Chess players in Johannesburg got the surprise of their lives, for some the opportunity of a lifetime when super grandmaster (GM) Hikaru Nakamura visited Joubert Park.
Nakamura took on players on-time odds of 1 minute versus their 3 minutes. Many players had their chance against Nakamura and would surely have fancied their chances against the GM. The difference between one minute and three minutes in blitz chess is massive. It is a huge handicap indeed but Nakamura showed just how strong he is beating one player after another as they took turns. He played with the white pieces in most of his games and quickly dispatched his opponents showing the vast gap in strength and understanding of the game.
Joubert Park is known as the place where chess hustlers like to hang out. On any given day you will find many chess players blitzing away in the park for several hours.
When the author heard that Nakamura would be finding his way to Joubert Park for some blitz, he simply didn’t believe it. However, as more people began discussing the matter on social media there was little choice but to accept that this might indeed happen.
Only one player was able to defeat Grandmaster Nakamura on a warm afternoon in Joubert Park and that player was none other than South African Closed Champion International Master (IM) Johannes Mabusela. Mabusela will savour this victory and sweet moment, to win a game against one of the strongest grandmasters in the world and one of the very best in blitz. Mabusela’s knickname is Bad News Brown and he definitely had bad news for Nakamura in their first game.
From the picture of the it tooks like the game was a French Defence with Nakamura having the white pieces but the game that Nakamura lost, he actually had the black pieces. The picture is of the second game they were playing. Here’s how it happened between these two players: The game that Mabusela won playing white, he checkmated Nakamura with the Grandmaster’s time running out. Nakamura then requested a rematch after he lost the first game and in that game he proceeded to win.
In the world Nakamura is second only to World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the bullet time control when he plays with that a minute on his clock. Just look at the picture below to see what the victory over Nakamura meant to the International Master.
Grandmaster Nakamura is in South Africa on a week-long promotion of chess in the country. He played his speed-chess chess.com final against Magnus Carlsen from venue of the SAJCC. He officially opened the South African Junior Chess Champions on 4 January and followed this with a masterclasss lecture on chess at the venue. He will conclude his role at the SAJCC by taking on 100 chess players in the largest ever chess simultaneous exhibition to be held in South Africa.
Besides playing chess in Jobert Park the American Grandmaster also found time to do the obligatory autographs and signing of chess merchandise. Very few players would have missed such a golden opportunity to get their chess boards signed. Several years ago Grandmaster Nakamura indicated to the author to one day visit Africa and he even a very big chess event, the SAJCC even bigger by coming at this time.
Nakamura also found time to play on the giant chess set. As if format of chess it not demanding enough, he was playing with the clock in his game. Here are a few pics from that.
A very big thank you to Graham Jurgensen of KCF Africa, Marie Steenkamp, Hendrik Du Toit and the rest of their team for the part they have played in bringing Nakamura to South Africa and Joubert Park where Nakamura was able to experience firsthand the chess culture in the city Johannesburg.
All the pictures used in this article are with kind permission from Lennart Ootes. Among other things that he does, Lennart is a passionate chess photographer at many chess tournaments. His work has featured on the cover of New in Chess Magazine, Schach, 64, ChessLife, American Chess Magazine and Peon de Rey, while almost all chess media have published my photos on their websites or chess magazines. You can visit website here.
The games played at Joubert Park will live long in the memories of the lucky chess players and who knows what it may inspire them to achieve in their own chess careers.