Beukes taking chess by storm
By Michael Uugwanga
AT 17 years of age, Dante Mathew Beukes, Namibia’s chess prodigy has upended the game, not only locally but on the continent as well with numerous titles to his name, which makes him possibly the best male chess player in the country at the moment.
Beukes is a grade 12 pupil at St George’s Diocesan School in Windhoek and has been playing chess since the tender age of seven, although he only started playing professional chess when he was 13.
Beukes practices his chess skills at Tail Weekend Chess Academy, run by Max Nitzborn.
Beukes’ first taste of success was when he won the U-10 national championship in 2012 and went on to represent Namibia at the World Youth Chess Championship in Maribor, Slovenia.
His biggest achievement to date came in December 2016, when he won a gold medal in U-13 at the African Schools Individual Chess Championships in Lusaka, Zambia and was awarded the FIDE Master title, becoming the youngest and second International Chess Federation (FIDE) master in the country after Leonard Muller, who is currently based in Switzerland.
He was a national champion in 2017 at the tender age of 14 and won the same title again in 2019.
In December 2019, when Namibia hosted the 2019 African Youth Chess Championship in Windhoek, he went on to win the title of International Master.
“I learned to play chess at the age of 7. I always liked playing chess and working on chess. I was national champion in my age group several times, but I only started considering doing chess professionally when I was about 12 or 13.
“I played other sports when I was younger, but I never considered continuing to do them. Unlike football or cricket, chess is an individual game. All the responsibility is on me, if I don’t succeed. This is one of the things I really like about chess and it keeps me motivated to work harder.
“I participated in the African Schools Individual Chess Championships U-13 in 2015 and came in second place (silver medal) and was also awarded the Candidate Master title in Botswana. In 2016, at age 13 I came fourth at the Namibia National Chess Championships and qualified for the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan and at the same time I became the youngest participant at the Olympiad,” said Beukes.
Despite his talent, Beukes admits that there are some local chess players that he always finds hard to beat, notably Charles Eichab whom he describes as his toughest opponent to date. He is a big admirer of Egyptian chess player Grandmaster Amin Bassen and is hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“There are several players that I find difficult to play against. Locally, Candidate Master Charles Eichab is probably the toughest. He has been national champion several times and is quite experienced. We always have interesting fights.
“I think Grandmaster Amin Bassem is a huge inspiration to all African players. He is by far the best player in Africa and keeps setting the bar higher and higher. I also like Grandmaster VasylIvanchuk (Ukrainian). He is probably the best player to have never become a world champion.
“I want to become a Grandmaster. It’s going to be quite tough and I will have to work extremely hard. I think I have the necessary support to be able to accomplish this and I believe that. I just need to work hard and stay focused,” he said
Chess in Namibia is still growing and has a long way for it to establish itself as one of the leading sport codes, but with the likes of Muller continuing to put Namibia on the map, this might just open up more doors for locals to take up the sport.