Marape stars as BW youngsters finish 3rd in Africa

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FULLY FOCUSED: Maya Otimile (TOP LEFT), Reddy Nalamalpu (BOTTOM LEFT),Naledi Marape (Centre) & Fesha Nalamalpu (RIGHT)

Proving the future of local chess is in good hands, despite not having a coach, Botswana’s youngsters rose to the occasion at the just-ended African Youth Championships, bagging third place out of 15 nations.

Team BW’s haul of four medals, including a spectacular gold for Naledi Marape in the girls U/18, was bettered only by the hosts, South Africa and the overall winners, Egypt.

Going into the week-long continental tournament in Gauteng, which climaxed on Sunday and featured age groups from U/8 right up to U/18, Botswana had set their 12-player team a target of five medals.

Although they couldn’t quite reach those heights, it was still a marked improvement from the two medals managed at last year’s championships.

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As she so often is, WFM Marape was the star of the show, at her dependable best to beat Tunisia’s highly-rated Meyssem Mefteh to the gold.

Tied on 7.5 points each, the duo went head-to-head in a tense tie-breaker, Marape holding her nerve to triumph over the North African.

There was more good news for the 18-year-old, whose golden success saw her upgrade to a provisional Woman International Master (WIM) Title. Currently sitting on an ELO rating of 1, 862 points, she will be awarded the title once she reached the 2, 000 mark.

Elsewhere, in the U/14 girls section, it was a two/three finish for Botswana, with Maya Otimile and Fesha Nalamalpu picking up silver and bronze respectively.

The country’s fourth medal was secured by one of the squad’s youngest members, little Reddy Nalamalpu taking bronze in the girl’s U/8 after losing her play-off with SA’s Ava Janse Van Rensburg for second.

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Reflecting on a job well done, BCF Public Relations Officer, Goitsemodimo Makgatle labelled the team’s performance ‘very good’.

“Having fielded less number of players, getting position three out of 15 countries is commendable. Some countries such as Kenya fielded around 100 players and finished behind us, even Egypt and South Africa also fielded big numbers of players,” mentioned Makgatle.

The Chess mouthpiece said third-place at the FIDE rated tournament, was all the more impressive considering they did not have a coach.

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“This impacted negatively on us and we believe if we had one the team would have performed far beyond this. Some players such as Ezra Bartlett, Thuto Mpene and Arona Moshoboro started the tournament very well but lost track through the tournament,” said Makgatle.

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