Clarendon Girls Primary School grade 6 pupil, Viha Beecum recently returned from an exciting trip to Batumi, Georgia, where she represented SA in the FIDE World U8-18 Chess Championships from June 5-12.
Beecum who has been playing since she was young, made her debut, representing SA at U12 level and competed in 11 rapid games and 11 blitz games, against players from around the world.
She qualified to represent the country after making trials for top 16 nationally, where she played a series of games until reaching a final knockout round for the top three.
Beecum said the chance to compete at the world championships was a dream come true. She was proud and hopes to build on her future within the game.
Introduced to chess by her grandfather, Beecum said she has remained committed to chess because it has taught her valuable life skills.
She said: “I love the way chess forces you to think and calculate. It teaches you how to be patient and when you grasp the basics, you realise how fun it is. I have met friendly and inspirational people through this game and I am proud to have played for SA.”
Her coach, Ashley Vermaak from Viking’s Chess Club describes Beecum’s approach to the game as incrementally more tactical and aggressive.
He said: “She plays safe, easy to understand systems in the opening. Then she starts getting more aggressive as the game goes on. When she is in full attack mode, then the opponent has very little chance of survival.
“I’ve been coaching Viha for a few years now. Her progress has been very rapid. I usually don’t take on young students but made an exception with Viha because she had enthusiasm and a hunger to improve.
“Attitude is the most important thing for me and Viha has the right attitude.
“She went from near the bottom of her age group locally to near the top of her age group nationally very fast.
“Viha and I spend an hour or two a week training and then I give her tasks to complete. It’s a different universe compared to other nations but with clever methods we can compete.”
Clarendon Girls Primary School teacher and chess manager, Chantelle Broodryk said the school was impressed with Beecum’s achievements and believed she would motivate other pupils to develop a curiosity for the game.
Broodryk said: “We are so proud of Viha. I taught Viha last year as a grade 5 learner and knew then that there was something special about her. She is determined, and diligent and constantly inspires others. She is always positive, which has played a big part in her success.”
Viha’s mother, Sarisha Beecum, said: “Viha participates in other sports as well, but her greatest involvement is in chess. It teaches her self-discipline, improves her self-worth, and teaches her to celebrate success with humility and challenges with a renewed sense of vigour to attain success.
“Our advice to parents would be to give your children as many opportunities as you can afford to explore different sports or recreational activities, always with a patient, gentle, non-judgmental attitude.
“When they find what makes them tick they will let you know.”