Lesotho booted out of 2021 Chess Olympiad

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Leemisa Thuseho

THE national chess team has been eliminated from the ongoing 2021 International Chess Federation (FIDE) Online Olympiad.

The tournament started on 20 August and will run until 15 September 2021.

The team was booted out after winning just five games out of 11. It drew two and lost four thereby failing to advance to next stage, Division 3 of the tournament having finished sixth. Only the top three teams advanced to the next stage.

Lesotho was in the same group with Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Qatar, Namibia, Kuwait, Kenya, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Malawi in Division 4 Pool B.

The tournament saw Lesotho getting off to a good start winning its first game by recording 3.5 points against Rwanda who scored 2.5 on Friday.

However, the team lost to Kenya with a score of 1.5 to 4.5 in the second game before beating Somalia 5-1 on the same day.

On Saturday, the team beat Eritrea 5.5 to 1.5. In the fifth round, the side then lost 2.5 to Uganda’s 3.5.

The side drew 3-3 with each of Saudi Arabia and Palestine, won 4.5-1.5 against Qatar and lost 3.5-2.5 to Namibia.

In the last two games on Sunday, the team beat Malawi 3.5-2.5 before losing 4-2 to Kuwait.

Lesotho collected 35.6 points while Kenya topped the pool with 46.5 points. Namibia settled for second with 40 points while Palestine were third with 43.5 points.

The tournament was introduced last year in place of the Olympiad penned in for Moscow, Russia. The Russia event has now been moved to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During last year’s edition, Lesotho failed to advance to the next stage after finishing sixth out of 10 countries.

Despite failing to proceed to the next stage, one of the players, Sechaba Khalema, believes the international exposure gathered in the tournament will help them in the future.

“We missed the chance to advance to next stage but I think we have gained something out of that tournament.

“There is no doubt that having played against players from different countries will boost our style of play and strength… I was also impressed to see that some of the junior players performed better than their counterparts from other countries,” Khalema said.

He said they prepared well for the tournament working with International Master — Waku Kobese from South Africa, who trained them for a week.

Given their good preparations, they easily could have finished in the top three had it not been for connection problems. So bad was their connection that they ended up forfeiting some games.

“Our overall performance was good but I believe we could have made it to the top three but we encountered connection problems which cost us some games and eventually affected our overall standings.”

Among others, Lesotho’s team was made up of national reigning champion, Lebajoa Tšephe, Bahlakoana Ntšonyane and 2021 national junior champion, Bokang Motsamai, are also part of the team.

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

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