Botswana senior national Chess team recovered from a poor start to win two medals at the 2019 Africa Zone 4.3 Chess Championships which was held in Madagascar despite the gender row which threatened the team prior to the tournament. The competition was held from the 27th of April until the 4th of May. Botswana had sent three athletes to the tournament; that is two males and one lady to face the best players from the rest of the South African region. However the team was joined by two youthful players who self sponsored themselves to the event.
All the two medals came from the ladies section with Woman International Master Onkemetse Francis wining silver while young chess star Woman Fide Master Naledi Marape scooped bronze. Having won bronze medal in the last edition in Mozambique last year, WIM Francis was determined to perform better this year going unbeaten in the tournament with seven wins and two draws to finish with 8 points. This a performance which earned Francis the second position with just a half a point behind the champion WIM Carita Esparanca of Angola.
“The tourney was fairly competitive and I was the second highest rated player and I managed to finish second which is not quite bad. It was challenging for me because I have been absent from the chess scene for a while, I struggled in few games especially the one against the champion. But I’m very happy to have won a medal because it is a confidence boost for me if I play at continental level. I’m also hoping that we will take part in the All Africa games this year,” said WIM Francis in an interview.
For WFM Marape who sponsored herself to the tournament, it was a tough contest at the beginning with the 13 year old registering two successive losses and draws. However she bounced back to secure five consecutive victories to finish the competition on 6 points and to secure the third position behind compatriot WIM Francis. Another Botswana player Woman Candidate Master Natalie Banda who also was sponsored by her parents only managed position 8 finish after accumulating 2 points in her first zonal tournament. She was honoured for being the youngest particiapant at the competition.
The open section duo of International Master Providence Oatlhotse and Fide Master Phemelo Khetho had a tournament to forget after faring dismally in the competition .IM Oatlhotse who once had the chance of breaking through to the podium positions throughout the event ended on position 6 after amassing 6 points while FM Khetho who won silver medal last year from the same tournament finished overall 13th with 3.5 points out of 16 participants.