Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke of his passion for chess at the opening of the Arnold Chess Classic games in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I started when I was eight with my father, I had to play with him every day. When I went to America, I started playing over there with friends and people at the gym,” he said. “It was always part of me.”

Known as an iconic actor and former Governor of California, Schwarzenegger is the creator of the Arnold Classic games, a multisport format with yearly competitions in five continents. In Johannesburg, 24,000 participants in 90 different sport codes and 300 exhibition stands crammed the Sandton Convention Centre between May 17 and 19.

GM Grover Sahaj. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/
GM Sahaj Grover, the winner of the Arnold Classic. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

The Arnold Chess Classic was a rapid and blitz tournament with some of the strongest players in the continent. GM Sahaj Grover from India won in both time controls dominating over IM Johannes Mabusela and IM Providence Oatlhotse, the national champions from South Africa and Botswana, and the best players from Malawi and Zimbwabwe FM Joseph Mwale and IM Rodwell Makoto. The rapid tournament had a time control of 25 minutes for all moves and a 10-second increment. The blitz section had a time control of 3 minutes and a 2-second increment.

Mabusela was the only one to pose a threat to Grover’s supremacy during the rapid, also thanks to but an opening blunder by the Indian GM. The former South African champion settled for a draw in a superior endgame:

Mabusela ended up second, ahead of Makoto and IM Daniel Cawdery. In the blitz portion, Sahaj had no rivals and finished the tournament one full point ahead of blitz specialist Mwale, despite three draws in the last rounds.

IM Johannes Mabusela is one of the strongest players in Southern Africa. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/
IM Johannes Mabusela is one of the strongest players in Southern Africa. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

Parallel to the titled Prestige tournament, an Open section featured upcoming South African youth and club players for a total 90 participants. Ashley Urombo won the rapid, while Yaduvir Govender was first in the blitz. A few schools from Johannesburg gave an exciting demonstration of dynamic chess playing a big board blitz competition amid the crowd of the Arnold Classic. Lastly, a section for parents and a separate tournament for disabled, blind and deaf players were particularly successful and hosted hundreds of participants.

Chess for everyone at Arnold Classic. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/
Chess for everyone at the Arnold Classic. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

The record attendance in the collateral tournaments demonstrates the value attributed to social development through chess in South Africa. Promoted by the Arnold Classic for Africa, the Province of Gauteng and the Kasparov Chess Foundation for Africa, the initiative is growing every year in the framework of the multisport event, creating a sport crosspollination which allows mind games and e-sport competitions to take place right next to physical sports such as boxing, martial arts and bodybuilding. The motto of the event is “There is something for everyone…”

The bodybuilding championship at Arnold Classic. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/
The bodybuilding championship at the Arnold Classic. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

“Chess and e-sports are the fastest growing sports in South Africa,” commented SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) vice-president Berry Hendricks. “If you look at the number of boards and kids participating here, you will see that there is a huge competition to become the best in the country.”

Arnold Shwarzenegger with GM Grover Sahaj and Chess South Africa officials. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/
Arnold Schwarzenegger with GM Sahaj Grover, IM Daniel Cawdery and Chess South Africa officials. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

Schwarzenegger met Grover and the sponsors of the tournament on Sunday. He also played a demonstration game against eight-years-old local champion Pranae Govender and took photos with his fans.

“I’ll be back ranked!” The local youth proved to be tougher than expected. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/

During the event, the actor from Terminator and other film classics admitted doing some preparation on his tablet: “I get beaten all the time, of course. The machines are stronger than we are.”

Since Skynet hasn’t taken over the chess world just as yet, our readers can still enjoy one of the best players in the world trying to take on chess engine Komodo in a four hours streaming of Komodo Boss Rush with Hikaru Nakamura and IM Levy Rozman.

The Arnold Classic went viral on international media because of an unfortunate event. While Schwarzenegger was meeting some skipping-rope athletes, a crazed fan hit him with a flying kick:

At age 71, former Mr Universe was hardly concerned by the assault: