Long after the South Africa Chess Open 2015 has been played, I will still wonder about how Piet Kroon, at 70 years old, held his own with some players a quarter of his age. Whichever way the tournament goes I am inspired beyond words by what this former champion has already achieved at the tournament. On their Facebook page, Chess South Africa remarked that Piet Kroon is the surprise of the SA Open. For me there’s no arguing with that.
The story of Piet Kroon has intrigued me from the very start. When I first heard about him at the SA Open playing in the cage, I thought that maybe this was a publicity stunt of sorts. You see the cage is for the very top players at the Open and you don’t get to play in the cage unless you are a highly. How could Piet, at his age be playing so well?
Piet, according to those who know him well, is a retried engineer. After he retired, he moved to the West Coast and bought himself a fishing boat. But how does all this explain his strength in chess. Well the guy is very fit for his age.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I was a fool. Piet is playing some brilliant chess. David Gluckman wrote in the SA Chess Players group that 70-year-old Piet Kroon, SA Closed champion in 1965, 1969 and 1975, was playing his first tournament in 20 year. At that time he was on 4/5 and playing in the top 6 roped-off section (cage) in the SA Open!
Chess is not an easy game at the top level. There are no free points. Every single game is a tough battle and you have to draw upon all your resources. The games can be as long as 4 hours.
Justin Wilken remarked that he had seen Piet the previous evening looking for the draw of who he would play. The implication was that Piet had not even prepared for his game. He added that Albert Ponelis had a good opinion, that Piet Kroon was the best, maybe he is right.
I am very grateful to Justin for sharing the conversation he had with Piet. He spoke to him and Piet was was surprised to hear that Turkey can beat South Africa at chess. He beat England France and a few others in his day at Havana Olympiad even played tennis with Justin’s hero Boris Spassky (former world Chess Champion). According to Piet the most important thing in chess is to stay humble and never underestimate anyone.
I am told that many years when the guys were playing in Maseru and Piet was losing against Aronstam. He then came with a brilliant swindle and destroyed Aronstam to everyone’s surprise.
According to International Master (IM) Watu Kobese, Piet did indeed do a bit of preparation before this tournament though.Yesterday he played the bayonet against Maxwell with modern ideas. Now the bayonet is not a random chess opening you just play. The line was made popular in the 90’s by Van Wely.Then Vladimir Kramnik took it up. Now Piet was playing Kramnik’s concepts. Actually Watu had it wrong according to Nicholas Van Der Nat. Kramnik was using Kroons Ideas.
I am hearing so much about Piet Kroon that it is getting a bit difficult to separate fact from fiction but I am told that he is in the bar in the evenings, telling very interesting stories after checkmating someone on the chess board.
If you thought chess was only for the young, Piet will make you think again. No one could argue with Piet van Zyl when he suggested that his namesake Piet Kroon be given a Bells.
– Credits and References
Whatsapp PlayCom Prestige Chess group.