Nelson Mandela University student Charlize van Zyl has taken several positives from the Online Chess Olympiad in which she competed for South Africa last month.
The third-year BA media, communications and culture student said the SA team did not qualify for the knockout stages, but she appreciated the exposure she received against some of the best players in the world.
“We don’t normally get such chances so it was really a great experience,” she said.
“Personally, this event has made me excited to keep working hard to reach the level of my opponents.”
Although she had hoped for better results, she said nearly all their opponents were higher in the international rankings, with many of them Grandmasters.
“The highlight of the tournament was my draw against a Grandmaster and one of the top female players in the world from Azerbaijan.
“After an exciting game where I had a winning position, I faced time pressure which led me to accept the draw.”
Van Zyl said the online format made for extremely intense competition.
“The biggest challenge was time as we only had 15 minutes, with an added five seconds per move.
“This goes by incredibly quickly as one minute you are calculating a variation and the next you realise that you have already lost three to five minutes!”
She said her top priority for 2021 was the Olympiad in Russia in July.
“This tournament is a lot bigger, with no divided pools, which gives South Africa the chance to be the best performing African country.
“Therefore next year will revolve around working hard and preparing for this event, while I also want to substantially increase my rating and work towards attaining the title of Woman Grandmaster.”
In a fascinating finale to the online tournament, Russia faced India.
“After a dramatic contest, where two of the Indian players lost their games on time due to a global internet outage, the president of FIDE (the international chess body) decided that India and Russia would be co-winners and both received gold,” said Van Zyl.