Saturday, January 22, 2022

Young guns lead chess to new heights

The Botswana Chess Federation (BCF)’s decision to put trust in the youth to lead the sport seems to be paying dividends for the sport.

After years of upheaval that saw the sport falling into gloom and losing sponsors, chess is now on the rise, thanks to their youthful leadership. Currently, the BCF is run by youthful leaders, all of whom are in their early 30’s with their president, Tshepo Sitale, aged only 30 years.

The youth brigade at the helm of BCF has overseen much transformation that has re-established chess as one of the best run codes in the country. The transformation has now translated into results and recognition for both players and administrators, both locally and internationally.

On the chessboard this year alone, the successes have included three medals from the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, as well as the elevation of two women chess players, Boikhutso Mudongo and Tshepiso Lopang to the rankings of Women International Master (WIM) and Women FIDE Master (WFM), respectively.

On the administrative side, the successes have been the training of more arbiters and just recently, the awarding of International Organiser (IO) to its Secretary General, Kelapile Kelatlhilwe.

The latter’s award, which will make him one of Africa’s five recognised organisers is expected to be awarded during the ongoing FIDE Congress that started yesterday (Saturday) in Krakow, Poland.
Speaking in an interview, Kelatlhilwe said the secret to the youthful committee’s success lies not only with their passion for the game but also mainly in zest and determination to see to it that their plans of action are implemented.

“Just like any organisation, we have our own problems but we are always looking for ways to solve them. Our committee is very pro active and everyone knows what he has to do and tries to do it,” the BCF Secretary General said. “This committee is made up of different people and even during the elections, we belonged to different lobby groups. But once we were put into office, we set aside our egos and personalities so that we can work together to build chess. Whatever differences we have, we still have a common goal of improving the fortunes of our sport and that is what we were voted to do,” Kelatlhilwe added. He says another secret to their success has been their determination to build good relationships with all people involved in the sport. He says that ever since the committee was put in charge of the federation, they have done their best to involve all the stakeholders, including parents, sporting mother bodies in the country as well as sponsors in everything they do.

The BCF Secretary General says another aspect that has made the committee succeed where previous committees have failed is the fact that the current committee is intent on making sure that the sport is active and visible.

“We feel that our presence should be felt, both locally and at the international level. As such, our federation is now one of the top three most active in the continent. We have organised and hosted as many competitions as possible both locally and, whenever we could, internationally so as to help our players grow,” Kelatlhilwe added.

Despite the continued good change of fortunes for the sport, the BCF Secretary General says there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. “Our women have continued to climb the FIDE rankings but the same cannot be said of the men. While we have a Woman International Master and a Woman Grandmaster, we have no such highly ranked men. We now have to push our men players to achieve such rankings as it is part of our plan to have players in all FIDE rankings,” he concluded.

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