Western Cape’s chess meeting to honour women a success

The Western Cape Chess Association hosted an Online Chess Swiss Open tournament recently to celebrate Women’s Month. The tournament was open to all women and girls across South Africa and even had a contestant from Malawi!

Andre Lewaks, president of Western Cape Chess, regards the tournament as a major success. Altogether 73 women and girls took part, which is a tidy amount if one takes into consideration the number of registered women and girls’ players in the country.

Andre said the tournament was successful because there are not really women only tournaments in South Africa. Most tournaments are mixed gender tournaments so with this tournament we have shown we are committed as a province to the promotion of women and girls in sport, but also to addressing issues around gender equality.

What is very important to us and what we encourage all our regions to do is to organise women and girl tournaments so that we can grow the number of women and girls who participate in chess. Currently most of the participants in chess are men and boys and only if we give more attention to the promotion and inclusion of women and girls in sport will our numbers grow.

We want to encourage more sponsorship of women and girls in sport. Women experience more challenges to take part in sport. If we just look for instance at the burden of care of women in South Africa – especially under lockdown and with schools closed – we will see the burden of care has increased.

We as men must really be honest that we need to do our part to support women, not only in sporting activities but also in caregiving activities. The more we do that the more we will allow women to live out their dreams on the sport fields, to live out their dreams in terms of studies and many other activities. So, we as men need to show them our support.

That is also one of the main reasons why we had the online tournament. Yes, we knew it would draw less entries as it was a women and girls only tournament and we know a mixed gender tournament automatically draw a lot of players.

For us, however, it was not about the quantity and making money with entry fees, it was about equality and affording women a space to participate in tournaments. We wanted to highlight the plight of women.

We had a lot of media attention and some mainstream newspapers wrote about the tournament and interviewed some of the top ladies in the province. That is what we wanted to achieve – to put women chess players and their abilities in the spotlight

We really wanted women in our sport to feel valued, to feel they have a home in chess, a space in sport and that they are equally important. I would say equally important because I understand and know the gender dynamics in sport where women get less attention than their male counterparts. In chess we want to do that differently and that is our commitment.

The support of the moms was amazing and even though the tournament was online one could sense the excitement and the enthusiasm. Some moms even done funny outfits and posted pictures online afterwards.

Our next plan is to have a Western Cape Women and Girls championships online because we are not yet allowed to play over the board. That will be one of the main events for us. We want to select the champions in various categories for our province.

We are also going to partner with CANSA West Coast in an effort to raise funds for them. The reason for that is that during Covid-19 we know what people with comorbidities are more at risk and we want to show our commitment as a sporting federation to play our part to promote the safety of everyone, particularly women, because we know that women especially are at risk.

For more information regarding chess contact the President of the Western Cape Chess Association at: president@wc-chess-assoc.co.za or 081 725 9339.