‘Chess can change lives,’ says UP TuksChess champ Godfrey Kgatle

Posted on November 06, 2019

TuksChess club chairperson Godfrey Kgatle hasn’t stopped thinking about chess since he got hooked on the game as a youngster.

“Chess helps build a strong character as well as a fighting spirit,” he says. “There are famous players like Viktor Korchnoi, Gary Kasparov and Bobby Fischer, whose common trait was having an incredibly strong character – and they reflected it on the board.”

Kgatle and Leonard Mahlare established chess as a sport at Tuks, with Mahlare as the club's first chairperson. Kgatle succeeded him, and his enthusiasm led to the University of Pretoria (UP) winning the USSA Tournament in 2017 and 2018. This has not gone unnoticed – Kgatle received the Tuks Student Administrator of the Year Award.

When asked why people should take up the game, Kgatle counts off its benefits with ease.

Of late, he’s written articles about this.

“I have found that playing chess improves muscle memory,” he says. “Luckily for us, the winning strategies of some of the sport's greats have been recorded. So every aspiring chess player can study up on the Albin Countergambit, Budapest Gambit, Dutch Defence or Sicilian Defence and apply it with some variation in their own game. That is where creativity comes in.

“Playing chess is also an excellent way to master problem-solving skills. When your opponent has made the opening moves, you have to be able to think around it and come up with a strategy. Champions can adapt quickly to tricky situations and overcome problems that could arise.”

As for personal highlights, Kgatle is modest.

"There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a Tuks player developing to such an extent that they can be competitive in provincial and national tournaments. I want every player at Tuks to have the same experiences I had as a chess player."

Kgatle's passion has also prompted him to get TuksChess involved in outreach programmes, such as the Grooming the Boys initiative.

“As part of the Nelson Mandela Day initiative, UP’s Sci-Enza science centre and TuksChess invited a group of young boys in Eersterust for a chess and science fun day. We taught them the basic principles of chess. They also got to do some fun science experiments. Unfortunately, we only get to work with them once a year.”

Kgatle hopes to get TuksChess involved in programmes in Correctional Facilities, as he thinks chess can change the outlook of juvenile prisoners.

"Chess is a sport of consequences. Every move you make has a consequence. You have to understand it and live by the decisions you make."

- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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