The future of women’s chess appears to be in capable hands, with the U/20 team securing three top ten finishes at the recent 2021 Africa Online Individual Chess Championships.
Leading the assault on Africa was 18-year-old Besa Masaiti, who bagged a Silver Medal, showing nerves of steel and great skill to win seven of her nine games.
The Woman Fide Master (WFM) missed out on Gold to Algeria’s Lamina Brahami, and although Silver was not the colour she set out to achieve, she is still rightly proud of her achievement.
“I was impressed with my display at the tourney. It is easily one of the greatest achievements in my premature chess career,” the teen titan told Voice Sport.
Masaiti was not the only one to impress at the continental tournament, in which a total of 29 players took part in the Girls U/20 section.
Her teammates, Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Natalie Banda and WFM Naledi Marape ensured the Botswana colours were well represented, coming in 4th and 10th between them.
For Masaiti, her second place finish marks the latest high for a teenager who grew up playing the game and has the potential to reach the very top of the sport.
“I was introduced to chess by my father, we used to play at home when I was really young and I fell in love with it instantly,” reminisced the Maitengwe marvel, the 2019 Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year.
A beneficiary of the 2020 Elite BNSC Scholarship, the determined young woman is equally focused on her studies.
“I am currently on my second semester at Texas Tech University and I am studying Bachelor of Science in Economics which will run for a period of four years. I have been attending online due the outbreak of Covid-19 but I am hoping to complete my remaining years in the US as I want to further my chess skills as well,” said Masaiti, who is the reigning Metropolitan National Champion.
“That was a massive accolade for me, as was attending the 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad [held in Georgia], which remains one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me.”
As well as personal progress, Masaiti is desperate to follow in the footsteps of local giant, Keenese Katisenge and inspire the future generation to take up the sport.
“My aim is to be like Katisenge, being a motivator to upcoming youngsters who are doing sport and also be a Grand Master one day.”
Sadly, the U/20 Girls success was the only bright sport in an otherwise disappointing showing from Team BW.
In the Mens Open Section, out of a field of 47 contestants, International Master (IM) Providence Oatlhotse came 16th whilst Candidate Master (CM) Thuso Mosutha finished a lowly 31st.
In the Ladies Open Section, Woman International Masters (WIM) Keamogetse Botlhole and Onkemetse Francis bagged 12th and 13th position respectively.
Proving to be the weaker of the two sexes on this occasion, the best performing local player in the U/20 Boys category was Othata Selogelo, who came 16th out of 49 entrants.