Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) has called off its annual Botswana Open Chess tournament. The tournament was scheduled to take place over the Independence holidays.
Speaking in an interview, BCF Public Relations Director (PRD) Kutlwano Tatolo said the decision to cancel was taken after it was announced that the government had cancelled all interzonal permits.
Tatolo said following the government cancellation of interzonal permits, the BCF anticipate that athletes based out of Gaborone will not be able to take part.
“We would like to give all our athletes an equal opportunity to participate and compete in our events,” she explained.
“As BCF, we have very capable athletes who can win this competition across the country and continuing with it would have denied them the chance,” she said.
The BCF PRD said as the tournament is the federation’s flagship event, ‘it would be a shame if it became an exclusively Gaborone event.’
“The Botswana Open is the biggest international tournament by the BCF. Normally, we expect it to be graced by international athletes, but the current circumstances with COVID 19 made this impossible,” she said.
Tatolo however said as the federation had already purposed to make it a local competition, it would make no sense to degrade it to a one local location competition.
“This is the highest sponsored tournament in Botswana. It is sponsored to the tune of P277 000 by Debswana,” she said.
She went on to state that it is also the highest paying with the winner of the prestige taking home P12 000 while the winner of the ladies’ section goes home with a P10 000 prize money.
Tatolo went on to explain that making this an exclusively Gaborone event would also be a breach of their contract with Debswana, with whom they have committed to host an international event.
Given all the above, Tatolo said the BCF took a decision to indefinitely postpone the tournament until ‘the regulations restricting movement’ allow interested athletes to travel into Gaborone to compete.
The BCF PRD said at the moment, the federation is eyeing the end of October as an ideal time to host the event.
“Our hope is that at the end of the independence holidays, the restrictions on interzonal travel will be lifted and we will host the tournament,” she said.
“This is of course a hopeful wish. But if it does not happen and only happens after October, we will still host it. Our intention is to host the tournament this year,” she said.
Tatolo said if the interzonal travel restrictions are not eased, they would have some challenges as they still have two more tournaments to play and the league to complete.
Meanwhile, the BCF PRD said as a non-contact sport, chess has put in place measures that allow it to safely compete in this era of coronavirus.
She says the federation has already hosted some competitions and knows how to handle playing under the pandemic.
“We know how to socially distance in our competitions and how to sanitize and disinfect. We believe we know how to host events during this time,” she concluded.