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To Russia with love

To Russia with love
CHESS QUEEN: Loago Badisang

Making a move for Moscow

Just when it appeared her pursuit of excellence in school was facing checkmate, teenage chess queen, Loago Badisang will once again reach for the stars.

For the next six years, the 19-year-old will swap the sun of Molepolole for the snow of Moscow as she embarks on a scholarship at the People’s Friendship University of Russia to study General Medicine.

The University counts some of the highest profiles in the world as past students, with current Palestine President, Mahmoud Abbas and former Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba having passed through its doors.

With her Visa ready, and having already started her course online, Badisang is raring to touch down in the Russian capital and begin this big adventure.

As well as her studies, the teen is looking to improve her chess skills once she settles in Eastern Europe – after all, it was this ability that ultimately saw the Moroka Chess Club player approved for the life-changing scholarship.

Who is Loago Badisang?

I am a 19-year-old chess player from Molepolole.

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Been playing for Moroka Chess Club and also had a chance to be part of the junior chess team for some time.

I stay with both my parents and my elder sister.

Not for much longer I guess, with Russia waiting in the wings! Congratulations on your scholarship, I understand it was quite the journey?

Bagging this scholarship was like a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have always wanted to school abroad, interact with other people from different countries and just to be exposed to other cultures while doing what I love most, which is studying and playing chess.

After failing to perform to my standards during my BGCSE I had given up but the Russian Scholarship gave me hope again and now I’m able to dream once more.

To Russia with love

EXCELLENCE AWARD: Loago receiving an award at the 2019 Botswana Examinations Council Excellence award

I love learning so I believe the scholarship will enable me to learn and to just live life to the fullest.

How did the scholarship come about?

When my JC results came out in 2019, I found that I was one of only six merits in the country.

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I was actually number three in the whole country and number one in Kweneng Region!

I thought that was my breakthrough and that my way to study abroad was now paved.

I have always loved Maruapula [Secondary School] because everyone who studies there had the privilege to choose where to school and I thought I will have that same advantage.

I had to attend an interview at Maruapula so that they could sponsor me for my Form 4 and 5 and A-Levels then my studies abroad.

But I failed the interview on the first round!

Oh dear, so what happened next?

I then went to Mater Spei College.

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It’s a well-known, high-flying school and I thought if I do my best I will bag my six A* which will allow me to do A-Levels at Maruapula since that was my goal back then.

BGCSE came and I gave it my all but maybe the best wasn’t enough because I was far from the six A* I needed to school in Maruapula!

I was very shattered but a friend of mine approached me and told me about the Russian scholarship.

It is a joint venture between Botswana government and Russian universities.

I applied with the help of my friend and on the 12th of March 2021 I submitted my application.

I then told the then President of Botswana Chess Federation, Motlhokomedi Tlhabano that I had applied and that was when he made contact with the Russian Embassy to remind them of the agreement.

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So among other students who are also beneficiaries of the scholarship as chosen by Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF), I was chosen by the embassy in Botswana because I’m a chess player.

When did you first take up the sport?

I have been playing chess since 2014 when I was doing Standard Six.

And what have you achieved in the game?

Honestly as a chess player I would say I’m average!

I have six trophies and 29 medals in total so that’s why I’m saying this.

Major achievements would include my first ever Gold medal in 2017 during a youth tournament and I performed well.

Another moment came in 2019 when I represented Botswana at the Africa Youth Championships.

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I was in the same category with WFM Besa Masaiti and she is a good player.

Since 2014 when I started, I knew I would face her in the finals but up until then never managed to beat her.

But that year I upped my game and for the first time defeated her and got to represent Botswana in Namibia.

I didn’t get any medal but I got a trophy for winning against top players in the tournament.

To Russia with love

AWARD WINNER: Loago receiving Biggest Upset Award at the 2019 Africa Youth Championship

What attracted you to chess?

Growing up, I always stayed at home since I was the one selling in our tuck shop.

Due to my curious nature, I would go through an old computer we had at home and that’s when I found the game.

This made it easier for me because when I was doing Standard Six, chess players were wanted and I registered.

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So it all began with me being unable to go out and then finding that old computer at home!

Wow, what a story! There is a belief that chess helps individuals academically, can you attest to this? What other impact has the game had on your life?

Chess made a lot of difference in my life, from financial, academically and even in my day-to-day life.

I will stick to the academic part; I can fully attest that chess helps students in their academics, not just Mathematics as people think.

Chess requires high levels of concentration.

Same as academics, if you are a focused student we all know you will succeed.

For example, we have Dr. Onkemetse Francis, she is Woman International Master and fully a qualified medical doctor, so chess really does help.

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Now let’s talk about your imminent move to Moscow, feeling nervous?

I’m okay with just being there alone, away from my family.

It is something I have been looking forward to: to explore and be on my own.

What do you aim to achieve when you get there?

Apart from excelling in my studies, I plan on actively participating in chess activities there so I can, firstly, increase my chess ratings and just to better my game because since Covid-19 started I have been slacking.

With me continuing with my chess career in Russia, I hope to learn a lot from the Russian Grandmasters and achieve a lot more trophies and Gold medals.

Talking of Coronavirus, the pandemic has brought local chess to a virtual standstill in the last 19 months. How did you keep match fit?

Since the Covid-19 era it’s been really hard honestly, I lost focus in chess.

But that is about to change because chess is really a big part of me and my entire life!

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So I must do right by the sport, for the sport itself and myself too.

What advice do you have for upcoming players?

For upcoming and aspiring players, it’s not going to be easy.

You win some and lose some.

And some days you feel like giving up because you are continually losing during tournaments but the more you lose, the more you learn.

It just takes one moment and you will have your biggest breakthrough and even realize that all those losses were worth it.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

My greatest source of zeal is my mother.

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She is my cheerleader.

Whenever I find myself in a fix or when I’m under motivated, she is the reason why I will just continue.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

During weekends you will find me with a novel, that I started reading on Friday night and must be finished by Sunday morning before church.

Otherwise I will be playing some little online chess tournament on Lichess.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Botho

    December 4, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Well done girl 👏👏👏👏

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