Lubabalo Kondlo has done South Africa and the continent proud by becoming Africa's first world draughts champion, but the road to the title has not been an easy one for this Port Elizabeth resident.
Kondlo recently beat Italian draughts Grandmaster Michele Borghetti 5 - 0 to take the title in Mississippi. This win made him the first African to become the world champion.
“The final score was 5 - 0 with 15 drawn games. I was so happy because I am the first and only grandmaster and world champion on the African continent,” said Kondlo about his win.
Born in New Brighton, Kondlo started playing draughts at the age of seven and later joined the Vulindlela Draughts Club.
In 1997, Kondlo moved to Johannesburg in search of work.
“I went there because everyone goes there for opportunities, but I also knew that if I wanted to play overseas I had to be in Johannesburg,” he said.
Kondlo went on to join Mind Sports SA, an affiliate of SASCOC, and started playing in provincial tournaments in Gauteng. His talent for the game led him to win the Gauteng Draughts Championship every year from 1997 to 2003.
He started competing internationally in 2001, playing his first International draughts test against world number two Hugh Develin from Ireland.
“I beat him, and I was so excited because, he was number two in the world. We are very good at draughts here in South Africa and he had played me here at home. He was surprised that I had won, but he had already heard that there were good players in South Africa,” Kondlo said.
In 2007, Kondlo became the first and only draughts Grandmaster in South Africa and on the African continent after winning the World Qualifier in Las Vegas.
Kondlo has represented South Africa in international tournaments that have taken him to the USA to Europe and China.
Kondlo has also worked hard over the past few decades to make sure that the game of draughts receives recognition in South Africa as an official sport.
He is a coach at where the same club he first started playing draughts in New Brighton, teaching young players his award-winning strategies and tactics. Kondlo believes that draughts trumps chess in stimulating the mind.