Chess will once again draw its legion of fans to the All Africa Games after missing out the 2015 edition which was held in Congo Brazzaville. Chess was not part of the 2015 games mainly due to the fact that the host nation did not have chess as a sport in their country. However this time around chess brains march all the way to Morocco where they will fight for supremacy and Africa glory. As preparations for the games continue to intensify across various sporting codes, Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) is not left behind. They have assembled a team of four players who will represent the nation at the two-week long competition. The team comprise of IM Providence Oatlhotse and FM Phemelo Khetho who secured the spots by the virtue of being the most high rated player in the country and national champion respectively. WIM Onkemetse Francis and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe complete the team in the ladies section.
The last time Botswana competed at the event in 2011 in Mozambique, the ladies team won a bronze medal and numerous individual awards courtesy of WIM Boikhutso Modongo, WCM Ontiretse Sabure and Moakofi Notha. However, the current team is expected to rise to the occasion and perform well considering that they have been doing quite well in international assignments of late. Oatlhotse, Khetho and Francis have been the core of the team and therefore possess valuable experience in the game as evidenced by improved performance from the World Chess Olympiad last year. Only Gabatshwarwe is a new comer to the senior team at just 16 years of age.
Meanwhile, the good exploits of Botswana Chess at global and continental level has attracted the sympathy of world chess governing body FIDE, who have extended a helping hand to BCF. FIDE has given Botswana a grant of US $17000 (P170, 000) for the year 2019. According to BCF President Motlhokomedi Tlhabano, the funds are aimed at helping in terms of development of the sport and they have already hit the ground running in terms of implementing everything they planned.
“This grant is for developmental projects among them training of arbiters to ensure that they become FIDE accredited. And we have already achieved that through a seminar two weeks ago where 13 Batswana were successful in passing the exam and have since gained the norms for FIDE arbiter. They are now going to officiate in different events to be fully accredited. The other project on the cards is training of tournaments and event organisers to the level of FIDE also,” said Tlhabano.
Amongst the projects to be funded from the grant is a club championship tournament which will be financed by $9000 (P90,000). Though tournaments dates are still a subject of discussion, the competition is expected to be hosted in October. “This is a great initiative since we have not had club championship since 2014. Clubs will not only compete in the league but also in the tournament form and therefore 16 teams will participate in this tourney,” said Tlhabano, adding that the federation will also source a Grand Master whose sole mandate will be to spend time and impart knowledge to junior and senior players.