Chess Safari-South Africa

Chess Safari-Pierre Douglas

Pierre & Dewain

By Dewain Barber

     I have always wondered where on this planet I would want to go to play a game of chess. It has to be a place where no chess game has ever been played before.  Some of the exotic locations I have considered are the Amazon jungle, the top of Mt. Everest, the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in a deep dive submersible or go skydiving with a partner using a strong magnetic set.

     My chess bucket list is very long and many of my chess dreams will likely not be fulfilled, but I am a chess enthusiast.  Thus, when we traveled to South Africa I knew our safari program would likely not produce a game or two.  To my surprise I found two  young fellows, Jesse, our safari guide and Pierre who were in the right place at the right time.

     As is my custom, I ask one of the local persons if they know of anybody who plays the game.  Jesse said, “I know how the pieces move, but not much else.”  He agreed to spend some time after he was finished guiding for the day and we went over some strategies.  As we were looking at some ideas of the game, he informed me that his friend Pierre Douglas knew how to play.  I thought to myself, “Who would have every believed that in such a remote area that two persons would know about the game of chess?”  What a surprise.  

     Pierre was also a guide for the Moditlo Game Reserve located in the Limpopo Province which is six hours of driving northeast of Johannesburg.  Pierre’s main task is to show the visitors around on game drives. You are able to see the Big 5 (Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhino and Cheetah) that are found in this vast landscape we call South Africa.  Although I have played a game of chess with the manager of a lodge in the Masa Mara in Kenya and played on a riverboat on the Nile River, I had not ventured to the southern tip of Africa before.

     Jesse introduced me to Pierre and I found out that he had played quite a bit of chess before.  As we began playing he recounted his work as a guide.  He pointed out that the animals do not come to us and this certainly is not a zoo.  Although there are fences around each Reserve in South Africa, it is necessary to be guided around inside the Reserve and stay on the path provided when we were at the Moditlo River Lodge complex.

     Pierre gave me a good game of chess and it remained close until the end.  I passed a pawn and proceeded to queen.  The game ended shortly thereafter.  As my wife, Susan and I went back to our cabin later in the evening I looked ahead and saw two rather large warthogs.  I stopped in my tracks and waited quietly until they moved on.  I decided that it was time to let the animals of Moditlo have the night.

 Footnote:  On one of our daytime trips Jesse happened to make a sharp turn with the Land Rover and I had the right sleeve of my jacket torn by a thorn bush.  I decided that the injury to my jacket needed a patch to remind me of this trip.  Therefore, I purchased a South Africa flag patch and had it sewed on over the torn part of the jacket.