ChessCube HQ


World First: SA Chess Open includes Internet play

ChessCube (, a South African Internet Chess Company, is the sponsor of the 2009 SA Open, being held in Cape Town. The event has attracted players from all over the world, but a new twist is that three remote players have participated via the Internet from a venue in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Levitt, the CEO of ChessCube, says, “ChessCube has worked closely with FIDE (the world chess federation), to construct a series of rules and procedures to be followed, so that for the first time in chess history, Internet games would be officially rated.”

ChessCube is an online chess service with over 600,000 registered users. The Internet initiative began in Cape Town South Africa in mid-2007 and has expanded to an international operation. North American and Indian players are the largest among 200 countries served by ChessCube’s US-based servers.

FIDE is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the supreme body responsible for the organization of global and continental chess. It defines the rules of chess, both for playing individual games and the conduct of international competitions.

FIDE calculates the ratings of players. These ratings are used to awards titles such as International Master and International Grandmaster. It also awards the International Arbiter title, which signifies that the recipient is competent and trusted to oversee top-class competitions.

The SA Open’s R90,000 ($12,000) prize fund has attracted a number of players to Cape Town, including Grandmasters and International Masters from around Africa and the world, including players from 11 countries to make this the strongest SA Open ever.

In addition, International Grandmaster Gawain Jones from the UK, International Master Puchen Wang from New Zealand and International Master Mirko Rujevic from Australia, are located at a venue in Melbourne, Australia, under the watchful eye of World Chess Federation International Arbiter Gary Bekker (AUS).

“Originally ChessCube was planning to have a venue in the UK, or Europe”, said Levitt. “That would mean that the players would be in a relatively similar time zone. But the enthusiasm of the players from Australia won out, and despite the difficulty of playing chess from 2.30 am to 7.30am, the players from ‘down under’ have adapted to the grueling schedule.”

The initial photos coming out of Australia showed bleary eyed and tired looking contestants – but with a shift in sleeping patterns, the players seem to have adapted to the unusual times by the later rounds. Possibly this is the first example of jetlag via the Internet?

In South Africa, 300 contestants are playing at the Wynberg Boys’ High School hall. In order to manage the technical complexities of the online games, the three local players are driven to the high tech ChessCube Headquarters at Century City in Cape Town, where World Chess Federation International Arbiter Simbarashe Murimi from Zimbabwe is overseeing the Cape Town Internet contestants.

“The local players have enthusiastically adopted playing their esteemed Australian opponents via the Internet,” said Levitt. “Only one player so far has hinted at the possibility that the remote opponent may be cheating by using software. But on hearing that the Australian group are being chaperoned by an experienced hawk-eyed FIDE arbiter, the assertions were quickly dropped. The secret to creating an official FIDE presence in this event was to ensure that both sides had official FIDE authority”.

This form of multi-venue event, using the Internet to connect land-based venues, may be the answer to expensive air travel. Chess is probably the only Olympic sports that can take advantage of the Internet for participation.

In the current downturn, the cost of living and high cost of travel has made an impact on International sports participation in general. Africa is probably the region with the most expensive air travel. It typically costs more to travel from one African country to another than to travel to a European destination. An African chess administrator recently lamented that it is cheaper to hold the all-African-chess events in Paris than in Africa!

“ChessCube is planning to expand this form of chess participation in 2010”, said Levitt. “We are planning a multi-country team event – where all the participants compete at a home venue under the guidance of one arbiter per venue!”

An added benefit of this form of competition is that spectators can watch the events from anywhere in the world. All online matches may be watched by logging on to The tournament continues at Wynberg Boys’ High School.

About ChessCube

ChessCube ( was launched in June 2007 from Cape Town headquarters. It has since grown to a community of over 600,000 avid chess players, and continues to grow. ChessCube is an innovative, and award-winning, live chess platform. Mark Levitt, founder and CEO of ChessCube, is four times South African Chess Champion, and many of ChessCube’s board members are avid, strong chess players themselves. ChessCube’s investors include Vinny Lingham of Lingham Capital.

For more information, please contact Mark Levitt ( or Sarah Blake (

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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