Young stars in world chess debut

Baitshepi Sekgweng
IN ACTION: Maya Otimile

Chess youngsters Maya Otimile and Uba Mahilo are in for a much bigger challenge as they prepare to compete at the World Schools Championships in Rhodes, Greece from April 14th-23rd 2023.

The duo qualified for the tournament back in February after winning gold in under 13 and 7 girls categories respectively during the African Online World Schools Chess Championships.

Debutants at the world stage and the tournament itself, Otimile and Mahilo are in for a tough task since the competition attracts the best players from across the world.

Initially, the trip faced uncertainty due to lack of financial resources to send the two to the tournament, however Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture did lend a helping hand, buying flight tickets for the two players and coach.

On Wednesday morning, the players together with team manager, Pudungwane Lesole who will also act as coach, finally left for Europe.

“Uba has been training with her personal coach, Thapelo Molefe, ever since she qualified while Otimile competed in the Metropolitan National Chess Championship first and second qualifiers, which on their own are enough to prepare her for the tournament. This is their debut global tournament, we don’t expect wonders from them except to gain experience and FIDE Elo Rating points,” said Botswana Chess Federation(BCF) Secretary General, Mokwaledi Tingwane.

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Currently, Otimile has an Elo rating of 1325 while her counterpart Mahilo is yet to officially have any rating.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan National Chess Championships finale is set with qualifiers having been completed over the Easter holidays.

Though senior players such as IM Providence Oatlhotse, FM Gomolemo Rogwane, CMs Barileng Gaealafshwe, Otsile Mapini, Thuso Mosutha (open section) and WGM Tuduetso Sabure, WFM Naledi Marape and WCMs Refilwe Gabatshwarwe, Arona Moshoboro, Atlang Mosweu, Natalie Banda and Boitumelo Radikoro (ladies section) qualified for the finals, new faces also impressed.

With the final set for April 28th -May 1st in Gaborone, debutants Sebetlela Gaasite, Junior Mhusiwa, Nalamalpu Esha Reddy and Otimile will be vying to be national champions.

“This shows growth, more especially if its youngsters showing their skills and strength against their more experienced male and female counterparts. Obviously some of the experienced players are indeed sorely missed, but at the same time, the likes of Gabatshwarwe, Marape and Banda have been in top 10, mixed the seniors, their ratings don’t really differ much,” said Tingwane when quizzed on the impact that the absence of senior players such as WIMs Onkemetse Francis, Kgalalelo Botlhole and WFM Thapelo Francis had on the tournament.

The national championship is sponsored by Metropolitan Life Botswana to the tune of P152 800 and this marks the 17th edition since the journey started in 2006.

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