Kenny Solomon started playing chess in Mitchell’s Plain aged 13 after his older brother, Maxwell, was flown to Manila to take part in a Chess Olympiad there. Kenny saw that there was something other than the situation allotted him and immediately started reading any chess book he could get his hands on. He taught himself to play the game and in two years won the national championships. This beginning has set the standard for the rest of Kenny’s journey. Driven by tenacity and a desire to play with the best in the world, Kenny has taken on the odds and will continue to do so in his 2009 quest to become a Grandmaster. A steely combination of modesty, faith, resolve and strength, both physical and mental, are the things that will propel Kenny to his endgame.
Growing up in Mitchell’s Plain, one of eight children, Kenny was exposed to gang culture from an early age. Kenny realized that if he didn’t create his own future, he would merely become a pawn in this scene, trapped in the violent, oppressive cycle of gangsterism. Strong family values and his early interest in chess kept him away from these influences and compelled him to make choices about his fate. After getting into chess at the age of 13, he would play blitz games with his older brother and a friend in the Solomon’s backyard, amidst lines of dripping washing. When his brother, Maxwell, went to the kitchen to make coffee for the visitors, Kenny would swiftly steal his brother’s seat and play a few moves. He was soon beating the older guys and as he got better, made his way through the ranks of Solomon brothers, from youngest to oldest. He became, as it were, the King Solomon! This was the start of a lifelong commitment to the game. Kenny would take any opportunity to challenge his skills and gain exposure. Historically, chess has been marginalized in South Africa and so such opportunities were few and far between. Kenny thus took any measure necessary to better his game. When his brother moved to Pretoria between 1997 and 2000, Kenny would go and stay with him for a few months at a time, because chess in Gauteng was heating up during that period of time. He knew that, with the state of chess in the country, he would have to take any opportunity he could to gain exposure. He never imagined, however, that he would receive the funding needed to fulfill his dream of becoming a South African Grandmaster. Chess sponsorship in South Africa, too, has been stunted by a lack of interest in the sport and a shortage of funding. When SABT approached Kenny with a sponsorship proposal in early 2009 not only did they initiate the largest chess sponsorship South Africa has ever seen, they also set Kenny’s vision in motion.