The local online chess initiative has received a shot in the arm after the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) pledged to sponsor one of their tournaments.
While other sporting codes have been put on hold completely by the covid-19 pandemic, this is however not the case with chess as its players have alternatively fallen back on online games.
Though online chess has always been played before, the electronic game has since grown as a result of the covid-19 induced lockdown which banned all physical sporting activities. Players compete against each other from the comfort of their homes using electronic gadgets. FIDE International Organiser and Arbiter, Vincent Masole has tapped on the initiative and is organizing daily tournaments for local players. He started the online chess tournaments weeks ago just after President Mokgweetsi Masisi put the country on a 28 days lockdown. He says the online initiative is to facilitate for chess players to continue playing the game up until the covid-19 situation is contained.
“Chess is so addictive you can’t stay away from it so after the lockdown announcement we thought of how we can continue playing the game, and after finding the best programme we started organizing online tournaments,” he told the Patriot Sports.
He started with organizing open tournament which he says is played almost everyday starting from 8 pm. The daily tournament has since become the most popular after gaining a lot of following. According to Masole, the tournament has also attracted seasoned national players such as International Master (IM), Providence Oatlhotse, Fide Master (FM), Thatho Olebile, Candidate Master (CM), Tebogo Pitlagano, Candidate Master (CM), Abdul Kamara and former national team player, Thuso Mosutha.
Masole thereafter went on to organize another tournament which was dedicated only for players under the age of 14 and its inaugural was played last week Saturday. The tournament attracted about 32 young stars. Woman Fide Master (WFM) Naledi Marape triumphed the tournament scooping position one while Candidate Master (CM) Thuto Mpene got position two and the third position was taken by Peo Segwele.
Masole also plan to host another tournament for local veteran chess players whom he indicates have shown a great interest in the online initiative. This coming weekend Masole will host Open and Women sections that will be sponsored by the local chess federation. BCF president, Mothokomedi Thabano confirmed the P2500 prize money for the Lockdown Blitz Tournament noting that the fund is to encourage the chess community that have kept the game going despite extreme social distancing. Thabano says depending on the availability of funds they intend to continue sponsoring the online games.
Initially the games were played just for fun without any incentives but Masole has revealed that negotiations with potential sponsors to introduce monetary prices for players are ongoing. “People are happy and excited about the games and some of them have since approached us to ask as to how they can assist in terms of partnering with us,” he noted.
The International Arbiter believes that online chess might be the future noting that even the International Organizing Body has announced that they will be hosting some of their lined up events online. Just like any other sporting codes, chess has also been disrupted by the covid-19 outbreak. The 44th Chess Olympiad which was billed for summer this year in Moscow has since been postponed to next year. Local highest rated players, International Master (IM), Providence Oatlhotse and Woman International Master (WIM) Onkemetse Francis have already qualified for the Olympiad.