Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) continues to unearth promising young players. The latest to enter the stage is the sensational 15-year-old Woman Fide Master (WFM) Besa Masaiti. Her path to greatness in the sport seems to be already sealed. Masaiti recently represented the country the 2017 World Schools Chess Championships where she finished in position 21 out of 28 players with three wins and two draws in the Blitz Section. Despite finishing at 21, Masaiti was ranked the overall best African Player at the championships receiving a diploma for her participation in the blitz section. Masaiti qualified for the championship after emerging the U-15 African Girls Champion at the African Schools Chess Championships in December 2016. Locally she has continued her great performance even challenging senior players. According to the records, she has finished within the top 10 in all women open sections tournaments locally in two consecutive years. The young Masaiti proves to have little competition in the juniors. She has been the champion of Re Ba Bona Ha Youth Championships for three years in a row in the U-14 and U-16 age categories.
What keeps her going?
For a player to achieve all this at an early age requires determination and the love for the game. Masaiti’s coach Masaiti Charles believes the young player is on the right direction to greatness. Charles, who happens to be Masaiti’s father, said she has become good because of the passion she has got for chess and is a self-motivated player who always strives for best results. "She is also a disciplined player who understand and follow instructions very well,” explained Charles. The coach said Masaiti has been playing chess since she was in standard six. Though at first chess was just as a way of getting the young girl spend her free time meaningfully it then evolved into something serious. Charles said he has given Masaiti a good foundation in chess, hence her improving performance. He said her love to learn more and research makes her a very dangerous player because she always makes sure to be abreast with strategies. “I also get other coaches to work with her so that she can understand different approaches to chess. Sometimes coaching your own kid is not enough because she can get used to you and not work hard,” said Charles. He said getting different coaches to work with her child helps a lot. He also said the child’s determination make her exceptional in what she does.
Charles’ aim is to see Masaiti become one of the greatest chess players the country has ever seen. With a WFM title at just the age of 15, Charles believes that she is in the right track. “My hope is for her to attain the Woman International Master (WIM) title before she reaches University. The motivation right now is not to win medals but to start fighting to get titles,” he said. He said at times when players get to the university they tend to get a lot of destructions that can disturb their play. He is nonetheless confident that Masaiti will get the WIM title in 2018 looking at her performance. He believes that the determination that his child has will see her through all the circumstances that come before her. Masaiti has been described by her coach as having a big heart that enables her to do well even in difficult situations.
Balancing time between school and chess is very important for players. As a Form 3 student at Motswedi CJSS, Masaiti will this year be writing her final examinations and it is imperative that she balances time allocated to chess and her studies well. It, however, looks like Masaiti and her coach have been doing a good job all along. Charles seems happy with the academic work of her player, saying she is doing well even at school. Balancing chess and studies is easy since chess is not a straining game, plus it exercises the mind making it shaper for academics. “The game of chess has made Masaiti a good reader and researcher which are every important even in academics, so the two go hand in hand if they are managed well,” he said. The chess sensation has ambitions of becoming a lawyer.
Charles, has, called on stakeholders to come on board to help grow the chess youngsters further. He says with proper support Masaiti would go places as a chess player. He is, however, concerned that with the pace at which she is growing at the game she is now outgrowing his coaching capabilities which brings the need for a highly qualified coach. “I have done my part by laying the foundation and it is working. Now it is time for the stakeholders to come on board and help us as parents. There is need for an international coach who can work with the young players to further their skills,” he pointed out. BCF spokesperson Keenese Katisenge confirmed that getting an international coach has always been the out-going committee’s aim. She, however, said this was not managed because of lack of funds. Katisenge, however, said the federation continues to assist the parents who are coaching their kids with some coaching clinics to enhance their coaching skills. She said the coaching clinics are held every year to expose the parents to international ways of running chess. Katisenge applauded the parents for the support they give BCF, saying if it was not for them the federation would not be where it is now. “We admit that we are what we are because of the support that we get from our stakeholders, especially the parents. The association has been able to hold some local tournaments with the support of the parents. Even sending players to some international competitions the parents have been very helpful,” said Katisenge. She revealed that to send Masaiti to the 2017 World Schools Chess Championships the parents played a big role. She said without the support of the parents the federation would have not achieved what it has.