Lubabalo Kondlo, a draughts player from New Brighton in Port Elizabeth is the second best ranked player in the sport in the world, he is also the first and only Grandmaster on the African continent. He has represented South Africa across the world, from the USA, to China and throughout Europe. Although draughts is a very popular sport in South Africa, it gets very little support and funding.
Lubabalo says draughts is played across South Africa and is keeping the youth together and out of trouble, although chess is the better known sport, it is draughts that is more popular. “It teaches children discipline, because there are rules that govern the sport on how to behave”, he says.
The unfortunate thing according to Lubabalo is that draughts is not promoted in South Africa and no money is being injected into the sport. He has had to use his own money and rely on private sponsors and hosts to travel abroad and compete against the world’s best.
On his recent European trip, a Global South Africa living in London, Thandile Nombeko, whom he knew from the draughts community in the Eastern Cape, helped him with accommodation while he was in the UK.
Lubabalo was in Europe, competing against the world’s best in Italy, where he took second place, he also played in a qualifying freestyle tournament in Wales for a spot in the World Championships next year, playing against all the top draughts player in the world.
What really interested Lubabalo about the game of draughts and what got him hooked on it was the fact that he discovered at a young age that to be good you have to read books about the game, “because draughts is a scientific game”, he says.
He says a lot of people say chess is better than draughts, but he thinks otherwise, because, in chess when a player moves a piece forward, he can take it back again, whereas in draughts, if a piece has been moved forward you can’t take it back until you reach the other side, and he thinks it is a shame that the sport is not getting the same level of support in South Africa as it is in other parts of the world, even though it is played across the country from Gauteng to the Western Cape.
Lubabalo spends a lot of time and personal resources teaching children the game of draughts in schools. He says it really gives the children something to hold onto.
He says, “draughts stole my heart and it teaches me discipline. It is like life, if you play the wrong piece, you get beaten, if you go to the wrong side of the law, you go to jail.” He said draughts taught him how to be positive and to live a clean life.
Lubabalo says he would like Global South Africans to find out more about the game of draughts because the game has a rich history in South Africa. He hopes they can in some way contribute to the advancement of the game so that it can be equally recognized as any other sport is in South Africa.