• As youngsters stalk seniors in Metropolitan championships
The stage is set for this year’s Metropolitan National Chess Championships final which takes place over the Easter holidays in Gaborone.
The build up to the finals have seen up-coming chess players proving their might against the top ranked players. Sixteen-year-old Koziba Mokhuzeni of McConnel College pulled surprise defeats over seasoned players during the qualifiers, humiliating the likes of Women International Master Tshepiso Lopang and Boitshepo Rebatenne on her way to the finals.
Mokhuzeni’s fighting spirit and skills also saw her registering a draw against WIM Kgalalelo Botlhole to qualify for the finals on second spot. It remains to be seen if the young and vibrant player will continue with her marvellous display to upset her seniors. In the open section youthful Otsile Mapini, Tsaone Mokgedi and Clifford Masole also booked a ticket to the finals following their sterling performance.
The tournament proved to be tougher this year with a number of experienced players biting the dust. Some of the casualties include Tshepiso Lopang and Candidate Master Barileng Gaealashwe who narrowly missed the qualification after finishing 11th. Open section defending champion FIDE Master Phemelo Khetho will also miss the opportunity to defend his title after missing the qualifiers due to personal commitments.
The Metropolitan Chess Championship continues to show growth each year in terms of the performance of players. This is one of the tournaments that Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) uses for unearthing talent around the country. BCF publicity director Keenese Katisenge is marvelled by the way the tournament is coming up especially with youngsters doing well.
Katisenge said youngsters have shown great determination to progress in the game. She pointed out that the visible good result displayed by the youngsters is a sign that chess is growing even at grassroots level.
Chess is one of the sporting codes that have taken seriously the development of talent at grassroots level and it seems this is beginning to pay off as the young players are now coming up strong. BCF has introduced a vigorous programme at primary schools in the country to catch the players from a young age. Because of this, there is high anticipation that the young players will cause a major upset for the experienced players this year.
For the ladies section WIM Onkemetse Francis will have to put up her best performance to block off any form of challenge from her opponents to retain her title. Francis will not only have to fight off the likes of WGM Tuduetso Sabure but also the upcoming and promising Mokhuzeni.
With the absence of Khetho the Open section championship is on the line for anyone to grab. The section will have a new champion with the country’s highest ranked Providence Oatlhotse being the leading contender. International Master Oatlhotse is the only player who qualified with the highest points of 6.5 after winning most encounters.
The tournament is sponsored by Metropolitan Botswana to the tune of P120 000 - an increase from last year’s P108, 750. The winner in the open section gets P9000 while the ladies section champion walks away with P6000. Both champions will make it into the provisional national teams that will represent the country at the 2015 Zone 4.3 chess championships in Malawi and the Africa Individual Chess championships in Egypt.