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Youth take over local chess

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 10 July 2019   |   By Baitshepi Sekgweng
Mpene Mpene

… As Mpene wins gold in Africa Schools’ champs; Gabatshwane shines at Metropolitan tourney 

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Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) development structures seems to be  bearing  fruits  following the recent success stories of their junior  teams in various international  competitions.

This week the chess fraternity was in great frenzy as 10-year-old Thuto Mpene clichéd gold at the Africa Schools Chess Championships in Uganda.

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Mpene, who hails from Letlhakane, dominated his Under 11 category accumulating 8.5 points out of nine rounds. He won the tournament without registering any loss but only a single draw – a feat which gave him an automatic qualification to the World Schools Chess Championships in 2020.

For the past three years, Botswana has dominated the tournament winning it consecutively from 2016 until 2018, but this year BCF could not send a team to Uganda due to financial constraints.

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Last year in South Africa the junior team won  eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals which  was record breaking for Team Botswana  as they have managed only  nine medals in the 2016 and 2017 editions.

The team has since produced stars like WFMs Naledi Marape, Besa Masaiti and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe who are fast growing up the ladder in chess in local circles. Their success was   recently rewarded when the junior team and Masaiti were nominated for the 2018 Botswana National Sports Commission awards where Masaiti won the junior female sportsperson of the year accolade.

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To further cement the success of BCF junior structures, this year’s Metropolitan Women’s National championships were a shocker, with junior players dominating the finals.

The  likes of WCM Gabatshwarwe, Natalie Banda, Masaiti, Ruth Otisitswe and Londani Tamuhla gave senior  players  a run for their  money in a tournament in  which Gabatshwarwe  won ahead of  seasoned players like WGM Tuduetso Sabure, WIMs Kgalalelo Botlhole and Boikhutso Modongo – the  first  time  for a  junior player  to be  crowned  a national  champion.

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According to BCF president Motlhokomedi Tlhabano, the success behind their junior players is organising many competitive tournaments.

“Giving the kids more tournaments is our secret because training alone cannot bear fruits for our players. We give our players long strong games where they can play for hours and that on its own gives them some growth because in rapid games it is all about endurance. Another good thing is that we have personal trainers who are mostly parents, since they are interested in the sport. We are working as a unit therefore when they have some good ideas on how to improve the chess they normally come forth and share with us. And that on its own help us to thrive because we are united,”

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BCF hosts a number of junior competitions in a year among which being; Debswana Youth tournament, Ministry of Basic Education All Schools Chess Championships and Reba Bona Ha Centre teams competitions which are the foundation of chess at grassroots level.

“Going forward we want to have  a good base of  players  but  because of funding  we always  struggle to  take our players to as many  international tournaments as possible. It is imperative to take them to more rated tournaments such that they improve their ratings and get titles too.  But I’m grateful to organisations such as Ministry of Basic Education, and Debswana because they have keen interest in the development of chess,” said Tlhabano.

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