Thursday, July 7, 2022

Khetho wins chess year opener tournament on a comeback

FIDE Master Phemelo Khetho returned to active chess in fashion as he won the Airfficiency Year Opener.

Khetho, who retired from active chess sometime in April last year, made a quick return to action and delivered as he cleared a strong field of players to win Botswana Chess Federation (BCF)’s first tournament of the year. The FIDE Master showed no signs of rustiness on his comeback tournament and put forth a brilliant performance befitting a national team player.

He amassed a total of seven points from seven games and lost no game to beat a strong field that included almost all of the country’s national team players.

Closely following behind Khetho were Candidate Master (CM) Providence Oatlhotse, CM Ignatius Njobvu, CM Moakofi Notha, Moyo Dion, CM Barileng Gaealafshwe and Olebile Thato in succession.

The six players were level on points, each registering 5.5 points and were separated on tie break two.

In the women’s category, 17-year-old Barbara Dizdarevic cleaned all as she easily won the women’s section. The Serbian, who was on vacation in the country, stunned the local girls as she won the tournament with ease. Closely following behind her were local girls Gorata Leso, Women Candidate Master (WCM) Lame Kolaatamo, WCM Ontiretse Sabure with Boitshepo Rebatenne completing the top five. As with their male counterparts, all the four players ended the tournament on five points each and were separated on tie break two.

Speaking in an interview, BCF Tournament Director Kelapile Kelatlhilwe hailed the tournament as a success saying it augured well for the year ahead.

According to Kelatlhilwe, with this year being an Olympiad year, they are expecting all competitions to be even tougher.

“If you look at the final ranking of the tournament, you will realise that all the players that made the national team to the last Olympiad were available and were competing and they were closely matched. This goes to show how tough this tournament was,” the BCF tournament Director said.

Commenting on the women’s section of the tournament, Kelatlhilwe said just like the men section, the women’s category was very tough and showed that some of the youngsters were closing in on their seniors. He says the fact that the likes of Leso and Kolaatamo continue to prove their mettle against their senior shows growth.

“The women’s section is very inconsistent in that it is always full of surprises and you never know who will win. If you look at this tournament, you will realise that some of our seasoned players, like the then defending champion Kgalalelo Botlhole, did not make the top ten,” Kelatlhilwe surmised.

Meanwhile, BCF will this weekend host the National School Championships to decide who will be crowned the schools’ chess champion. The tournament, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, will be hosted at Naledi Senior School.

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