FIDE Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho played well to win the challenge match-up against Ignatius Njobvu at Yarona Country Lodge over the weekend. The duel between the two players ended with the FM beating his opponent 3-1.
While Khetho is the national champion, the less active Njobvu is reputed to be the top chessman in the country. Yarona Country Club donated P19, 500 to sponsor the four-game event to decide who is the best between the two players who have won the national title three each. Khetho got P1,300 for winning the weekend event while Njobvu received P750.
It was a hard fought duel that started in dramatic fashion. Khetho crushed his opponent in the first two games to take a commanding 2-0 lead. In the first game, Njobvu deployed a conservative approach though he had the white pieces. In the second game, he was simply blown away as he played an opening that suited Khetho’s style better. The FM went for the kill and duly won in convincing fashion. That was Saturday. On Sunday, many expected the match-up to come to a conclusion in the third match as all that Khetho needed was a draw to be declared overall winner. However, Njobvu woke from his lethargy and gave the FM a thorough hammering.
The Bogo Indian defence game, was full of mistakes by both players with Khetho missing too many good continuations. In the decider, Khetho played white and clearly demonstrated that he will play safe to get the draw he needs for victory. He was helped by Njobvu who chose the Caro Kan defence, a solid opening, which proved a bad choice looking at the match scores. Njobvu, the Botswana number one player, should have gone for a sharper opening. Against this Caro Kan defence, Khetho chose the exchange variation, which makes it difficult for black to play for a win or to sharpen the game. Despite the dull position that arose, Njobvu was able to go for broke by sacrificing his bishop for two pawns late in the middle-game.
2006 Chess Olympiad: Botswana’s Ignatius Njobvu and Phemelo Khetho on the move. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
The resulting position was quite complicated. It looked as if Njobvu, with three connected passed pawns against a bishop and a king should win. However, in a shocking oversight, he missed the obvious a5 in move 36. This was the best practical chance to try and force a win. Instead, Njobvu played his king to the centre and allowed the bishop to hold the pawn. It is not clear if a5 would have won the game, but all agreed that it was the best move under the circumstances. Later, Njobvu said he rejected it on a miscalculation, as he had thought it would not lead to a significant gain. With that miss, the end game became easy for Khetho. After winning the event, Khetho said the match-up was not easy and he was worried that he missed many good moves.
“The most annoying game is the third one, which I lost. I made four bad moves and this allowed Njobvu to capitalise and get a lifeline. However, it was a good match and I am happy to have won,” said a delighted Khetho. Njobvu said he was happy to have played in such an event even though it did not go his way. “I played for a win in every game but I wasn’t successful. I made too many mistakes on Saturday but on Sunday, I feel that I saw better at the board. Maybe if I had calculated a little deeper in the final game, I could have drawn level. I hope this trend of match play will continue in the country,” said Njobvu.