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Youngsters take chess by storm

For a long time now, senior titled players have dominated the Metropolitan National Championships when it comes to victories.

The likes of IM Providence Oatlhotse, FM Khetho in the open section and WIMs Kgalalelo Botlhole and Onkemetse Francis have interchangeably won the championship many times.

Though youthful players like WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe and WFM Besa Masaiti have won the championship in the midst of the much fancied experienced players, the 2022 edition of Metropolitan National Championship proved otherwise, with total dominance of youthful players in the ladies section.

When the finals commenced, youthful players accounted for seven from ten participants who graced the tournament with the remaining three being the only senior players in the section.

Boasting of WFM Naledi Marape, WCMs Gabatshwarwe, Natalie Banda, Arona Moshoboro, Atlang Mosweu and Ruth Otisitswe and Atlang Phole, the youngsters showed great domination relegating senior players WFM Thapelo Francis, Boitumelo Radikoro and Boitshepo Rebatenne to lower ranks.

While the majority of junior players are regulars at the national finals, for Phole it was her maiden appearance.

These junior players have played together for the longest time since 2016 at development structures and international tournaments where they showed great character and won many medals.

However at the Metropolitan champs over the weekend, youngsters once more proved their mettle with WCM Gabatshwarwe clinching the ladies section title at the age of 17.

This becomes her second title having won it for the first time in 2018 at a tender age of 13, a record feat which still stands.

“It was quite difficult because I haven’t been much active lately due to school commitments. To me this is a huge milestone which motivates me to continue working hard. I believe I have the potential to do more in upcoming tournaments. I have lost a lot of ratings so my aim is to recover all those by performing better and returning to the top,” said Gabatshwarwe.

WFM Marape and WCM Banda completed podium positions snatching second and third positions respectively. “As youthful players I believe we have improved greatly because we have made it to the top three of this tournament. I believe I was greatly challenged despite the absence of senior players. From now on my focus will be the World Olympiad in June and chasing the Grandmaster title,” added Marape.

Their compatriots WCMs Moshoboro, Mosweu and Otisitswe were not far behind, settling for the 4th, 5th and 6th spots respectively while the new entrant, Phole finished on the 8th position.“It was tough but overall I played well. The juniors are dominative nowadays because for a long time we have played with seniors, and that makes things easy since we have nothing to lose and it’s always a learning curve,” said Banda.

The youngsters have dominated Africa Individual Championships from 2016-2018.

In addition, as of now juniors form the bulk of the national team heading to the World Olympiad later this year, with Marape, Otisitswe, Masaiti, Banda and Moshoboro having secured their berth.

According to Botswana Chess Federation Secretary General, Mokwaledi Tingwane, the success of junior players has been inspired by the fact that they have played with experienced players from a tender age.“Our young ladies have penetrated the senior ranks and this is because they play against experienced players more often. But the same can’t be said about their male counterparts who have confined themselves to junior categories but we will fix that such that they play in the open section and grow,” he said.