Interview with Robert Chitongo, Chess Coach in Khayelitsha

Robert Chitongo Playing Chess

Your Name: Robert Chitongo

 Company/ Name of Business: Khayelitsha Chess Club in Khayelitsha, Cape Town

What do you do [profession]? : Chess Coach at Khayelitsha Chess Club. The club was launched after Garry Kasparov’s visit to Khayelitsha and I was subsequently appointed coach. I was also coach of the U12 Western Province Squad that participated at the South Africa Junior Chess Championships in 2012!

The launch of Khayelitsha Chess Club

When did you start playing chess and how did you start playing: I started playing in 1988 when a neighbour came with an old set and taught me as he had no one to play with. After my first lesson, I was hooked.

What do you regard as your 3 greatest achievements in chess. Winning the Candidates’ in 1993 in Zimbabwe and Tutume Open and Francistown Open in 1995 and 1996 respectively, both in Botswana and becoming a household name in Zim Chess! Was almost always in the top 10 at the Zim Open tournaments in the mid-nineties and had the Zambians and Motswanas begging for mercy every time I came across them in a tournament! Botswana was my hunting ground and it I don’t recall losing a game there- whatever the opposition!

I was selected to represent Zimbabwe in the Africa Junior Championships of 1993 in Kenya! Zimbabwe Chess Federation got me the  passport for me in a matter of hours but sponsorship did not materialize!

Who is your favourite chess player and why? Bobby Fischer! He was the greatest and the craziest! Chess needs champions like him!

 Name 2 chess players you admire in Africa and why? Amon Simutowe and Kenny Solomon! Both these players are talented and they worked hard to get to where they are now! I have played both of them and can safely say they are serious at what they do.

 What do you think is the right age to start playing chess and why? Nowadays you have 12 year olds becoming Grand Masters so I would think that from 6 years and older! Chess is now being used as an educational tool so when a child starts school, that’s when they must be exposed to the game so that they learn at that early age that chess, school and life go hand in hand because what a child learns in chess greatly assists that child in their schoolwork and to make smart decisions in life. In the end you get a successful adult or a great chess player and in most cases, both!

Do you still take part in tournaments and if so, how often? Yes, I still do! I had stopped for some time but with coaching, I now have a chance to do what I do best! Which is simply slaying Dragons, demolishing the French, fighting with my King’s Indian and so on!

Why would you encourage anyone to take up chess? It’s a whole new world and anyone can experience that world! For fun or competition or for whatever reason, chess is a world on its own and for anyone who loves to use their brain in everything they do, then chess is the game and whole new world just waiting to be explored!

In your opinion should Chess be made an Olympic sport and why? No, I don’t think so! I think chess should remain where it is except for the money aspect! Let thinkers think and the labourers labour for their gold!

How would you best describe your chess style? Aggressive and unforgiving!

 How do you keep sharp in chess? Practice and study! One has to know all the theory there is to know if one wants to be amongst the best! General knowledge is not enough nowadays when it comes to tournament level!

How would you like to be remembered as a chess player? Let me acquire a FIDE title then I can answer this question!

What do you think about the impact of computers of chess in Africa: There is a good side and a bad side to computers in chess here in Africa. The advantages are we can now get the latest theory, easy access to software and programs, live games etc. On the other hand, they promote laziness and destroy the classical approach of learning the game and therefore producing a pure chess player compared to a walking database!

What do you think it will take for Africa to have a world chess champion? We are still far away but the information age has halved the gap between us and our first world counterparts in terms of material thus we are in touch with modern trends but lack of Fide-rated tournaments on the continent, coupled with lack of funds to travel and accommodation and related problems associated with tournaments and lack of sponsorship means it will take us generations to produce our first world champion!

How do people get in touch with you? I can be reached  on robertchitongo@gmail.com and on mobile 0838794928

The Facebook page for Khayelitsha Chess Club 

Khalelitsha pics

Chess Players at the club

Bruce Mubayiwa

I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. I have been playing chess for over 25 years and love writing about the game. Our goal is simple, to get more people playing chess in Africa! The game of chess is not only absorbing but a great deal of fun.

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