The fight for chess national team colours starts in earnest this coming weekend when chess exponents take on each other during the 5th Metropolitan Chess Championships to decide who takes the national championship.
The winner of the championship will be eligible to play at the Africa Individual Championships billed for Zambia this coming May, where he will battle with Africa’s best for the three slots to compete at the World Championships.
Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, Botswana Chess Federation tournament director, Kelapile Kelatlhilwe, said they are expecting tough battles during the Metropolitan Championships as there ‘is something to play for.’
“This will be an open competition and every chess player is invited. It is divided into three stages, the first qualifiers, the second qualifiers and the finals,” Kelatlhilwe said.
He further added that the tournament will be made even more exciting by the fact that even national team players will be expected to battle it out in the qualifiers for a place in the second qualifiers where only 24 men and 18 women are expected to participate.
The BCF tournament director says only national champions, Barileng Gaelafshwe and Ontiretse Sabure, will not compete in the first qualifiers but will be expected to join the fray in defence of their titles in the second qualifiers.
Kelatlhilwe says those who make it past the second qualifiers will be invited to play for the national championships during the Easter holidays. “This is one of the biggest events in BCF’s calendar of events, in terms of both the quality of the games and the sponsorship value,” Kelatlhilwe told Standard Sport. “Unlike in the past events, the championship finals will be internationally rated and players making the finals will get a chance to increase their international rankings.”
He further added that the tournament continues to attract a lot of participants, saying they have already had interest of participation coming from as far as Maun.
“We are expecting some of our former national champions to take part in the event as they have also expressed their desire to compete,” he said. Kelatlhilwe says the winners of the championship will be expected to walk away with more than P4 500 cash.
The tournament will also open doors for the best players to be seen and be invited for the playoffs to select national team players to represent the country during the Zone 6 championships due to be hosted by BCF also in April. Meanwhile, Kelatlhilwe says BCF is ready to successfully host the Zone 6 competitions.
He said after hosting the Africa Junior Chess championships this past year, they have gained enough experience to successfully host major championships.
“We are aware of what is needed to host events of this magnitude and I can safely say we are expecting no problems in organising this event,” the BCF tournament director said.
The internationally rated tournament is expected to be attended by national teams from Southern African region with the champions expected to get a slot at the Chess World Championships.