The enclosed picture tells more than a thousand words. It shows Lubabolo N. Kondlo, the second ranked checker player in the world, who resides in Port Elizabeth, one of the poorest provinces in SA playing in a tournament held in a museum honoring him and his club. I believe you know from your stay in Robin Island how much pleasure and skill the game of checkers can bring. One can imagine how hard it must have been for Mr. Lubabolo to become second best in world considering he can't afford a computer, an internet connection, or membership in a club and what an achievement it has been.

There is a world tournament for players of board games called the Mind Games Championships being held in San Remo, Italy, October 19-22, and I believe Mr. Lubabalo is not currently being considered to play. Perhaps you can guess the reason why from the picture. I would think it must be very hard for the above contestants in the tournament to get the money, the persona, the invites, and the social graces to get into the clubs that might qualify them for this tournament. And if they did, I would imagine it might be hard for them to tilt the powers that be to send such a person to the tournament. That's just a guess on my part from my own experience.

I was once the National Champion in Squash in the United States. I couldn't defend my title for the National Tournament held in Chicago because I couldn't get into a club that was a member club of the official association. I couldn't get into the club either because I didn't have enough money or I didn't fit the image that the club members had (in those days there was one Jewish member in all the squash playing clubs in Chicago where I was from. Fortuitously after not playing for 4 years after my exclusion, I won the tournament four more times.)

I wonder if the same situation is happening in part to Luba. I wonder if he can't get into a club because he doesn't have the money or the social attributes. I wonder if he can't get into the tournament because the tournaments require an official club to sponsor. It's what they call Catch 22 in the United States.

One could understand this in the United States 50 years ago. But it is hard to believe that it might still be happening in South Africa today in 2011 after all that has been accomplished, after all the efforts to give the kind of men pictured above an equal chance to excel in all intellectual, social, athletic, and commercial pursuits. It is especially jarring now as the latest World Cup exemplifies, South Africa has become a symbol of inclusion and renewed hope for the continent and beyond.

Perhaps it would be worth looking into this and perhaps the relevant ministers of sports and equal opportunity might see if there is any rectification appropriate for this situation. Surely there are official reasons that might have given rise to a situation like this. I know there were many in my case. I suspect however that these official reasons would seem daunting to many a man playing checkers in pictures such as above.

One might anticipate that one of the official reasons given for such a situation arising is that a qualifying tournament could not be held? Or that an entry fee of several dollars had not been paid? Doubtless there are other official reasons that might be given. These official reasons should certainly be given a fair hearing.

One realizes that despite the millions of checker players around the world, checkers or draughts is still a minor sport. But even a situation like this in a sport can send a signal. I believe it would be very good for South Africa, and the game of checkers if Mr. Lubabolo were given a chance to compete for a spot in the Mind Games.

P.S. As is always the case in such situations, there is a question of money involved. It is likely that I would consider paying Mr. Lubabolo's expenses to this tournament in the hopeful event that he is able to overcome the official barriers to entering that might be placed in his way, and/or he be given a fair chance to compete in such a tournament through any reasonable procedures.


Victor Niederhoffer


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