Over the past few days many of us in South Africa have with great pride and joy learnt that Kenneth Terence Solomon (popularly known as Kenny) will be awarded the title of International Grandmaster.
According to the Oxford Companion to chess (Hooper and Whyld:1984) the International Grandmaster title is the highest official title (other than that of world champion) awarded for over the board play.
Brace in an Illustrated dictionary of chess (1977: 141) defines an International Grandmaster as a title awarded by FIDE to each of the world’s strongest players. It is often shortened to Grandmaster.
Brace recalls that Dr Ossie S. Bernstein stated that the title was first used to describe the competitors at Ostend (1907), which was an exceptionally strong event. It was first awarded as a title in 1914 when Czar Nicholas II bestowed the title of Grandmaster of Chess on each of the finalists of the St Petersburg tournament. The finalists were Lasker, Alekhine, Capablanca, Tarrasch, and Marshall.
There are approximately 1444 grandmasters on the FIDE rating list of which 31 are female. Africa now needs to put plans in place to prepare the next crop of grandmasters. There are a number of international masters that with a comprehensive plan in place can start adding themselves to the above list. Players such as Robert Gwaze, Ali Farahat, Mohammed Henry Steel, Daniel Cawdrey are players that immediately come to mind.
Kenny beat both Egyptian players in the event and also ended the African Individual Championship 2014 undefeated. This is a superb performance. Kenny is now the African Chess Champion. Our previous champion was IM Watu Kobese who won the event in 2001 (with Hamdouchi).
Kenny is now indeed the champion from the Cape to Cairo. 2014 was a good year for him. Everyone recalls the Commonwealth 2013 when he had a bad run. However as we know form is temporary whilst class is permanent. In 2014 Kenny won the Capablanca GM event in Pretoria ahead of four grandmasters. In May Kenny ended second at the Steinitz GM event in Cape Town. Kenny then played board one for South Africa at the Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. The 2014 African Individual Championship was thus the crowning glory of his year.
I have known Kenny since 1993. He and I travelled together to Johannesburg for the SA junior trials event in 1993 by bus. We travelled back with Comair. We had a good journey although I for the last time qualified ahead of Kenny to play in an international event (in the African Juniors in Kenya that year).
In 1995 we had our first over the board game in which he defeated me in the WP Open Championship. Kenny started winning all the local events and made his debut in 1998 for South Africa at the Olympiad. He already had junior colours having travelled to Brazil to play in the World Junior Championship in 1995. Kenny has played nine consecutive Olympiads and at his next Olympiad will surpass the 100 game mark at the Olympiads. He currently stands on 98 games played.
Kenny as a team player:
In Cape Town Kenny is known as the General. He leads from the front with his play. He often played for the WP team at the Inter-unions Championships. When I offered him a break to rest he often responded ‘Why do I need a break? ‘ He invariably played all the games scoring very high on the first board.
He played for Mitchell’s Plain Chess Club in the WP league and led them to victory on a number of occasions.
There is still much to be written about Kenny.
Kenny we are all proud of you. You made South Africa and Africa proud.
We salute you.