Online Olympiad starts

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Leemisa Thuseho

THE first ever 2020 International Chess Federation (FIDE) Online Olympiad started yesterday with hundreds of players from across the globe battling for honours until 30 August 2020.

The competition was announced last month by FIDE.

The competition replaces the now postponed Olympiad which had been penned in for August this year in Russia. This was necessitated by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The Russia event has now been postponed to next year.

Each team is expected to field six players and six reserves in mixed format with a minimum quota of three female players and two juniors.

Team Lesotho is made up of Tokelo Klaas, Khanyapa Theko, Maboloko Leboela, ‘Malehloa Likhomo, Lebajoa Tšepe and Bonolo Ntsielo.

The reserve players are Joang Molapo, Sechaba Khalema, Naleli McPherson, Lieketseng Ngatane, Letlotlo Lebakae and ‘Malillo Phera.

Team captain Mphetole Mona told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that he was confident of his team.

“We have been preparing through indoor sessions and I am happy that the team is made up of players who are driven to do well,” Mona said.

Since the competition will have a knockout component, Mona said their target was to reach the finals.

Yesterday the tournament started with the Base Division stage in which lowest ranked countries were fighting for Division 4 qualification.

Based on its previous performances in the Olympiads, Lesotho will start the competition at Division 4 stage on 29 July.

One of the players who has been representing Lesotho at the Olympiads since the country’s first appearance in 2014, Leboela, said her target was to finish among Africa’s top 10 ladies.

“I want to be among the best performing ladies in Africa… I am ready but also nervous because this is the first online Olympiad in which I will be representing the country,” Leboela said.

Although she is happy that FIDE has organised online competitions, she also attested that playing online has its challenges.

“Network connection in Lesotho is not too good while some of the players are not tech savvy and that leads to problems.

Leboela is a Women Candidate Master (WCM) and is Lesotho’s second woman with a chess title after Ngatane, who is a Women FIDE Master (WFM).

Klaas, who got a Candidate Master (CM) title during the 2018 Olympiad, said the experience that he has obtained so far would benefit the team.

“Experience is very important as we will be able to motivate the team and come up with strategies. This is a new type of tournament and we are looking forward to learning new things out of it.

“This tournament will also provide us with the much-needed practice for the team ahead of next year’s Olympiad in Russia,” Klaas said.

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