Chess team gears for Online Olympiad

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Leemisa Thuseho

LESOTHO’S national chess team is gearing for the 2020 International Chess Federation (FIDE) Online Olympiad from 20 August to 15 September 2021.

The Online Olympiad is a national teams’ competition where all federations affiliated with FIDE will battle for honours as a way of keeping active during the Covid-19 pandemic when they are discouraged from meeting physically.

The event was first introduced last year in place of the Olympiad penned in for Moscow, Russia last year. The event has now been moved to next to next year. It will be hosted by Russia.

Among others, Lesotho’s team is made up of the country’s top ranked chess player, Tokelo Klaas, and the second ranked, Sechaba Khalema. National reigning champion, Lebajoa Tšephe, and 2021 national junior champion, Bokang Motsamai, are also part of the team.

Other team members are ‘Malillo Phera, Seboka Bakoena, ‘Malehloa Likhomo, Boitumelo Sethabathaba, Ngakana Nzema, Ntsielo Bonolo, Reitumetse Taioe and Nteboheleng Thetsane.

The side will be captained by Khiba Selatela, who is also Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) deputy secretary general.

The tournament draw and fixtures were released this week and Lesotho is in the same group with Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Qatar, Namibia, Kuwait, Kenya, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Malawi in Division 4 Pool B.

The top three teams from the group will qualify for the next stage, Division 3. Last year, Lesotho was booted out early after failing to advance to Division 3.

Selatela told the Lesotho Times this week that he is hopeful that this year’ the team will perform well and reach their higher divisions given their good preparations.

“I think our team is ready because we have had good preparations,” Selatela said.

“We even gave the team to an International Master (Waku Kobese) from South Africa who worked with them for one week. Again, we had a series of local events ahead of this tournament.”

Unlike last year, their players are now familiar with online events having played multiple others since last year.

He said the tournament is presenting a golden opportunity for local players to weigh their performances against high profile players from all over the world while boosting their international exposure.

“This is one of the biggest online tournaments and it gives an opportunity to our players to test their capabilities against top ranked chess players from other counties.”

Meanwhile, the Lesotho duo of Tšephe and Motsamai is competing in the World Youth Online Chess Championships which started this week and end in December.

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