Cape Town Chess League over a 100 years old #AfricaChess

Cape Town, the beautiful mother city which also has a chess league that has been running for at least 100 years.

100 years old? A City Chess League? Can you believe it? 

The author was quite shocked to learn from South Africa’s Advocate Doctor Candidate Master Lyndon Bouah that the Cape Town Chess League is over 100 years old. Yes you read that right! That’s a very long time for a chess league to be running and it continues to grow from strength to strength. The author was quite intrigued by how such a milestone had been achieved in South African given the country’s chequered history. Doctor Bouah had every reason to be happy with his city having achieved a milestone that probably just a few cities in the World can boast off.

Here is one question that Doctor Bouah took in celebrating the milestone by Cape Town.

Question by Kim Bhari – Do you think that apartheid might have helped SA chess in an unexpected way? This forced South Africa to think inwards and come up with their own chess programme?

Answer from Dr Bouah: No! Apartheid did not help us. Up until (a certain point 1992) no black person could represent South Africa internationally. Up until no black person could represent South Africa in Chess. Up until Chess however, has been popular in all communities whether it was christian, jewish, muslim or any other religion. In Western Province we have had a strong chess tradition and have on our books 42 chess clubs than are registered.

4 Divisions, 78 Teams, 740 registered players

There are four divisions in the Cape Town Chess League. The first three play in a round robin of 12 teams with division four having 42 teams. In total 78 teams with 740 registered players!!! That is a lot of chess players.

And now for the Reflections from Dr Lyndon Bouah

The WP Chess League commenced on Thursday 25 July 2017 at Wittebome Civic Centre. Three divisions were represented and what an occasion it was. 2017 is the 25th anniversary of the unified Western Province League. Leonard Rietstein in his wonderful book a History of Chess in South Africa ( 2003: 91)  notes that the first Western Province league started in 1907 when Cape Town chess club, Tokai, Woodstock and the YMCA met and formed the Western Province Union. Mr A.J.A Cameron was elected President and each club agreed to enter one team in the League at a fee of £1-1-0 per team. Teams of five competed in the inaugural competition. Cape Town was expected to win, and they did so, but only by one point. In the double round tournament they scored10 match points, Woodstock 9, YMCA 6 and Tokai 0.

The league continued in various forms and then around 1976 South Africa started burning when apartheid was intensified. There were many racial incidents at chess events and other sport codes. Mr Andre Van Reenen formed a new Chess organisation and many black clubs started to be established after 1976. My own chess Steinitz was formed in 1977 in Bonteheuwel. Separate leagues were now contested in Cape Town. You had the establishment ( government supported ) WP League as well as the black chess league being contested in Cape Town. This continued until 1992.

Unity discussions started in Cape Town in 1991 and continued throughout that year as South Africa was still banned by South Africa. In February 1992 FIDE sent various representatives down to South Africa who agreed that South Africa could rejoin the FIDE family. Cape Town then decided to form one chess league and one chess organisation was forged. The unified league kicked off in July 1992. Various clubs have been champions of Western Province through the last twenty five years. The clubs are :

1992  – University of Cape Town
1993 – Steinitz
1994 – Cape Town
1995 – Manyanani
1996 – Mitchell’s Plain
1997 – Claremont
1998 – Steinitz
1999 – Claremont
2000- Cape Town
2002 – Steinitz
2003- Claremont
2004- Mitchell’s Plain
2005- Mitchell’s Plain
2006 – Steinitz
2007- Stellenbosch
2008- Stellenbosch
2009- Steinitz
2010- UCT
2011- Steinitz
2012- Chesscube
2013- Steinitz
2014- Steinitz
2015 – African Chess Lounge
2016- African  Chess Lounge

So the statistics for most wins to become Champions of Western Province ( Cape Town Metro is ):

Steinitz.                         9
Mitchell’s Plain              3
Claremont                     3
UCT                              2
African Chess Lounge  2
Stellenbosch                2
Cape Town                   2
Chesscube                   1
Manyanani                    1
So who will go for glory in this year.? The league is dedicated to the late WP and Chessa  President Eldo Smart. Steinitz is on the brink of the special La Decima – number ten, whilst African Chess Lounge wishes to do a triple win which has never been done before!

Let the games begin!!!


Dr Advocate Lyndon Bouah

And now for the pictures from the first day of the league in 2017! 

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