Lebajoa, Latela crowned champs in online chess tourney

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Leemisa Thuseho

LESOTHO’s reigning national chess champion Lebajoa Tšephe and Kananelo Latela were on Friday and Sunday crowned champions in the Chess Federation of Lesotho’s (CFL) debut online tournament.

The tournament consisted of two competitions played on Friday and Sunday. Lebajoa won the Friday competition with 42 points and was followed by Liteboho Mohatlane with 36 points in second place.

On Sunday, Tšephe (15) amassed 45 points along with his senior Latela. However, the ‘Lichess’ system tie breaker favoured Latela.

As young as he is, Tšephe is ranked fourth in the country. After winning the national championship last year, he earned a ticket to the 2021 Chess Olympiad in Moscow, Russia. Tšephe will be the first ever Lesotho chess player to make it to the Olympiad at the 15.

Naleli McPherson and ‘Malehloa Likhomo both won Best Lady titles.

Each took home M150 while Best Ladies’ pocketed M50 each.

This was Lesotho’s first online chess tournament. It was organised in response to a call by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) for national federations to promote online chess competitions amid the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

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The tournament was dubbed Lesotho Checkmate Coronavirus.

Tournament coordinator, McPherson, hailed the programme as a success although some players failed to participate because of their lack of internet access.

“We had 19 participants on Friday and 25 on Sunday,” McPherson said.

“The competition was only open for local players. Because of its success, we are now working on the next edition.”

The competitions are meant to keep players active during the ongoing Coronavirus (Covid-19) induced break where all sporting activities have been suspended to curb the spread of the virus.

McPherson said while the competitions are not FIDE rated, the participants stand a chance of entering FIDE’s prizes draw for global chess players who have been competing in different online chess competitions across the globe.

Other prizes include souvenirs, tickets to chess workshops and mini-matches with grandmasters.

McPherson said the players are bound to reap the reward of engaging in online tournaments once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided.

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