Local chess seems to be making strides as the number of titled and rated players continues to grow every year. Besa Masaiti is the latest to add to the tally this week as a Woman Candidate Master title was bestowed upon her by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Masaiti’s title comes a few months after Naledi Marape’s title in 2015. The title follows her sterling performance at the 2015 African Youth Chess Championships which were held in Lusaka, Zambia on December 6-12, 2015. The 14-year-old won a bronze medal for Botswana with a performance score of 6/9 points (66.7%).
The growing number of local titled players has brought happiness and hope to Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) officials. BCF spokesperson Keenese Katisenge said the increasing number is a demonstration of growth in the game of chess in Botswana. Katisenge said the current development shows that BCF programmes are beginning to bear fruit. “The fact that these days more young players are being titled is encouraging. We used to have only older players being titled but now even those as young as nine years are getting titles. It shows that we can go far if this is maintained,” she said.
Katisenge applauded the parents of the young chess players for their cooperation and commitment to the development of the game locally. She said it is because of the support of the parents that the federation is making strides in developing chess locally especially in young players. “To train young players of the ages from 5 to 17 we need the consent of the parents and they are always will to help to see their children groomed into future stars,” she explained. Most of the chess players especially the young upcoming ones are mostly coached by their parents. These include the like of high riding Marape and the Kolatamo sisters.
BCF has since 2003 embarked on a campaign to develop chess from grassroots. The campaign saw the game introduced at primary schools and currently all schools have chess. The association embraced programmes like Re Ba Bona Ha grassroots development programme to advance their game. Grassroot development seems to be producing the desired results with more young players getting international recognition from the World Chess Federation (WCF). Katisenge said this recognition is important because it boosts the country’s ranking.
Despite the visible progress made in the development of chess in Botswana, Katisenge is of the view that a lot still can be done. Botswana has only one International Master courtesy of Providence Oatlhotse and the federation is aiming to increase the number for the country to get more recognition from the world.