stewardship of Multiple Namibia Police Chess Champion, Thomas Ehrich.
The Cubans have the oldest average squad in the chess league and the old guards are finding it hard in this particular campaign, with stiffer oppositions coming up in various teams. In the 2018 Premier Chess League, they have suffered two (2) defeats after seven (7) rounds, as much as they have suffered in the previous five (5) years. With such defeats, one of which was inflicted by Current table toppers, 3D Grand Monsters Chess Club, led by Former African Champion IM Robert Gwaze and Former Olympian Simon Shidolo. With the seven (7) rounds completed, Capablanca Chess Club find themselves in unfamiliar territory at 5th position.
Surprisingly, 2nd place is being occupied by Rubinstein Chess Academy, the youngest chess club, founded three (3) years ago and debuting in the Premier Chess League after winning the 2017 First Division Chess League. Rubinstein Chess Academy is home to one of the upsetters in Namibian Chess in recent years in Clarence Campbell, Current Namibia National 4th placed player, CM Mclean Handjaba and Current NCF President Israel Shilongo. With objectives of surviving at the start of the campaign, but a shift in mindset has since been applied from survival to League glory, after being the only team to have beaten the table toppers so far, with that win coming in round four (4).
The Namibia Premier Chess League boasts a great array of chess players, which include, but not limited to, former Namibia National Champions, such as FM Dante Beukes, Goodwill Khoa and Max Nitzborn. Former Junior champions Toivo Nangula, Immanuel Gariseb and Current National Women’s champion Nicola Tjaronda, to mention just a few.
The Namibia Chess league accommodate close to a hundred (100) participants per evening, with the First Division hosting the eight (8) teams which includes, The Steins Chess Club, Zeed Chess Club and TWCA Towering Rooks, who are all second tier leveled clubs that have been formed from the parent clubs, Rubinstein Chess Academy, Zandell Chess Academy and The Weekend Chess Academy (TWCA) Respectively. A great indication of how the role of Chess Academies have played a major role in the uplifting of chess in the Land of the Brave.
The model for league participation in academies has branched so deep that 50% of the Junior League teams are comprised of teams from the aforementioned academies, namely The Rubys Chess Club, ZCA Pawn Storms and TWCA Mighty Pawns respectively. Having been established in 2017, the Junior league is earmarked to be the “Talent Identification Haven” for future international chess masters that Namibia will ever see. seven (7) year old CM Ottilie Hinda is just one of the stars plying her trade in the Junior League.
With a chance to showcase the trophies at the Namibia Chess Awards to be held in December, the race for national supremacy intensifies every round. Blood, sweat and tears serve as a motivational factor on the sixty four (64) squares. On a good evening, the strengths of a 1200 cannot be underestimated, and a rating of 2100 just becomes an ordinary number. It is on that basis that five (5) consecutive Premier Chess League wins seem ordinary and the Cubans can finally join the chasing pack.
The year 2019 is bound to come with more competitiveness, but it is 2018 that Rubinstein Chess Academy under the leadership of a chess rookie in the name of Jonas Iipinge, are working hard to set a benchmark of new blood tormenting the veterans, giving hope for the hopeless and inspiring the future generation of chess players, both home and abroad.
The Namibia Open awaits on the 27th – 29th of July, as the Chess League continues to send waves across the African continent and beyond, in preparation for Batumi Chess Olympiad. Chess will never be the same in Namibia. And it is good to note, that the days of total dominance from an individual club is seemingly coming to an end, and the spirit of Harambee has hit all sectors of the country, of which club chess is not exempted.
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