A tiny girl of five made local history last weekend when she beat her U13 competitors at chess.
Siyolise August, a grandchild of Mdantsane chess fanatic Zolani August and his wife Lungiswa, is in Grade 1 at Nontombi Matta Junior Primary School.
She won the U13 category at last weekend’s chess tournament at the Buffalo City Stadium. However, although she qualified for the upcoming provincial chess tournament in June, as she is “under age” she was left out.
Schooled in chess nuances from an early age by her grandfather, the little chess genius spends her afternoons practising her moves and, more recently, teaching her peers how to play.
Speaking to the Dispatch over the weekend, Zolani boasted about Siyolise’s potential: “At the rate she is going, she could be an international champion one day.
“I love chess and have been training other children from all over Mdantsane to play it so it was natural for her have an interest.
“Last year she refused to watch others play and insisted that she play too when we attended a tournament in East London and that is how I could say that she started playing professionally,” Zolani said.
Currently Siyolise plays for the U8, U11 and U13 teams.
The shy girl told the Dispatch that she loved playing chess and that she would play it when she was older too.
Her granny Lungiswa said: “She is generally a clever child. Even at school they noticed that.
“She knows all the chess rules by heart and when she is cornered during a game she has learnt tactics to get out of that corner. The beautiful thing about chess is that it broadens the mind and sharpens the thinking of players. It is a very disciplined sport that teaches children and even adults how to conduct themselves,” added Lungiswa.
The August family are well known for their passion for chess in the NU15 area.
Together they have set up a vibrant youth chess club of 40 members aged five years to 18.
“To us this is a way of keeping the young ones from the streets. We started introducing chess in 2014 at schools and it was during a time when crime was very rife in Mdantsane,” said Zolani.
Gil Ntoni Senior Primary principal Winky Mdyogolo said they had seen an increase in the numbers of interested pupils in the game.
“It’s not just any sport. It is one that also goes well with studies as it helps sharpens thinking skills,” Mdyogolo said.