Though still at its infancy, the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) is confident they have made significant strides both at an administrative and playing level.
BCF Secretary General, Kenneth Boikhutshwane stated that the official playing of chess in Botswana started in 1982 and back then everything was centralized within the executive committee, which hampered growth.
“Most of the people who hold office positions are volunteers and are working professionals somewhere else, and attend to chess matters afterwards. Therefore, we realised quickly that this arrangement would not work for us,” he said.
He added that they therefore came up with the idea of creating sub committees to work under the executive committee. He asserted that they have coaches, players, schools, and welfare and arbiters committees who look at their own areas and channel any concerns or ideas for improvement to the executive committee.
He further added that even in international competitions they have made significant improvement.
“We now have seven players with international chess titles; Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Tuduetso Sabure, Woman FIDE Master Boikhutso Mudongo and FIDE Master Phemelo Khetho, Woman Candidate Masters Tshepiso Lopang and Ontiretse Sabure, Candidate Masters Ignatious Njobvu and Tebogo Pitlagano,” he said.
Boikhutshwane also noted that they have seen a significant rise in the number of players with international ratings, and this bodes well for them because they get rated as a country.
“Not only have players made progress, but so have trainers as well. Our coaches have either the title of FIDE Instructor or FIDE Development Instructor. This, therefore, means our players are working with qualified coaches as per the World Chess Federation standards,” he added.
He, however, stated that though results are already starting to show, Rome was never built in a day therefore these are exciting times for Botswana chess.
He went on to say they have built credibility across all stakeholders at both local and international level as signified by the amount of sponsorships and media interest BCF generates. Just like any other federation, BCF is also marred with challenges.
“We run the sport as volunteers, this is a challenge, as when there is conflict between one professional career and chess the choice is obvious. The Botswana National Sports Council helps a lot, as they have provided for us an administrative officer. This has made it easier, as there is someone to handle correspondence and general office admin issues but there are some issues that call for profound understanding of chess and this is where the challenge arises again,” he added.
In addition, he went on to say the other challenge is that of finances. Even though they get a grant from BNSC, it is little compared to the amount of work that has to be done.
However, Boikhutshwane noted that since this situation is not unique to chess, they actively seek as many partners as possible and involve in money raising activities because they want to see the sport grow and develop. In addition he asserted that chess is very important to everyone, and various research studies have proved that it enhances skills like decision making, an important part of everyday existence.
“In chess, as in life, one is faced with having to make a choice from a wide array of options available. Chess teaches players this important life skill. One also gets to develop reading and visualization skills as well as logical thinking,” he concluded.