American actor, Robert Downey Junior once said: “I think that the power is the principle. The principle of moving forward, as though you have the confidence to move forward, eventually gives you confidence when you look back and see what you’ve done”.
It probably sums up Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) president, Tshenolo Maruatona’s time in office. He is leaving office after a six-year journey, which left the code firmly on the right path. He will hand over the baton to a new leader when the federation holds election in May.
He said when he assumed office there was concern that chess was not played in public schools. The federation embarked on empowering trainers and distributing equipment to various schools. BCF also forged relations with Botswana Primary Schools Sport Association (BOPPSA).
“We came at a time when businesses were struggling and had cut off spending on corporate responsibilities. As a federation we decided that we should generate 70% of our grant,” he said.
Maruatona said they managed to have more sponsors onboard during his reign. He said sponsors do not give out money to faceless proposals.
He said the introduction of open door policy has seen changes in the style of play. He said there has been an increase of titles won by local players.
“We have had players going to Chess Olympiad coming back with titles. Botswana is taken seriously by FIDE. About six Batswana are sitting in different FIDE management committees,” he said.
Maruatona feels his predecessor should be somebody who is strong because there is a lot of politics within the federation. He said the president should be able to unify and be the image of the federation.
“We have quiet a pool of people within the committee who can take over. I do not see the need to go far to find my replacement. We do not want to give chess to people who had put it in bad light before,” Maruatona said.
Maruatona said he would not be lost to the sport and will always be involved in development. He said his energy would be in his Bobonong based club where they host the Bobirwa championship every December. The event was held for the third time over the festive season.
Maruatona was introduced to the sport when he was a 12-year-old
“When I arrived at Marang Junior School, I met one of the pioneers of chess in Botswana, Rupert Jones. He taught me how to play chess. I was 14 by then. Unfortunately I was not strong enough to play for the school team until I arrived at Ledumang Senior School. I met students who were also passionate about playing chess,” he said.
He said at some point he played board one for the school but noted that he was not a strong player. The young Maruatona was chosen as the captain of the team and was in charge of organising the team. He said his strong point has always been to be an organiser.
Maruatona, together with his friends, established Kings Chess Club while studying at the University of Botswana.
“I was the president of the team. We recruited players and my job was to put everything in order. I even sponsored the team to go and play in Pretoria. I have never won anything,” he said with a chuckle.
“Upon completing my studies at the UB, I joined BCF as vice president in 2012. The president by then was Tshepo Sitale.” He said there has always been a lot of lobbying by some people because they were impressed by the work he was doing at club level.
Maruatona said being in the executive is different than being in a club. He said in the executive there is lot of politics at play.
“Our mandate with Sitale was to push chess as a sport. Some people did not agree that it was a sport. We managed to promote the game to a point where everybody agreed that chess was a sport not recreation activity. Then we built a brand,” Maruatona said.
He was later elevated to the presidency despite challenge from other members who fancied their chances but he prevailed.
Full name: Tshenolo Maruatona
Date of birth: March 20, 1980
Place of birth: Gaborone
Marital status: Married
Favourite dish: Seswaa and phaleche