Madam president

Portia Mlilo
  • Lopang takes the lead

Woman International Master (WIM) and International Arbiter Tshepiso Lopang was recently elected the new African Chess Confederation (ACC) President at the 44th Chess Olympiad held in ChennI, India.

Lopang garnered 29 votes while her opponents Benard Wanjala from Kenya got 11 votes and Dr. Hesham Elgendy received 7 votes.

The 41-year-old Mechatronics Engineer has over 20 years of experience as a national team player in which she earned herself a WIM title.

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Still at the same event, Lopang was awarded Outstanding Chess Arbiter of the year from the African continent in 2022 International Chess Federation awards.

Our Reporter Portia Mlilo has a chat with this International Arbiter about her new continental role.

Congratulations on being elected as Chess Africa President, what does winning these elections mean to you?

It means African chess leaders are ready for women leadership and were ready to lead the change in women empowerment.

Africa is the first continent in history of chess to vote for a woman leader.

It is an honor for me.

I thank all the 47 delegates for the job well done and trusting our team with their future in chess development.

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You are our He4She Champions.

When did you develop interest in being Chess President?

I developed interest in 2018 two months after elections and I expressed my interest to delegates immediately.

My dream got momentum in 2019 after capturing on f7. Things got hot, and I developed steel nerves.

When the pressure was too much, I became a raw diamond and our engineers tagged along to ensure that our dream becomes reality.

What was the criteria used to nominate you for the elections?

I had to submit 5 endorsements from 5 different countries.

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I was endorsed by 24 countries.

The list of the countries were Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Algeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Swaziland, Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, Burundi, Angola, Sao Tome, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo and three anonymous countries.

How was the campaign?

I did not know campaigns were this dirty.

I gave everything unto God and he did the rest.

I had an amazing team behind my campaign Susan Namangale from Malawi, My Dear Drissa from Mali, Attazi -Central Africa Republic, The Big Omer-Sudan, Sweet Nadia-Senegal, Sidi-Mauritania, Wilfried-Burundi, captain Tito-Angola, Amigo Carapinha-Cape Verde the engineer himself.

It was challenging and we soldered on.

Only time I learnt that I had zero qualifications and Botswana is not a recognised country in sports.

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What does your role entails as the President?

According to the statutes I represent ACC officially, presides over the continental assembly and the continental board meetings and executes their decisions.

ACC has no strategic plan currently and our team will ensure that we have a values based plan.

We are going to create vision and determine what resources are needed in order to move Africa Chess to another level.

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Together for Africa.

How is this new role going to benefit the African Continent and Botswana?

Africa will be well represented at council level.

I will ensure that we don’t miss any opportunities in the sporting fraternity.

The current International Chess federation President has been doing great in ensuring that Africa benefits on development fund.

I am looking for independent Africa in future.

Administrator will be empowered not only Presidents but secretaries and treasurers.

Madam president

What are some of your greatest achievements as an athlete and an Arbiter?

Becoming an all-in-one Nigerian movie CD in Chess (Woman International Master, International Arbiter, FIDE Instructor, and International Chess Organiser).

Winning bronze medals in the 2003 and 2007 All African Games and winning the African Women arbiter of the year 2022 is a great achievement.

What were some of your lowlights?

No low lights. It has been an exciting journey.

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I excelled as a player, as an Arbiter and now I am an administrator.

Chess today and during your times, has anything changed in terms of play and administration?

During our days we played what is called gravel. (She laughs).

There was no chess theory, no coaches and no laptops to the chess Olympiad.

I remember bringing a medal from the All-Africa Games without a coach.

The conditions improved, we saw chess leaders engaging coaches from Yugoslavia and Russia and our game improved.

There was support from the government and I think it was triggered by out sterling performance in the international events.

The standard went down immediately after the Covid pandemic and I hope chess will be back to where it was.

My dream is for every family to have a chess set and know the basic moves.

You cannot be a chess spectator if you do not know the basic moves.

It has always been an uphill battle to promote our beloved sport.

I personally feel reducing time control will push the promotion of chess.

It is important to make chess attractive.

I know time control reduction will not be supported by many, but it is impossible to televise a 6-hour chess game.

Now, you also won an award as an Outstanding Chess Arbiter in the African continent, what does winning this award mean to you and how do you feel about it?

God is amazing and my God never sleeps.

It is an honour and a privilege to be recognized among fellow peers, mentors, and colleagues in the chess arbitration field.

Amazing people looking to make an impact in the chess arbitration.

It means women empowerment, impacting change, and represents African women in sports while serving the chess family, working together to elevate and enhance the common goal of women development in sports.

What was the criteria used to nominate you for the award?

All I know is there was a call for all national federations to submit profile for their female athletes, coaches, referees, administrators and arbiters.

I got a call from Carolina Munoz Solis from Costa Rica, South America requesting for my profile.

The next thing, I received an email informing that I have won the award.

What advice can you give to those aspiring to be sports administrators and chess Arbiters?

Volunteerism in chess made me who are am today.

Take advantage of every opportunity to learn.

Having a passion for chess can extend far beyond a hobby but that does not mean becoming a professional chess player is the only way to turn your interest into a career.

There are plenty of opportunities in the chess industry that combine an interest in playing chess with professional skills like leadership and management.

Who is your inspiration?

Hahaha! (She laughs). Nun’s son from the tribe of Ephraim.

The personally appointed successor to Moses and a charismatic warrior who led Israel in the conquest of Canaan after the Exodus from Egypt.

Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Going to Jwana Game Park with Mma Dema and taking selfies with wild animals.

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