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A Clear Case Of Legal Checkmate!

Article by WO1 P.A. Garbett 

In the game of chess – reckoned to be the world’s second most popular sport – there are legal and illegal moves. Legal moves conform to the FIDE* Laws of Chess. SAAF Colonel Johan Coetzer relishes these sorts of moves, both in his professional military life and in the game at which he excels. And on 13 August 2008 excel he did, by winning the gold medal at the Pretoria Military Chess Club (PMCC)’s Individual Closed Chess Championships held in Pretoria.

Pretoria-born Johan played his first chess game at the age of 11 in 1976 against his father. So keen on this ancient King of Games did he become that he was awarded his senior Northern Transvaal colors a mere four years later. Since then he has represented both his home province and Mid-Gauteng in many inter-provincial competitions, including that held during 2007, when his CHESSA rating stood at 2097. Johan recalls achieving his best result to date in 1992 when he won the Centurion Open Tournament against stiff opposition. In earlier years he was a member of the Pretoria and Ndaba Chess Clubs, but no longer considers himself to be an “active” player – despite his involvement with the PMCC.

Johan Coetzer joined the SA Air Force in 1989 as a national serviceman and has since served the DOD in a variety of capacities. At present he occupies the post of Deputy Director HR Legal Support on the staff of Chief of Defence Legal Services: he holds the university degrees of BComm, LLB, LLM and is an admitted attorney.

Throughout this time, Col Coetzer’s passion for chess burned bright: he registered with the PMCC during 2004, going on to become the Club champion in that year and the year thereafter. At the end of 2005 he was awarded his PMSC gold colors for the sport. Although holding no office within the Chess Club, he has rendered a sterling service to it – culminating in the recent gold medal accomplishment, to the acclaim of his fellow-members.

On this occasion the colonel was reminded of how his working life and his current sport moved “legally” together. Two questions were then put to him and the responses clearly “checked out”.

“Colonel; what is your ambition in chess?”
-- “To represent South Africa.”
“And who, sir, is or was your most iconic chess player?”
-- “The late Bobby Fischer: according to him, ‘CHESS IS LIFE’!”

*FIDE = Federation Internationale des Echecs, the international governing body of Chess based in France.

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