For the second time in a row, the Botswana team to the chess Olympiad will not undergo high level training, an official has said. Tshimologo Kolaatamo of the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) said they failed to secure a top-level coach and so they decided to hold training camps where players would share ideas among themselves.
Former player, Moathodi Kgosimore is facilitating the training for the men side while Keneilwe Miti is handling the women programme. During the 2004 Olympiad in Mallorca Spain, the Botswana team achieved its highest point tally ever despite the fact that it was drilled by locals. Kolaatamo said that even this time, the BCF hopes the team will do well at this year's Olympiad, which starts at the end of this month in Turin Italy. The historic points tally in Mallorca was achieved though Botswana did not win any medal. The country's first and only medal at the Olympiad came in 2002 in Slovenia through Boikhutso Mudongo. Her bronze made her the first African woman ever to win an Olympiad medal. Her achievement was largely attributed to the high level coaching given to the Botswana team by a top South African chess master.
Kolaatamo said the team to this year's event starts camping this week. The squad leaves for Italy next week. He confirmed that the women's team would be without recently crowned Grand Master (GM) Tuduetso Sabure. She has been ruled out because of academic commitments at the University of Botswana (UB). However, her younger sister Ontiretse, the runner up in the Africa Junior Championship is in the team. She made it after thrashing Boitumelo Reetsanang 3-1 in a four-match play-off. The other members of the women's team are Mudongo, national champion Tshepiso Lopang and Keitmetse Mokgacha. The men's team is made up of Ignatius Njobvu, Phemelo Khetho, Barileng Gaealafswe, Moakofi Notha and Tebogo Pitlagano.
Gaealafswe and Notha will be making their first appearances at the Olympiad after they did well against established players during the qualifiers. But once again Botswana's best hopes lie in the female players who have broken new grounds in continental and world chess.
Editor's Note: Olubunmi Adebola Dada, former national coach of the Nigerian Chess Federation wrote The Chess Drum concerning the point made that Boikhutso Mudongo was the first African woman to medal at an Olympiad. He pointed out that while Nigeria praises Mudongo for her feat at the 2002 Chess Olympiad in Slovenia, female Nigerian Ime Etokowoh won a bronze medal at the 1988 Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece.