Cats will be let loose among pigeons this coming weekend as the Metropolitan Open Chess Champion, Phemelo Khetho and Ladies’ Champion Onkemetse Francis enter the fray in the race for this year’s National Championship battle. After a first round reprieve that saw the two players being automatically entered into the second round of the qualifiers, they will now be due at the chess boards at Oasis Motel this coming weekend to start the defence of their titles.
In what is expected to be a battle of wits and strategies, the two champions will face off against some of their best nemesis as they seek to defend their crowns. Khetho will face competition from at least 23 men in his defence of the open championships while Francis will battle at least 18 ladies for her title. Having missed the first qualifiers, thanks to both having won last year, both Khetho and Francis will be expected to get off the mark quickly if they are to defend their titles, considering the fierce competition they will face. In the Open section, which boasts some of the country’s finest, Khetho will come up against the likes of Candidate Masters (CM) Barileng Gaealafshwe, Thabo Gumpo, Moakofi Notha, Abhiram Sasitharan and Oaitse Kokome as well as fellow Fide Master (FM) Thato Olebile and International Master (IM) Providence Oatllhotse, just to mention a few.
In the ladies section, Francis will have to ward off a strong challenge from the likes of fellow Women International Masters (WIM) Boikhutso Mudongo, Kgalalelo Botlhole and Tshepiso Lopang as well as the Women Grand Master (WGM) Tuduetso Sabure and her sister, Women Fide Master (WFM) Thapelo Francis. The top 10 players in both sections will be selected to go into the finals and fight for the national championship honours. The finals for this year’s edition will be held during the Easter Holidays from the 3rd to the 6th of April. This year’s edition of the championships have been sponsored by Metropolitan Botswana to the tune of P120 000, an increment of around P12 000 from last year’s sponsorship which stood at P108 750.
This will be the eighth (8th) year that Metropolitan Botswana has sponsored the event. The winner of this year’s Open title will walk away with a P9 000 cash prize, while the runner up and third placed players will walk away with cash prizes of P7 000 and P5 000 respectively. In the ladies’ section, the winner will be awarded a P6 000 cash price while the second and third prizes will be P4 500 and P2 900 respectively. According to information from the BCF, there will also be cash prizes for all the top 10 finalists, with those coming tenth expected to walk away with cash prizes amounting to at least P1 250.