The aggressive approach of Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) towards grassroots development of chess in the country seems to be finally paying off. Every year there is an emerging strong young player who sets the chess scene ablaze.
This year the development programme has not only caught the attention of regional bodies but even the World Chess Federation as BCF continues to produce talented players. One of reigning stars of the moment is an eight-year-old sensation, Naledi Marape.
Marape’s continued exceptional performance in chess has earned her a fide rating making her the youngest Motswana to be rated by the world chess body. In the FIDE ratings released at the end of March 2015 the young Marape attained a rating of 1245 and ranked number 10 as per all active female players in Botswana. She is further ranked number 255 active female player in Africa and number 2097 in all active (male and female) player in Africa.
BCF Public Relations director Keenese Katisenge said this shows that their efforts of developing the game in Botswana are going very well. She said for FIDE to rate a player they look at that player’s performance and strength. Katisenge said for Marape to be rated by FIDE she showed great strength in all the competitions she took part in. “Naledi is one of the promising young talents that Botswana has; it is her level of maturity that has earned her this FIDE rating,” she explained.
According to Katisenge, Marape is the first Motswana to be rated at the age of eight. “This is a great achievement; it shows that our programmes are beginning to work according to plan,” she said, adding that more young players will follow Marape’s achievement. She said having a FIDE rating keeps players motivated knowing that their efforts are recognised in the international arena. According to Katisenge, a FIDE rating is another step towards a title since titles are awarded looking at ratings.
Marape, who is Baobab Primary school student, did very well in chess locally and internationally in 2014. Her good performance earned her a spot in the junior national team were she represented the country at different competitions. She qualified and represented Botswana at the 2014 World Youth Chess Championships and was voted best performer in the team. She also represented Botswana at the 2014 African Youth Chess Championships in Tunisia.
Locally Marape is the reigning champion of the 2014 Botswana National Youth Chess Championship under 8 Girls, the 2014 Botswana Junior Closed under 8 Girls and the 2015 Airfficiency year opener under 10 girls. The young girl is coached by her father Dr Marape Marape and has been playing chess since the age of five. Even though she at times take part in self-sponsored FIDE tournaments, she has gone through BCF development programmes.
The association has for some time invested a lot of their time in developing young players. They first started by adopting primary schools and then mentoring children there to play chess. One of the schools that benefitted from this is Metsimotlhabe Primary School. BCF then forged a partnership with Botswana Primary School Sport Association (BOPSSA) to start the game in all schools in the country.
Despite all these arrangements, the association also has its own tournaments that it organises with the help of local companies. According to Katisenge, in every tournament they organise the youth is catered for to keep them active at all times. She said this is the only way to give the young players exposure. The spokesperson also said they make sure that they send these players to continental and world championships to keep them at par with the rest of the world players.