The Botswana Chess National team returned from the Olympiad with two historic achievements in its thirty-year history. The team that over the years has been making strides in its performance comprised of ten players (five males and five women) achieved two titles. Ignatious Njobvu who is amongst the longest serving senior national team players attained the Fide Master title.
On the women’s side, Onkemetse Francis achieved the title of Woman Candidate Master. Njobvu who has participated at eight Olympiads now holds the national team record with 75 %. Phemelo Kheto previously held the record with 70%.
Providence Oatlhotse has also made history by becoming the first International Master (IM) for Botswana. He achieved the title at the 2012 Zone 4.3 in Madagascar. The win has edged him closer to becoming a Grand Master, the only title that he is left with. Tshephiso Lopang has also been upgraded from Fide Master to Woman International Master (WIM). She is the second woman in the country to hold the title after Boikhutso Mudungo.
In an interview with BG Sports, Tshepo Sikale who is the President of Botswana Chess Federation(BCF) said that the performance of the team was really impressive. He disclosed that the team was currently ranked sixth in Africa ahead of countries such as South Africa and Egypt.
He also said that one of the factors that greatly assisted the team was the fact that this time around they had a coach, Grand Master Ighor Glek from Russia who was there for the team and guided them during the games. He also said that they were now looking at getting a residence coach for the national team.
“The presence of the coach especially in the last games was really crucial,” he admitted. His services were secured through collaboration between the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC)and the Russian Embassy.
He further said that they were highly impressed with Oatlhotse for obtaining his title that is normally attained by professionals.
“To achieve such as a title means that there is talent in the country especially looking at the fact that while superpowers such as Russia play chess professionally, we are still amateurs,” he said.
He also highlighted that even though they did not get medals, the performance of the individuals was superb. He cited the example of Oatlhotse who defeated a Grand Master noting that the team was made up of brilliant players. He also noted that the fact that Njobvu had finally secured a title from the competition meant that the player had an element of patience and talent.
For his part Njobvu divulged that this year’s competitions were his best so far. He said that he went all out to make sure that he was prepared in all areas before the competition. He revealed that this involved physical as well as working on his technical skills and having a schedule.
“The coach being also assisted greatly and they have a lot of signficance,” he said. He also said that winning the title meant that he was no longer just Ignatious but Fide Master Ignatious, which would propel him on different scale in the game.
“It means that I will now be invited to take part in tournaments and it has really elevated my status,” he explained. He also said that any achievements that were made by individual players at the games were a win for the whole team.
“People such as Kheto and Oatlhotse were all wonderful and we worked together. The strategy to win was from everyone,” he said.
He also said that he would be involved in his first tournament as a Fide Master over the independence celebrations at the Botswana International Tournament where he will have a chance to prove his mantle. The tournament will feature other players from the region.
He also said that the success of the team was through the work of the BCF and the BNSC by ensuring everything ran smoothly for the team.