Tuesday, November 28, 2023

National Chess championships head north

An all out battle of brains is expected to ensue this weekend as local chess players head to Francistown to battle it out during the 6th Metropolitan Chess National Championships 2nd Qualifiers.

At least 24 men players and 18 female players are expected to battle it out for the last 10 places to make the finals of this year’s championship, which is to be played over the Easter holidays.

Unlike in the past years, there will be a lot at stake during this year’s championship as the winner will have automatically booked himself a place in the national team that will take part at this year’s World Olympiad.

The Olympiad is billed for Istanbul, Turkey, in August/September.

After missing out in the first qualifiers due to their status as defending champions, reigning champions, Abel Dzilani for men and Thapelo Francis for ladies, are expected to join the fray as they resume the defence of their championships.

Speaking in an interview, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF)’s Secretary General, Kelapile Kelatlhilwe, said he expects a very strong competition during the second qualifiers. Apart from a place in the team, the BCF Secretary said he expects players to fight hard for the prize money which is likely to be much improved.

Going into this weekend’s clashes, the BCF Secretary General says he expects to see an all out battle in the men’s section as almost all the local top players will be available. Apart from Dzilani, who is the defending champion, top seeded players, Fide Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho, Candidate Master (CM) Providence Oatlhotse and CM Barileng Gaelafshwe, will be in the fray.

“The only top rated player who won’t be available during the weekend’s qualifiers will be Ignatius Njobvu. The reason is he did not play in the first qualifiers due to work commitments and thus he failed to qualify for this round of play,” Kelatlhilwe said.

The duo of Khetho and Oatlhotse has had a great start to the year and all eyes will be on them to see how they will fare. Khetho in particular surprised many when he won this year’s opener on a comeback trail after having quit chess in the previous year. While all eyes will be on the four players in the men’s section, the women’s category remains an open one and will be hard to predict who will win it.

According to Kelatlhilwe, this is largely due to the improved performance of upcoming youngsters in the likes of the Francis’ sisters Thapelo and Onkemetse, Gorata Leso as well as Kgalalelo Botlhole, who seem to have caught up with their seniors. The four have already booked their places in the second qualifiers where they will be expected to battle it out with the likes of Women International Master (WIM) Boikhutso Modongo, Women FM Tshepiso Lopang, Women CM Ontiretse Sabure and Keitumetse Mokgacha. The only big absentee in the section will be Women Grand Master (WGM), Tuduetso Sabure, who missed out in the first qualifiers due to ill health.

Meanwhile, BCF and Metropolitan unveiled a cheque for this year’s championship yesterday. The cheque, which was unveiled at the Metropolitan Boardroom in Main Mall, sees an improved sponsorship from the company towards the championship. The new deal will see improved money for both the administration of the championship as well as improved prize monies for players.


Read this week's paper