Tournament Chief Arbiter Marisa van der Merwe (standing) supervises the conduct of the 2007 South African Women’s Open Chess Tournament, being played at the Cresta Shopping Centre. Picture: gsport … for Girls!

South African Women’s Open Chess Tournament Chief Arbiter Marisa van der Merwe took some time out on Saturday with gsport … for Girls!, to discuss the tournament progress. 

After Round 4, Ezette Roos leads the tournament (after adjustment for player ratings), with defending champion 13-year old Melissa Greef breathing down her neck in second place, and equal on points.

“Our top ladies are here, and competition is very tight,” said Van der Merwe. “The next two rounds will be very tough because we use the Swiss system, where players with the same ranking play against each other.

“With such a small tournament, you really only need five rounds to get a winner, but we’ve got seven rounds, which means that the lady to win this tournament has to beat all the top competitors. It will be very tough for her, and she will definitely deserve it.”

Just over 30 of South Africa’s most talented female chess players are in the running for the prize offered by tournament sponsor Cresta Shopping Centre, under the watchful eye of USA’s Woman Grand Master, Jennifer Shahade, special guest of the tournament organisers.

“I think it’s the first time in South Africa in any tournament that we’ve got an international Grand Master analysing games for the players,” continues Van der Merwe.

“It’s a very big learning curve for them in Ladies Chess, so that when they finish with their games, the Grand Master is at their disposal to go through their games, to discuss things with them.”

And how does Marisa van der Merwe think the girls are enjoying the surroundings, playing such a high-stakes tournament in the hurly-burly of the bustling Cresta Shopping Centre?

“For all the girls, this opportunity is fantastic, getting the opportunity to show where their passions are, the opportunity to tell the people out there where their hearts lie,” says the tournament’s Chief Arbiter.

“It’s got a very high profile in the media, thanks to gsport, Cresta Shopping Centre, and the local organising committee from Gauteng Junior.

“The Tournament is very well organised this year, I think they like to be in the public eye, and to be ambassadors for their sport in the media.”

Tournament Leader Board after Round 4 (Top 11 places):
1. Ezette Roos (3.5)
2. Melissa Greef (3.5)
3. Monique Sischy (3.5)
4. Sandra van de Venter (3.0)
5. Laetitia van Wyk (3.0)
6. Nina de Swardt (3.0)
7. Kelly-Anne Main (3.0)
8. Thea Koen (3.0)
9. Anzel Solomons (2.5)
10. Carmen de Jager (2.5)
11. Megalie Mendes (2.5)