Not many youngsters would have the courage to challenge Andrew Southey to a game of chess; he is, after all, the Senior Commonwealth Chess Champion and the South African Senior Chess Champion. But Connor Opperman, a nine-year-old learner from Curro Hermanus, not only did precisely that, but also requested to be blindfolded for the match!
This unusual challenge took place at the Onrus Manor Clubhouse last week, where members of the Hermanus Chess Club (HCC) get together every Thursday afternoon for chess practice. Amazingly, Connor has only been playing for two years. He developed a passion for chess when his grandfather taught him the game at the tender age of seven. Since then he has participated in several chess tournaments through his school and the HCC, and is determined to further improve his game.
“I practise chess for 1 – 2 hours a day, either with a partner or on the computer. I also like to play games that are mentally challenging,” Connor told me while setting up a chess board. In addition to receiving private chess training and practising with his grandfather and the HCC once a week, he plays soccer, cricket, tennis and hockey at school.
Connor’s mom, Lynne, who is his biggest supporter, says Connor sees fellow club member, Andrew as his mentor. “When Connor and Andrew attend club tournaments together, Andrew always uses his time between games to see how Connor is doing. He is so supportive and a great role model for Connor.”
Connor likes to be constantly challenged and started to play chess blindfolded a few months ago after seeing Norwegian chess Grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen, play in a blindfolded chess tournament online. After weeks of practising, Connor decided to ask Andrew to play a friendly match at the clubhouse.
Blindfolded players do not play with a chess board and have to visualise the game. They announce their moves to a third person who keeps track of the game by making the moves on a board set up out of sight. The players have to remember all the moves they’ve made without being able to look at the board.
Just before Andrew arrived for the friendly game, Connor said, “I am very excited to play blindfolded against Andrew. This is my first big chess game blindfolded. I haven’t been able to beat Andrew yet in a normal chess game though!”
The friendly game ended in a draw, with Andrew commenting on Connor’s impressive talent and how unusual it is for a child of his age to want to be able to play chess blindfolded, as it requires even more concentration and patience than a normal chess game. With Connor’s drive and dedication he is clearly destined for big moves in the future!
The Hermanus Chess Club invites the public to join them for their weekly games at the Onrus Manor clubhouse every Thursday between 15:00 and 19:00. Joining fees are R10 per month for adults and R5 for learners. Visit their Facebook page for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hermanus Chess Club (HCC) took part in the Western Province Club Championship in Caledon from 24 – 26 October. There were 19 teams that participated in the A and B sections. HCC took third place in section B after being third overall in five rounds. In round six (the last round) they drew against the SA Club champs, Steinitz and, despite a good fight, did not get any more points to push their ranking up higher.
The section B team members were: Andrew Southey, Martin Brink, Jonas Crookes, Zoe Eyberg Snyders, Mika Snyders, Cobus Marais and Wouter De Wet Fouché. The junior team (U14 in section C) came fourth in their section. The team members were Meya Snyders, Connor Opperman, Madden Joshua, Samantha Brink, Spencer Whitebooi and Talitha Beveridge.
Connor Opperman, Martin Brink and Wouter De Wet Fouché won board prizes. Well done!