The stage has been set for the first tournament in the Botswana Chess Calendar. The tournament dubbed Year Opener will take place from 20th-22 January. The tournament presents an opportunity for last year’s winner CM Providence Oatlhotse to defend his title. Oatlhotse had an impressive run in the past year as he won almost all the chess tournaments against his fellow locals. His flame was dozed when he narrowly missed the national championship title and the Botswana closed.
The tournament will see the return of CM Ignatious Njobvu. Njobvu had a silent run last and only resurfaced at the end of the year to win the Botswana Closed Tournament. He is popularly known for digressing off the main lines, something which most players find hard to swallow.
The return of FM Phemelo Khetho adds the deserved spark to the tournament. Khetho who has been on a short break will hope to salvage his reputation by winning the competition. He is currently the only active FM in the country.
The silver medalist at the last year’s Commonwealth Games Moakofhi Notha is expected to contest vigorously for the title. Notha who has risen steadily over the ranks is now a force to reckon with and his strength cannot be understated.
The other players who will make the tournament an unpredictable affair are, reigning national champion Dzilani Abel, former national champion Barileng Gaealafshwe and former national team player Tebogo Pitlagano.
The country’s under-21 stars will also try and prove their mettle against the experience veterans. These include amongst other Thato Olebile, David Mooketsi and Goabaone Tangane.
In an unexpected turn of events, the tournament has lured and resuscitated the interest of former national team player Kenneth Boikhutswane. When asked about his readiness for the event, Boikutswame quipped, “I will be happy to finish in the top 15. I have been working hard on tactics and endgame study.” On the ladies section, Kgalalelo Botlhole will be faced with an uphill task of defending her title. Baying for her blood will be reigning national champion Thapelo Francis and WIM Boikhutso Modongo.
The tournament is sponsored by Aifficieny and will be played at Yarona country lodge.
~ Tshenolo Maruatona