South Africa’s Chess Grandmaster Kenny Solomon shares experience and advice #AfricaChess

Old file picture of Grandmaster Kenny Solomon (CREDIT – Kenny’s Facebook account)

Following his win at the Zonal Chess Championships, South Africa’s Grandmaster Kenny Solomon was kind enough to have a discussion with fellow chess players hosted by the African Chess News Updates group on WhatsApp. He took a number of questions on his career and gave a bit of advice on how to improve one’s chess.

Snippets and pearls of wisdom from the grandmaster

Here are snippets of what the Grandmaster shared in the whatsapp interview and discussion following his victory at the Zonal Chess Championships. Kenny indicated that Graham Jurgensen of the Kasparov Chess Foundation had convinced him to play in the zonals  just before his training the trainers event in Zambia. The zonals turned out to be a tough tournament with so many strong players. By virtue of winning of zonals Kenny qualifies to play in the World Cup.

The King almost didn’t play in the zonals

Believe it or not, Kenny almost didn’t play in the zonals. He had prepared for the African Individual Chess tournament which was originally scheduled for May but then later moved to July.  Kenny was fortunate to play in the zonals as he had so many events crammed so close together especially the training events in Zambia and Botswana. The next big question for him was how to prepare for the World Cup, now that the zonals were out of the way.

Experience key at the Zonals

Kenny felt that his experience had made the difference in the event. Asked which of his games was the most exciting and most challenging Kenny remarked that it was definitely his last game against Daniel Jere of Zambia. He wasn’t sure how the tiebreak would pan out so he went all out against Jere. It was win or lose for him and psychologically challenging.  During that game Kenny turned down a draw offer from Jere even though he was also in time trouble. That was definitely very brave and determined on his part.

Training methods

There was great curiosity about the grandmaster’s training methods but Kenny did not give much away. Every Grandmaster  has his secret methods. Eventually he did give a bit away.

His advice in his own words:

I have my methods as well. One of which is to study my games thoroughly firstly by myself and then with a computer. This process takes a long time and there are few players who do this.

Favourite World Chess Champion and influences

Q: Which former World Champion is your favourite? And which one can you say influences your type of play?

A: I think Karpov has a unique style of play. I was hooked on him as a junior which had a lasting effect on my style of play but over the years I began to appreciate the styles and games of other world chess champions. Usually it is your first book that influences your style, like what Capablanca games did for Karpov or what Alekhine’s games did to Kasparov and Tal.

Karpov has an amazing sense of what his opponent is up to and doesn’t just mechanically stop it like Petrosian but finds flexible ways to with the plans of the opponent. He is able to set traps and has an amazing feel for where the pieces belong.

The Must DOs in chess

Q: Speaking in general terms, what are the must dos in chess?

A: In general study games, complete games and annotated games and make it one book at a time. Master one book or a collection of games.

e4 or d4!

Q: Which first move in white is your favourite? E4 or d4 and why?

A:  I am comfortable with d4 and e4 is more dangerous in my opinion. As a junior I started with e4 then switched to d4 as I noted that the d4 style was more difficult for my opponents in SA to handle.

Keeping the competitive flame burning

Q: What do you do to keep your competitive flame burning?

A: I set goals, goals for winning this and that. But most of all I set personal goals, creative goals. For instance my goal for the zone 4.3 was to play endgames but I didn’t succeed. This goal setting allows me to focus on playing well and not worry about my competitors too much.  I have long term goals as well and dreams. I think the most important ingredient is to love chess. This will sustain you.

And now about the World Cup

Q:  Any comment on your qualification for the World Cup in September. What is your promise?

A: At the World Cup I will face on the top 10 chess players in the world for sure. I have to go there and not feel like a stranger I think. I must feel I belong there in order to play my normal game. Psychologically this will be easier said than done. Above all it will be a great experience and in my training I will give my utmost.

Thank you Grandmaster Kenny Solomon 

A very big thank you to Grandmaster Kenny Solomon for taking the time to share his vast experience with fellow chess players. The discussion was held late at night soon after the tournament so the grandmaster must have been very tired but he honoured his commitment to take part in the discussion. Who knows this might just inspire a future chess grandmaster in Africa.

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