Fresh from the successful Africa Junior Chess Championships, the Botswana Chess Federations (BCF) is now preparing the senior Chess National team for the Chess Olympiads, due to be held in Russia this month.
The team, which recently played Zambia in a friendly game, is currently hosting neighbouring South Africa in a bid to fine tune itself ahead of what is known as the Chess Olympics.
Speaking to Standard Sport, BCF president, Tshepo Sitale, said everything possible has been done to prepare the team. He, however, admitted that they have not always had their way as most of the senior team players are working in different locations around the country, making it difficult for them to have regular camps.
The BCF president says going into the Olympiads, they will be aiming for a category medal. Sitale says due to the high level of competition expected at the Russia Chess Olympiads, it will be difficult for them to say which medal they are aiming for as they will be playing against professional chess players.
He further added that they will also be looking to improve the team’s ratings. The Russia Olympiad team is made up of ten players, five men and five women. The men’s team comprises of FIDE Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho, Candidate Master (CM) and reigning national champion Barileng Gaealafshwe, Providence Oatlhotse, Ignatious Njobvu and Thabo Gumpo, while the women’s team comprises of Women Grand Master (WGM) Tuduetso Sabure, Women FIDE Master (WFM) Boikhutso Modongo, Women Candidate Master (WCM) Tshepiso Lopang, Keitumetse Mokgacha and Faith Mbakhwa.
Despite the aspirations of senior chess players to climb up the world chess rankings, Sitale says there is no pressure on the team. However, with the solid display by the junior national chess team during the recently ended African Junior Chess Championships, the gauntlet has now been thrown to the senior national team as they head for the Chess Olympiad at the end of this month in Russia.
The junior national team, perhaps buoyed by home ground advantage, made the country proud in the championships earning themselves eight medals and a second position overall behind South Africa. This performance was a great improvement from last year’s in Cape Town, South Africa, when they only brought home a single medal, courtesy of Rosa Nthite.
Compared to last year’s single silver medal, this time around, the juniors went an extra mile, getting themselves a single gold, three silvers and four bronze medals.
Commenting on the junior team, Sitale said the results showed that their commitment to grassroots development is bearing fruit. The BCF chief told Standard Sport that now the onus is on the federation to ensure that most of the youngsters get more international exposure, a task which will be difficult considering the lack of funds.
On other issues, Sitale says the BCF intends to capitalize on the successful hosting of the just ended junior championships as a springboard to host other major events. He says hosting the junior championships has firmly put the country on the African map.