Botswana chess Federation secretary general Mokwaledi Tingwane has said the team is doing well at the 2021 African Youth Chess Championships – Accra Ghana.
“There are only 2 rounds remaining, out of the 5 players, 3 boys & 2 girls, only the girls are in medal positions,” he said.
The five players representing Botswana are Gaasite Sebetlela Under 18 (B), Musa Munyere Under 16 (B), Ofile Masilo Under 14 (Boy), WFM Naledi Marape Under 16, WCM Natalie Katlo Banda Under 14.
Speaking in an interview, Tingwane said the championship ‘is one of the toughest youth tournaments in Africa.’ “The previous edition 2019, we sent 12 kids & brought back 4 medals, 1 Gold & 3 Bronze,” he explained.
When asked on the challenges they might be facing, he said “Challenges will always be there mainly because of financial strains, the team has no trainer, only a manager, no camp therefore no training.”
“The Gold medallists will play in the 2022 World Youth Chess Championships. We have a debutant Gaasite Sebetlela who is not doing that bad for his first continental championship.”
“The performance this year was good looking at the fact that last year, both in the Open & Ladies sections there were no youth players in the top 10. This year we have a silver medallist in WFM Naledi Marape (14 yrs) & Bonno Nthale, position 7 (12 years). In the Open section we have a 16 year old in Sebetlela Gaasite in the top 10,” Tingwane explained.
He said the successes point to a very good grassroots development for chess in Botswana. “Our grassroot development in Botswana is arguably among the best if not the best. Lat year’s (2019) national champion (ladies) was 14 year old WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe, the very same girl who won this year’s Botswana Sport Awards – Junior Female Sportsperson Of The Year. This year’s (2020) champion is WFM Besa Masaiti (18 years). She won BNSC Award, same award as Refilwe’s, the national recognition is huge as attested by that, we are also continentally recognisable,” he said.
In conclusion, Tingwane said “The focus and determination of our youth players can never be questioned, with the support of parents, teachers & sponsors we have collectively created a conducive environment for them to take chess as a number one sport.”