PROFILE:’Tactical’ and ‘aggressive’ chess moves take pair to world championships

Two dedicated Wits Chess Club members have been chosen to compete in world university championships between June 25 and 30, 2024.

At the end of June 2024, unlike most Wits students who will be taking time off to recover from an intense exam period, Amy Wallace and Lovers Mthembu will be in Uganda, representing South Africa at the FISU World University Championships for Mind Sports.

Wallace and Mthembu both made the top ten in the University Sports South Africa (USSA) open tournament and were subsequently placed in the top four of their age groups in the USSA closed tournament. Mthembu placed first in the USSA closed tournament, while Wallace placed fourth, allowing them to qualify for South Africa’s FISU chess team that will compete this year.

Wallace and Mthembu both started playing chess early in life. Mthembu said his brother introduced him to chess in 2016 and instantly became “curious about the game” and “just picked it up quickly”.

Wallace on the other hand, started playing chess in 2011 when her mother, the chess teacher at her primary school, introduced the game to her.

From left to right, Amy Wallace and Lovers Mthembu proudly representing the Wits Chess Club at the Wits Sports Conference Centre at Sturrock Park. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

Wallace described her style of chess as “attacking” and classified herself as a “very tactical player”. She also cited Hikaru Nakamura as one of the chess players she enjoys watching and studying, because of his unique style of play and his entertaining YouTube videos.

Mthembu said he is “patient, but at the same time… aggressive” when playing chess, and “look[s] up” to chess grandmaster, Fabiano Caruana, because of the similarities in their style of play.

Both Wallace and Mthembu have been a part of the Wits Chess Club since the start of their degrees. Mthembu even said he signed up for the club during orientation week.

Wallace describes the Wits Chess Club as being full of people and teammates who are always willing to offer “emotional support”.

When asked what advice he would give students interested in improving their chess skills, Mthembu suggested that they adopt a balanced approach. He said that although he now prefers “studying chess more than playing chess”, one must do both.

Mthembu said that as “you play more tournaments… you can be exposed to a lot of different styles” and use this experience to adapt your game.

Wallace echoed this by highlighting the importance of putting whatever you learn into practice, by “playing online constantly” as well as joining the Wits Chess Club, which runs a “training programme”.

Mthembu stressed that the chess community has never made him feel “excluded”. Wallace agreed that the chess community is generally “accepting”, as “they don’t care about where you come from, your background, or anything like that”.

However, she stressed that “as a female there are some stigmas”, like a many male players who “think that it’s easier for females to get places”, because of certain lowered standards and “rating criteria for tournaments”.

However, she said gendered stigmas remain. Firstly, rating criterion is lowered for women, which leads male players to think “that it is easier for females to get places,” Wallace said.

Secondly, most tournaments have a “best girl prize”, something which others participants and brings their merit into question. Wallace said, women “just want to play, and if we get a prize, we get a prize”.

Wallace remained optimistic on the state of chess in South Africa, however, as she spoke about how it continues to grow in the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic, where over the board chess decreased, but online chess grew exponentially.

This along with Mthembu and Wallace’s selection for the FISU team, could possibly inspire a new generation of people to pick up chess.

Barnato Hall residence claims victory at the EAFC24 tournament

Wits University students showed-off their skills as they fought for bragging rights this weekend in inter-res, e-sports tournament.

On Saturday, April 20, Wits E-Sports hosted their second annual Inter-res EAFC24 Tournament at Wits Sturrock Park. After multiple hours of fierce competition, the Barnato Hall residence prevailed and emerged as winners on the day, taking home a custom Wits E-Sports trophy.

Wits E-Sports is a club that “promotes mind sports and electronic sports at the university”. Whilst EAFC24 is the world’s premiere football simulation game. The tournament followed a 1v1 knockout format, which was seeded based on the number of registrations from each res.

Packed into the Pete Suzman Conference Venue, sixteen participants representing Men’s Res, Knockando Hall and Barnato Hall attended the event. Players huddled around multiple gaming setups, watching attentively as participants made key tactical tweaks to try and gain an upper hand.

A Barnato Hall representative, Asanda Kubheka, stated that the tournament acted as a “bonding session” for residence members, where students could “get to know each other” and make new friends as they battled together for top spot.

A challenger from Knockando Hall, Thapelo Tlowana, agreed, saying “it’s a way to bring all the res’ together”. 

(From left to right) Asanda Kubheka, Thapelo Tlowana, Silindele Nobadula and Tevin Julius representing their respective residences in the EAFC24 tournament. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

Off to the side of the action, tournament organisers also set up a table providing snacks for challengers taking a break between bouts. Wits E-Sports chairperson, Sibusiso Khumalo, stressed how they aim to make this tournament “a tradition” and a stand-out date to remember in each residences’ busy calendars.

Khumalo also mentioned tournaments like this allow Wits E-Sport to scout and identify skilled individuals to possibly join their competitive team, which will be entered into the University Sport South Africa (USSA) E-Sport Championships in August this year.

Tebogo Rabothata, Wits E-Sport Sports Officer, added that he believes that “[building] from the ground” will allow Wits E-Sport to become more competitive and will open opportunities to invite professional E-Sport teams like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs to participate in tournaments hosted by the department.

Rabothata also hopes to one day register teams for the African Cyber Gaming League (ACGL), a South African based E-Sports tournament administrator and broadcaster.

An intense game taking place in the Pete Suzman Conference Venue. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

Wits E-Sport events co-ordinator, Sean Sesing, emphasised how focused Wits E-Sports is on “[getting] more females into the space”. Rabothata added that he aims to “diversify” the club and mentioned that amongst all the E-Sports teams he manages, female membership increased exponentially, from no members last year, to fifteen members in 2024.

Importantly, Rabothata also thinks that the tournament equips students with a “space… to de-stress” during a busy time of the year and “forget about the books” for a little while. This is echoed by Khumalo, who said Wits E-Sports has helped individuals find their passion outside of academics and enabled them to improve their skills in this regard.

#Ashies2023: Wits Bucks balling differently 

 The 17th Ashraf Lodewyk Memorial Basketball tournament returns with ten more teams vying for the win.  

The Wits Bucks (first team) put on a stellar performance in their first Ashraf basketball tournament game on Wednesday afternoon, April 26.  

The Wits Bucks faced off against Wanderers Scorpions Omega and led the game comfortably from the beginning with a thrilling win of 67-28 when the final whistle blew.  

Scorpions Omega’s Ethan Murray was substituted after committing three fouls in the first half of the game. Assistant coach, Thabo Gumede said that he felt like there was a lack of communication and defence on their end.

Wits Bucks player Jacques Mahanga said, “I feel like their [Scorpions Omega] performance was really good; we didn’t underestimate the team although we knew that we’re not at the same level-we still came out with a lot of intensity, and I love our intensity.” 

Wits Bucks player Isira Harisinghe getting ready to strike after being trapped by a Scorpions Omega defender. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Wits Bucks fan, Keeyanda Tshipamba said, “It was a very good game for Wits especially in light of their performance in the ICSL internal league, they were not doing so well so this is bringing our spirits up.” 

The Bucks are not anticipating easy games especially since the tournament has grown with a total of ten more teams compared to last year’s 30. Teams compete in either the men’s or women’s division, with a further division into four pools (A to D) which will battle it out over the eight-day tournament. 

With four more games to play, the Bucks need to secure the top two positions in their pool to compete in the finals on Monday, May 1. 

 Young Bucks trailing behind  

A few courts away, the Wits Young Bucks (the second team) lost 45-55, in their first game against the Midrand Heat Basketball Club.  

A game which was meant to be their comeback against UJ Orange Wave on April 26, ushered in a crushing defeat, with a final score of 19-44.  

Going into the second half, UJ was leading 22-11 while Wits player Silas Lyuke, was substituted after a clash with the opponents, leading to a leg injury. The UJ side committed a foul against Matoti Buthelezi and was consequently awarded two free throws, but only netting one.  

UJ coach, Mandla Ngema said, “We didn’t play well at all, we thought it was gonna be easy playing against a second team.” 

Whilst Wits Young Bucks assistant coach, Angelo Quinn said to Wits Vuvuzela, “I felt it was a good game and a good reflection of the [Ashraf] program and it showed that we can compete at a higher level.” 

The Young Bucks have three more games to play in their pool (C) and two of them will be played on Saturday, April 29 against Giant Ballers and University of Pretoria 1st.  

FEATURE IMAGE: Wits Bucks players: Tirivashe Gapara, Jacques Mahanga and Chirag Jashi, congratulating each other after their 67-28 win against Wanderers Scorpions Omega. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Wits Tennis serves up ace tournament 

The university’s first-team tennis players came out on top in the intra-Wits club championship. 

First-team player Loyiso Kole captured his second intra-Wits men’s singles title after defeating teammate Ciaran Swartz 6 –3, 7 –5. His first was in 2021. 

With nine total breaks-of-serve between the two, Swartz managed to save three match points, however, Kole converted the fourth with his signature serve-and-volley play. “I could place my volleys well today,” said Kole. “It got to a point where I really counted on them.” 

Another first-team player, Justine du-Pont, took the women’s singles title after winning all three of her matches in the round-robin format (everyone plays everyone).  Du-Pont captured her second title of the day in the women’s doubles, with teammate Jesse Platt, after defeating Joanne Joseph and Isabella Weber, 6 – 0, 6 – 0. 

Women’s singles and doubles champion du-Pont dropped only six games in her four matches. “My forehands and serves were really solid.” she said. 

In total, three competitions were run over the weekend of April 1 and 2 by the Wits Tennis Club. Participants consisted of 10 prospective and current first team players. There were several withdrawals of first-team players before the tournament, resulting in smaller draws and cancelled men’s and mixed-doubles matches. 

Each match was best of three sets, with the third set being a 10-point tiebreaker. The men’s singles ran as a knockout, with a back draw (loser plays loser). Seven men entered the tournament – with three consecutive wins needed to claim the title.  

The men’s final between the two first-team players brought in spectators. Second-year BA student Neo Matutoane described the match as “super exciting”.  

Although happy with their overall performance, first-team players indicated that there was room for improvement throughout the course of this year. “We (the team) are going to work very hard this year,” said Kole. Swartz and du-Pont echoed similar sentiments. “We all want to and need to improve,” said Swartz, and Du-Pont added that “There is a lot of hard work ahead of us.” 

The tournament is aimed at fundraising ahead of the club’s first appearance at the University Sport South Africa’s (USSA’s) A section in six years, after their performance in USSA’s B division in December 2022, hosted by North-West University in Potchefstroom. This year’s event will be hosted at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.  

Head coach Sylvester Zungu, who joined the club in 2020, aims to get Wits to be considered as one of the top tennis universities in the country. “I am ambitious,” said Zungu. “I want [the club] to go to USSA and bring back silverware. The university is known for being the best in academics – it is time for it to be the same for tennis.”  

Wits Tennis chairperson Connel Manhica said that the club was planning to organise friendly fixtures against the first teams of other universities in the USSA A section – particularly the University of Pretoria and North-West University in Potchefstroom. “This is aimed at getting match experience against strong teams,” said Manhica. 

  • Ciaran Swartz in his service motion. Photo: Seth Thorne

FEATURED: Ciaran Swartz lunges for a return of serve in the men’s final. Photo: Seth Thorne


RUGBY: Wits Boytjies face relegation

Despite their best efforts in this week’s match, the Wits Varsity Cup rugby team have lost yet again.

The Boytjies played valiantly this week against the NMMU, another tight match with a very close score margin.

DRENCHED: Both teams had to focus on ball handling due to slippery weather conditions. Photo: Luke Matthews

DRENCHED: Both teams had to focus on ball handling due to slippery weather conditions on Monday evening. Photo: Luke Matthews

Where do we stand?

Wits is still at the bottom of the log with two points and only two more games left. If the Witsies don’t manage to get themselves even one place higher on the log, they will find themselves relegated back to the Varsity Shield tournament, having to fight their way to the top of that log to make a Varsity Cup return.

Coach Andrew Royale said that their matches this season have been very competitive and that there’s a vast “improvement, considering where we’ve come from”. This is only the second year that the Wits team has been competing in the Varsity Cup tournament, last year the team was “blown away” by much more experienced teams in their first appearance in the Cup, said the coach.

Royale said the improved performances this year have to do with the players “having confidence in their abilities”, no drastic changes have been made to the team – with the core team from last year remaining the same.

Toeing the line

The Varsity Cup rules for this year stipulate that only 3 players on the team may be non-students, to ensure the integrity of the student based tournament. This rule was implemented after rumours of some teams cheating by having older, more experienced players in their teams emerged.

Last year’s winners of the tournament, Tuks have been accused on more than one occasion of this kind of “cheating”, and as punishment the team received a “strong reprimand”.

Wits  is historically an academics-focused institution and this could account for the way the team is structured to their disadvantage. “Other teams are running full professional clubs with students who study on the side. Our players are students who play a little rugby on the side,” explained Royale.

[pullquote align=”right”]”All we can do is keep on keeping on”[/pullquote]

In the Wits team only one player is a professional player, who has a contract with the Lions. Royale said: “we don’t want to put money into non-students, our highest priority are Wits students.”

With regards to relegation Royale said that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world and in fact would give the Boytjies the opportunity to nurture new, young talent. “Everyone understands our position, all we can do is keep on keeping on,” said the optimistic Royale.


Witsie saves SA U21 hopes for IPT semi-final

Demi Du Toit, Under 21 South Africa and Wits hockey defender, made all the difference in the final moments of their Inter-Provincial (IPT) match with Western Province at the Kaspersky Randburg Astro on Tuesday.

The Women’s SA U21 hockey squad managed to scrape out a 1-1 draw with Western Province in their pool matches at the Kaspersky Randburg Astro on Tuesday.

Du Toit made a last-ditch diving clearance on the goal line, during the last minute of play, to help secure the U21’s hopes for making semi-final place in the tournament. SA U21 now sits comfortably in first place ahead of Western Province.

The match marked her fifth year appearing for the green and gold since she made the squad at 17.

Kirsten Morley-Jepson, Gabby Garcia and Jamie Martin (Captain) are also representing Wits in the South Gauteng Provincial B side, Witsies.

For Du Toit every moment on the field is about being accurate, composed and patient.

What is your training programme like?

Our training programme is specified per person. We play with heart rate monitors and are all a part of a programme called “moves count” on the internet. The watches monitor our heart rates, how hard we are working and the effect training has on our bodies and this data is loaded onto the site. Our conditioning coach analyses the data and makes a programme to ensure we are training at the correct intensity and in the correct manner to be at our best.

What has been the hardest challenge you have faced since making the side?

I have been struggling with injuries this year and it’s very frustrating having to sit on the sideline when all you want to do is play.

How much further do you have to go before you can make the senior SA women’s squad?

It’s going to take a lot more hard work, focus and a determination. I believe I have what it takes to be in that team one day and I will put in the work to get there. I have the support, opportunity and faith to make my dreams come true.

How do you balance you commitments?

I still am not actually sure how I am doing it. I attempt to face one day at a time and the result is late nights, lots of stressed out, freaking out moments, cramming sessions and a whole lot of running around exhausted. I however have an incredible family, best friend and classmates who are my support group. They help me tremendously, keeping me in line, helping me with assignments, due dates, training and a lot of time well needed down time away from both hockey and university.

How has the season with the Wits Women gone?

Wits First ladies ended the season in 6th position in the premier league accompanied with a good performance at the South African Universities tournament. The first team ladies got a new coach in Pete de Lange this year. He came into the team with a world of knowledge. He changed our attitudes, pushed us hard and taught us so much.

For more links click below

Wits men seal the deal against Crusaders

Men’s hockey hunt for bonus points

Du Toit hat-trick squares varsity hockey derby

World’s richest golf tournament tees off

South Africa will stage the world’s richest and biggest golfing tournament in professional golf next year.

The major golfing championship called tournament of hope will be used to create awareness for HIV/Aids and poverty in Africa.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Gareth Tindall said at a news conference last week that “we’re hoping there will be other events around the world at the same time, with World Aids Day on December 1 linked to the same theme.

“We want to use this golf tournament as a catalyst.”

The prize money for the tournament is US$10-million (R69.7-million), making it the richest tournament worldwide.

“The awarding of this WGC [World Golf Championship] event shows the rest of the world believes we have good stock and a good product here in South Africa,” Tindall said.

The event will be hosted from 2012 to 2016. “That has enormously positive implications for the game and for our country as a whole,” said Tindall.

Head professional of Wits Golf Academy, Greg Smith, said: “It is early days to understand the full impact of this World Golf event.

“It is not yet absolutely definite, although talk is that the deal has been signed for five years.”

The event is expected to draw the world’s top 70 golfers.

The precise date and venue for the tournament have yet to be decided.