Eight vie for honours in continental chess tourney

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Leemisa Thuseho

EIGHT Lesotho chess players are battling for honours in the ongoing 2021 African Online Chess Championship.

The tournament started on Monday and is expected to end tomorrow.

The tournament was initially scheduled for 25 to 29 January but was postponed by a week after several federations’ registrations were delayed.

Lesotho had been earmarked as the hosts for the tournament last November but that could not go as planned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is still unclear if Lesotho will still get a chance to still host the event once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) public relations officer Khiba Selatela this week said that they were yet to know if they would get another chance to host the event. He however, said they were optimistic that Lesotho would still host the tournament in the future.

Selatela said some of the players participating in the tournament were also in the team that was meant to represent Lesotho in the postponed Olympiad last year. The Olympiad was supposed to be held in August 2020 in Moscow but were delayed due to Covid-19.

He said the association took the responsibility of paying the participation fees for the players. The move was inspired by the need to give the players an opportunity to continue playing and improve their game.

Although the event is not FIDA-rated, he said it would give the players a chance to weigh their competitiveness against top rated players from African countries.

One of the players in the team, Sechaba Khalema, said he was ready for the tournament even though online events are more challenging compared to board games.

“This will be my first time to participate in the African Championship,” Khalema.

“This is my first competition of this year and I want to do my best. In fact, I am ready.

“I think board games are easier because you have a connection with your surroundings still better because you have a connection to the surroundings and you get courage once you get into the venue. Online games on the other hand also have challenges like poor connection and people can cheat easily.”

He however, said the tournament would present a good opportunity for him and other players who all now have a chance to take on some of the continent’s best players.

“It is a huge motivation to play against the best players and if one can get above 50 percent and finish in the top 20, then that will be a sign that we are on the right track,” he added.

Another player, Maboloko Leboela said she was looking forward to starting her season in style by performing well in the tournament.

“I hope to play well and improve given that we will have top players from all over the continent. Countries like Egypt and Algeria have Women grandmasters and it would e an honour to play one of them,” Leboela said.

Apart from Leboela, other females in the tournament are Malehloa Likhomo, Naleli McPherson and ‘Malillo Phera. The male contingent will have Khalema, Lebajoa Tšephe, Joang Molapo and Motlomelo Monaheng.

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