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Junior chess team seeks continental glory

EXPERIENCED: Naledi Marape

Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) has assembled a formidable team that will represent the country at the African Youth Championships from the 17th-26th of September in Accra, Ghana.

The team is comprised of Gaasite Sebetlela, Musa Munyere, WFM Naledi Marape, WCM Natalie Banda as official players while Ofile Masilo has been drafted in as an unofficial player.

The squad was selected based on FIDE ratings.

They go into the tournament without their experienced WCM, Refilwe Gabatshwarwe, who is writing her Junior Certificate examinations next month.

The tournament comes against the backdrop of a dry spell of competitive tournaments both locally and internationally due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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Therefore players are rusty and have been yearning for competitive, over the board championships for a long time.

However the youthful squad will rely on the experience of WFM Marape who is just fresh from competing in the 2021FIDE Online Olympiad with the senior team.

The team which left for Accra on Thursday is under the leadership of WIM Onkemetse Francis as the coach. “The team has not been preparing due to COVID-19 restrictions but they have been putting in some training individually and hopefully it will be sufficient enough to get us a medal in all categories. I’m not satisfied with the preparations because the team was just assembled on Monday. We have been experiencing financial constraints in getting the team to even participate at the event,” Francis told Voice Sport.

In the last edition of Africa Youth Championships in 2019, Botswana sent a contingent of 12 players who brought home four medals, one gold and three bronze medals.

However this time around the team has been trimmed due to financial challenges.

Despite the late and limited preparations, the young chess minds are aware of the need to give their best performances since the tournament serves as a qualifier to the 2022 World Youth Chess Championships slated for Romania.

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“Even though we have not been having over the board chess tournaments I believe the team will perform well because most players have been participating in online events and engaging personal coaches. It is going to be a difficult tournament but I believe that, just like in the past events the team will bring home medals,” concluded Francis.

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