A fierce competition is expected at the 2017 Metropolitan National Chess Championships as the competition reaches its climax. The championships reach the final stage with the finals to be played from the 28th April to 1st May 2017 at Cresta President Hotel. While defending champion in the open section Barileng Gaealashwe will be looking to retain his title others are already working hard to dethrone him. Gaealashwe is however determined to do all that it takes to retain his title regardless of any competition coming his way. Among others he faces stiff challenge from International Master (IM) Providence Oatlhotse - the highest rated chess player in Botswana. He will be looking to redeem himself after he was eliminated in the qualifiers last year. The International master did not take well his elimination and will be out to prove his point on the board this year. Oatlhotse’s determination has already been visible as he finished the 2nd in the qualifiers. It is expected that his determination and experience will help him win the title. However, there are some other players who are equally capable of giving the defending champion a run for the money, including candidate master Thabo Gumbo, and CM Thuso Mosutha. At stake will be P10 000 price money and a trophy for the champion.
In the ladies section woman international master Onkemetse Francis is also looking to retain her title. It will nonetheless not be a walk in the park for Francis as she will be facing the likes of IM Kgalalelo Botlhole, IM Boikhutso Mudongo and IM Tshepiso Lopang. The ladies section promises an interesting encounter with a number of experienced and highly rated players in the finals. Francis has proven in a number of competitions that she has what it takes to win and most believe that she is capable of retaining the title. The winner in the ladies section gets away with P8 000 and a trophy. Botswana Chess Federation spokesperson Keenese Katisenge said the competition has been growing every year, which has helped in increasing competitiveness of the players. She said this is beneficial to them as they use the championship to prepare for other competitions like the Zone 4.3 Chess Championships as well as the 2017 Africa individual Chess Championships. The 2017 Metropolitan National Chess Championships has been sponsored to the tune of P120 000 by Metropolitan Botswana. Metropolitan Botswana chess sponsorship has seen a significant growth over the years and the tournament has reached all corners of the country. In 2016 a total of 258 players from across the country took part in the first stage of the tournament. Katisenge said the main aim of the event is to help in the development of players in the country. A number of young players have been identified in the past through the Metropolitan National Chess Championships.