Jacob Zuma gets beaten by Sfiso Mashazi (12) at chess in Nkandla where he is spending the next few days.

Twelve-year-old Sifiso Mashazi bit his nails and tapped his feet while beating President Jacob Zuma during an intense chess game yesterday.

The 2010 JZ Chess Tournament, sponsored by the Moves for Life trust of which Zuma is patron, was held at Nkandla municipal hall yesterday.

Zuma, who is an avid chess player and also one of the promoters of chess in rural areas, eventually surrendered to Sifiso’s crafty moves.

Sifiso seemed oblivious to the cameras and tensions around him and Zuma. He focused and gave the president a chance to make his moves. During the game Zuma was heard to mutter “sekushubile impela” (it is now getting tough).

Sifiso never looked up during the game, and only gave a big smile when Zuma finally surrendered. “I am really happy. It was a very serious game to me, but I was not scared.”

Sifiso said his love for chess started at an early age. “I finally got my first chess set from my aunt who knew the love I had for this sport. I was very happy and have been practising almost every day.”

A Grade 5 pupil, Sifiso said he would never forget the day he beat his president. “I just wish my school had a chess set so I could teach all the other boys at school.”

On Zuma’s arrival, children, teenagers and their parents jostled and pushed to get a picture of him as he moved from table to table, chatting to the players and assessing the different states of play.

Asked how he felt about his defeat, Zuma admitted he had made a “few mistakes” at the beginning of the game. “I took the game for granted. I just told myself that he was just a boy, but this proved a point that one must not take things for granted.”

Zuma said he knew that with his mistakes he could never recover and just kept on playing to see how far the game could go. “Chess, just like any other game, is very important. It has been scientifically proven the sport can enhance the mind, and this is exactly what we need for the young people.”

He said he was very happy the tournament was taking place in his hometown.

“This has put Nkandla on the map because we are one of the first rural towns to hold such a tournament.”

Speaking about his experience in chess, he said he had loved the game but had not been able to practise because of his busy schedule.

“I cannot wait for my pension so that I can get to play chess,” he said.

Apart from the chess tournament, the Zuma family was also busy yesterday with preparations for the umembeso (wedding gift purchase) ceremony, due to take place today for Duduzile, one of Zuma’s daughters.

Other activities included preparations for Christmas parties for orphans, children and elderly people in the area. The erection of tents, mobile toilets and catering facilities and the movement of an array of vehicles has become the order of the day in the quite village.

National chess champion Kgaugelo Mosethle from Pretoria, who is part of the Move for Life trust which was formed to assist in developing maths and science skills among young children, said: “There is a great need to improve chess in the country, especially in the rural areas where there is no chess. It helps them with reasoning, discipline and also increases their IQ levels.” – The Mercury