Ten players from the University of Fort Hare club have been named in the provincial team following an uber successful raid at the Eastern Cape Chess Championship in Jeffreys Bay recently.
Sublime performances over the four days of competition culminated in the record selection last week.
Astonishingly, every one of the six Fort Hare women who took part in the tournament cracked the nod for higher honours.
Two of them, Naomi Naidoo and Zandi Ncokotwane, finished one and two in the senior category.
“It’s crazy,” UFH coach Xhanti Mafongosi, who himself tied for third in the senior men’s section, said.
Prior to the event in Jeffreys, he had been quietly confident that Fort Hare would surpass the total of seven provincial representatives they had at the time – but even he was stunned by the selection ratio.
Simamkele Solomon received his colours in the U20 men’s section while Mafongosi, Romeo Tokoyi and Justice Mawere got the nod in the senior category. Olwethu Mzizi was named reserve.
The women – Naidoo, Ncokotwane, Siza Abenta, Melinda Diko, Zinathi Mbaba and Nontle Madlala – were selected in the senior section.
What made the UFH players’ achievement even more striking was that none of them were permitted to compete in round one following what Mafongosi termed “scheduling complications”.
They were thankfully able to put the setback behind them when they started competing at around midmorning.
“Our players basically had to start at the bottom, but we did it. It’s crazy because there were something like 500 players at the tournament,” Mafongosi said.
While it was Naidoo’s first tilt at the title after taking up the sport a year ago, Ncokotwane had seen it all before as she made the cut for the provincial outfit for the second year running.
“Representing my province is an honour and a privilege. It gives me a chance to showcase my talents and represent the people of my province,” she said.
“I want to show that anyone, regardless of where they are from, can be successful if they put their mind to it.”
Apart from the women’s performance, Mafongosi was impressed with the form shown by Tokoyi, who had given him a run for his money.
In addition to clearing the boards in the singles, the All-Stars team comprising eight UFH players and two others placed second in the team competition behind that of the Sarah Baartman region.
These performances were just the boost they needed ahead of the University Sports South Africa tournament in December, the coach said.
“I think we are the most active university chess club in the country so we expect to do well there.”
With the inter-provincials and two friendly encounters against teams from Lesotho diarised for 2024, Team EC’s first major assignments are still a while off.