Monday, March 1, 2021

Oatlhotse seeks Holy Grail as Botswana International Chess Open commences

Botswana’s top rated chess player, International Master (IM) Providence Oatlhotse, has won all local chess tournaments, bar one, the Botswana International Chess Open. No matter how far he has pushed, the tournament has eluded Oatlhotse, who is the country’s most decorated male chess player. When the tournament kicks off this coming Wednesday, one overriding desire will be top of the local lad’s mind, win the title.

“I have come so close a couple of times in this tournament but it has always eluded me,” IM Oatlhotse told reporters at the launch of the tournament this past Thursday. Addressing the media, Oatlhotse, who recently won the Millionaire Chess Satellite tournament in South Africa, said he will be hoping to lay this one ghost to rest when he competes at the tournament. Being at the top of his game, the country’s only IM, who despite his modesty considers himself ‘one of the best chess players in the region,’ is optimistic he can finally keep home the title that has been won by foreign players since 2010. However, standing in Oatlhotse and other local players’ way will be the tournament’s defending champion, IM Chitumbo Mwali of Zambia. Having lost the chance to play for US$1 million and against the World’s best at the Las Vegas Millionaire Chess Tournament to Oatlhotse in a three way tie at the aforementioned Millionaire Chess Satellite tournament in South Africa, the Zambian IM will be out to avenge and Oatlhotse is well aware of this.

“IM Mwali has pleaded with me to compete in this particular tournament. He has told me that he still feels the pain of losing to me at the Millionaire Chess Satellite tournament and would like to avenge his loss,” IM Oatlhotse said. Should both IMs come to the party, it will be a salivating prospect to see both come face to face. Meanwhile, the President of the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF), Tshenolo Maruatona, said he is hoping that the local chess player will win the title and keep it home. Ever since Fide Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho won the event in 2009, no local player has won the event. The other Motswana player to have won the Botswana International Chess Open is Tebogo Pitlagano, who won the title in 2007.  Speaking at the launch of the tournament’s sponsorship, Maruatona said the tournament, which he described as the biggest in the local chess calendar, will give the local players an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best players from the region.

He said over the years, the Botswana International Chess Open has attracted interest from the continent as well as in the region and the hope is that this year will be the same. “Over the years, this tournament has not only grown in quality but has also grown in sponsorship,” Maruatona explained. He said while locals have not performed badly in the tournament over the years, it is however worrying that no local players have won it in a while. The Botswana International Chess Open, which is sponsored by Debswana to the tune of P80 000, will be played in three categories, namely, the Prestige section, the Open section as well as the Ladies section. According to the BCF President, the winner of the Prestige Section, which pits elite players against each other, will walk away with a P10 000 cash prize, a trophy and a gold medal. The winners of the Open and the Ladies section on the other hand will win P3 000 each. The tournament, which will be hosted at the Legae Academy, will commence on Independence Day and finish on the 4th of October.

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