Questions about Botswana Chess

Top African chess journalist Kenneth Boikhutswane wrote a very interesting article which points to many of the problems concerning African chess. The story raised the question of why Botswana, one of Africa’s most economically stable countries, was not sending a contingent to the 2007 African Junior Championship held in Malawi last month. The rationale was lack of funding, but a deeper inquiry finds that the Botswana Chess Federation may have made prior decisions without the blessings of the Executive Committee.

One such decision was the infamous trip of the Botswana’s Women’s team to Russia where they scored 0/36. That performance came under fierce criticism and the damage has been slow to repair. One official who spoke anonymously stated that the decisions were ill-advised and perhaps deprived Botswana a chance to showcase their youthful talent. Ironically, the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) website reads,

“We at the BCF take great pleasure with improving chess in the African region especially youth development which is why the we have hosted the African junior championship 3 times in the last 6 years. This gives youngsters to obtain international titles with the winner becoming an IM (Fide International Master).”

Kenneth Boikhutswane, “No African Chess for Juniors,” Mmegi/The Reporter,  21 December 2007 (Gabarone, Botswana). 

Botswana will not send players in this year’s Africa Junior Chess Championships (AJCC) slated for Malawi. The tournament kicks off on Friday next week.

It is open to all African players aged 20 years and below. It was expected that current Botswana junior champions Thabo Gumpo and Otshepo Seidisa would take part at the event but Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) has not made a formal explanation as to why it will not send players to Malawi.

The Africa junior chess event is a very important tournament for grooming upcoming players. The winners of the tournament become International Masters (IM) with the runners up getting the FIDE Master (FM) title. Most of the current national team players first made their mark in African junior chess. They include the likes of Ignatius Njobvu, FM Phemelo Khetho, Providence Oatlhotse, Moakofi Notha, Tebogo Pitlagano to name a few.

Botswana has always participated in the 17-year-old tournament and this marks the first time the country is missing out. BCF officials are tight-lipped about the failure, though word has it that the federation is cash-strapped. It is reported that BCF landed in financial difficulties in May when it sent players on an unnecessary trip to Russia for the World Women’s Team Championships. At the Russian event, the Botswana team failed to score a point and the country’s performance evoked criticism from chess journalists around the world. Many asked why the country did not hire a trainer to work with the team prior to the All-Africa Games. The entire Russia trip cost over P100,000, an amount usually spent by the 13-strong Olympiad team. It is reported that BCF landed in financial difficulties in May when it sent players on an unnecessary trip to Russia for the World Women’s Team Championships.

An official of one of the clubs, who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation, said the BCF leadership must resign as it has failed to take chess to higher levels. “That our players will miss the Africa junior is a serious setback. That event is useful for developing players, so what are they saying about development? Any serious leader would have had reservations about spending too much on just six people (Russian trip). It doesn’t make financial or business sense, an important attribute that the BCF lacks.

It is ridiculous and I am of the opinion that the committee must step down,” said the furious official. Mmegi Sport has since learnt that the Russian trip was sanctioned by just two officials. An official has since revealed that at the time of the Russian trip, the whole committee had chosen to send the team to South Africa to play in an open tournament. He said the rest of the officials were surprised when they were told that the team was headed for Russia without the sanction of the executive committee.




  2. Botswana Chess Federation(BCF) has been self distructing since around 98-99.This is largely due to shortsightedness on the part of the executive commitee.The annual tournament calender has seen a drastic drop in the number of events.Besides the small number 30% of events already scheduled end up being cancelled.This decline has led to the level of play across the country to be stagnant.At the top we have the usuall suspects Njobvu,Khetho,Molale,Pitlagano,Kealeboga etc these players were at the same level in 2003 they might have even been better.We have seen only one player(Oatlhotse) rise to equal those who were already there.The only young players that show promise are from the city of Maun coached by many times national champion Ignatius Njobvu:He is a highschool teacher now.With women its even worse,we dont have up an coming players zero!
    Young players hone their skills in primary school tournaments and there are only three of these in calender year,coaching clinics are held once in a while but these have to work hand in hand with tournamentplay.The only consistantly held tournaments are the National Championships and the Botswana Open.Qualification rules for the national championship change every year!sometimes its top ten players the other time 16 or even 30 or no qualification at all;the winner of the “preliminary” tournament becomes the champion!Back in the 90’s BCF brought Judit Polgar for a simul and a coaching clinic,I also once saw Tiviakov recently dont know wheather they were involved.The last grandmaster was Nigel Short but he was on some campaign.The arbiter at all the tournaments is always the same person for the past five years,who has obviously bonded with the usual suspects in all of their olympiads escapades.Money is not an issue,we have big companies who sponsor any sport provided they produce their annual financial report.We also have a ministry of sports which funds each and every sports code.

  3. But Botswana Chess has never been anywhere .Only Rupert Jones had great ideas and even conjured up some good sponsorship like Tim Lock and Key tournament 1994/5 threabouts .During that time even Francistown open was still alive,Tutume open etc .Patrick Wanda had one or 2 Botswana Open tournaments but ended up strugglin too .Nothin happens there anymore .It goes without sayin that a good number of Botswana female players are notorious at sleepin around especially during long tournaments .This behaviour does not help curb the AIDS pandemic gripping the country and region as a whole.

    Darren Porter

    Grantspen ,Jamaica

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