THE Lesotho chess national team is gearing for the 2020 International Chess Federation (FIDE) Online Olympiad to be held from 22 July and 30 August.
The competition was announced last month.
The Online Olympiad is a national teams’ competition where all federations affiliated to FIDE will battle for honours as a way of keeping active during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic when most sporting activities have been halted.
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.
Tšephe Lebajoa and the Lesotho’s top ranked chess player Tokelo Klaas got automatic qualification into the Lesotho national team for the competition.
Lebajoa’s automatic qualification came from his status as the current national male champion while Klaas is Lesotho’s 2020 Open champion.
In the female category, the national champion is ‘Malehloa Likhomo while ‘Maboloko Leboela is the Lesotho Open Chess tournament female champion. The duo therefore also got automatic qualification.
The remaining slots were filled through an online contest conducted by the Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) on Monday and Tuesday evening.
The CFL was supposed to meet last night to announce the other eight players. However, the names had not yet been announced by the time of going to print.
CFL public relations officer, Khiba Selatela, told the Lesotho Times that there would be no monetary prizes for tournament unless FIDE announces otherwise.
However, he said players stand a chance to be included on the list of players who will earn a fully sponsored trip to the Russia 2021 Chess Olympiad.
Khiba also said the tournament presents a golden opportunity for local chess players to weigh their performances against high profile players from all over the world and even boost their international exposure.
“Some of the players who are in the team for the online competition are likely to form the team for the Russian Olympiad next year. We are using the tournament as part of our preparations.
“There is also a good chance that the opponents that they will face in the online competition are the same that they will play against in Russia. If that’s the case, then by next year, our players will be in a good position to know their strengths and weaknesses,” Khiba said.
He said they are hoping to host regular online tournaments to boost the national team’s competitiveness.