Saturday, March 6, 2021

‘Business as usual’ marks Metropolitan chess tournament

There were no surprises in this year’s Metropolitan Easter Chess Tournament as provisional members of the Botswana senior team dominated the games.

While there were minor upsets with some junior athletes winning against some of their highly ranked opponents, it was in general ‘business as usual’ for the country’s top ranked players as they made it into the top positions. In what has been described as one of the toughest tournaments, the champions were decided on the last day of the tournament as Botswana’s elite chess players sharpened their brains ahead of the Norway bound Chess Olympics.

In a very interesting tournament, the top three in the Open section were separated by a point while the top three players in the ladies section were separated by a mere half point. In the open section, FIDE Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho was the man to beat as he collected 8 points from a possible 9. Khetho, who was having a brilliant tournament, finished the tournament without losing a single game as he won seven of his nine games in the tournament and drew the other two. The dreadlocked FM was closely followed in second position by another elite player, Candidate Master (CM) Barileng Gaealafshwe who accumulated 7.5 points from his games, a mere half point behind the champion.

Gaealafshwe, who had registered only one loss to eventual winner Khetho also had a good tournament as he won seven games and drew one against upcoming youngster Tumelo Seane of BIUST. Completing the open section top three was CM Olebile Thato, accumulating a total of seven points, having won seven games and losing two to both Khetho and Gaealafshwe. The winner of the open section went home with a P while the second and third placed went home with P6500 and P4500 cash prizes respectively. In the ladies section, Women Candidate Master (WCM) Onkemetse Francis edged tough competition from defending champion, Women International Master (WIM) Boikhutso Modongo to win the tournament. In what was an interesting duel for the championship, both Francis and Modongo were tied at 7 points apiece, tied on tiebreak one and the 22 year old Francis only won after edging out Modongo on the second tie break.

On her way to be crowned champion, Francis had lost only one game to Gorata Leso and drawn two games. Modongo on the other hand did not lose a game but drew four and won five. Coming third was WIM Tshepiso Lopang who accumulated 6.5 points from her nine games. While the Ladies’ category winner was supposed to walk off with P5 500 prize money, the tie between Francis and Modongo meant the prize monies for first and second were combined and split equally between the two, with both eventually going home P4 750 richer respectively. Commenting on this year’s tournament, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) Vice President Technical, Major Ivon Makabe, said the tournament was the was the toughest, with ‘all Botswana’s titled players having played.’ While happy with the overall quality of the tournament, the BCF VP Technical said he was impressed by the youngsters, among them Malebogo Sokisi and Tumelo Seane, who had given their more illustrious opponents a tough time during the tournament. Even more impressive for the VP Technical was that even the champions were ‘decided on the final day.’ His words were echoed by Ladies’ champion Onkemetse Francis who described the tournament as very competitive. “All those who made the finals of this tournament deserved to be there,” Francis explained.

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