World champ wants to see draughts grow

New Brighton player brings title to Africa for first time

New Brighton draughts grandmaster Lubabalo Kondlo is flanked by mentor Jimboy Mgotsi and Vulindlela Club president Nkululeko Jama as he shows off the trophy he received when he dethroned Italy’s Michele Borghetti
New Brighton draughts grandmaster Lubabalo Kondlo is flanked by mentor Jimboy Mgotsi and Vulindlela Club president Nkululeko Jama as he shows off the trophy he received when he dethroned Italy’s Michele Borghetti
Image: Amir Chetty

New Brighton draughts champion Lubabalo Kondlo is hoping his new status as world champion will give his beloved sport the boost it needs to grow across the country.

Kondlo, who arrived back in the city this week, dethroned Italian Michele Borghetti in September in a tight tussle to claim his first world championship title in Mississippi.

Many would not have heard of Kondlo before the news broke from Mississippi that he had beaten Borghetti, 11 years after his first attempt and the loss to the then world champion Ron King, from Barbados.

The final score sheet read 50 to Kondlo, with 15 draws and former champion Borghetti not being able to make up the deficit with only four games left on the final day of play. The pair contested 24 games over six days from September 8 to 14.

The history books were rewritten as Kondlo, a member of the Nelson Mandela Bay and Eastern Cape draughts associations, also became Africa’s first world champion.

Speaking from Buster’s Clubhouse in Jabavu Street, New Brighton, where he was first introduced to the game, Kondlo, who is a grand master in the sport, spoke proudly about his achievement and hoped it would help grow the sport in South Africa.

“This will change the way the game is looked at in our country. We have never had a world champion in this game in South Africa, and neither in Africa, so I hope the relevant authorities will take notice of what I am doing in terms of growing the sport and come on board,” he said.

After his title-winning performance, Kondlo headed to Las Vegas for the 2018 ACF National Three-Move Championships, where he placed fourth before jetting off to to Barbados for the 2018 WCDF World Qualifier and Woman/Youth Three-Move Championships, where he finished fifth.

Kondlo said it had been a tactical battle and in his preparations he had to find new ways of outwitting Borghetti.

“[Borghetti] is a crafty player and, because all our games are published online, I needed to find new ways of beating him, using tactics he was not used to,” he said.

“In the lead-up, I worked very hard on finding new ways to play the game.”

However, Kondlo’s road to becoming world champion has not been paved with gold.

He learnt to play draughts while still at school, attending Jarvis Gqamlana Primary and later Cowan High School, where he would use his lunch money to buy cigarettes, which he in turn traded to his teacher for lessons in tactics.

“Growing up, all I wanted to do was play the game. I would leave school during break times to come here and play, sometimes forgetting that I needed to go back to school, but my love for this game never died,” he said. Kondlo won his first SA title in 1999.

Without any sponsors or incentives, Kondlo paved his own way to success and, despite not having a job, still managed to pay for his trips from his own pocket, using prize money, and other smaller donations to fund his travels.

“I am hoping this achievement will motivate children to take up the sport, but more so, to have the government give the sport more support. I’m not asking to be paid, but rather for the sport to be invested in with the aim of producing more national and international champions,” he said.

He has also been very active in the growth of the sport with his development work since 2008, where he has on two occasions bought and sponsored draught boards and pieces for various schools in the New Brighton and Zwide areas, in a bid to get the community involved.

Kondlo said the sport had shown a lot of growth in the metro, with eight clubs situated in all corners of the city, and he said there was even talk of forming a national body for the sport to help further grow it.

Kondlo’s mentor, Jimboy Mgotsi, said the entire community was very proud of his achievements. He hoped more youngsters would start to take up the sport and one day represent the country.

X