Reigning national chess champion, Candidate Master (CM), Thuso Mosutha has questioned the criterion for selecting the team that crashed out of the World Online Olympiad on Sunday.
The team was knocked out in the first round, leaving Mosutha, who has been in good form, to query its selection process. Mosutha complained that the team was hand picked.
"Some of us were extremely displeased by that and they did so before we played the championship and they tried to defend that by saying the event was at short notice to them while other countries decided to select players through play-offs online still," he said.
However, Mosutha said he would continue to work hard to dominate local chess so that he qualifies for the national team without a struggle. But national team coach, Ivon Makabe dismissed Mosutha’s accusations.
"There is a selection criterion which was put forward by the clubs’ committee and agreed upon. The highest and second highest rated players, both male and female, get a slot in the national team by right," he said. Makabe said the national champions of the previous year are also reserved a slot in the team. The best youth, both boy and girl, are also selected he noted.
"Now tell me how many slots are left to complete the team? Only two slots for male and female. It was agreed that the top 10 goes for play-offs and fill the remaining two slots. Unfortunately there was never time for the play-offs due to COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns. The executive committee used their discretion to fill those gaps," Makabe said.
He said he was never part of the selection of the team, but was consulted on certain issues, of which he advised accordingly. When asked why Mosutha did not make the team, Makabe said he once suggested that he should be included because the player was on form.
"Unfortunately form is not part of the criterion. He is the current national champion not the previous one. It is different from Woman FIDE Master (WFM ) Besa Masaite because with her she came in by rating not as national champion.
Remember the previous champion was WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe. So, it is really unfortunate for him," he said. Makabe highlighted that should the play-offs
Meanwhile, during the Online Olympiad, Botswana lost to Scotland in round seven but beat Chinese Taipei in round eight. Botswana also beat Sri Lanka by five points to one. Botswana finished in position seven in division three. Makabe admitted that the team had a slow start.
"We had weaker teams in the beginning, and could not capitalise on that. I did study our opponents very carefully and prepared my players individually bearing in mind the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents versus theirs," he said.
Makabe said unfortunately they lost games, which they were not supposed to lose, due to technicalities and poor internet connectivity.
"To be specific, we were not supposed to lose against United Arab Emirates (UAE) and International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPCA.) In the latter, one of my players could not make moves on his computer because the server jammed his game on a completely winning position," he said.
The coach said in the other game, two players could not login until their allocated 15 minutes elapsed. Makabe said the players were not familiar with the new setup.
"Playing online, there is limited time instead of the usual 1 hour 30 minutes. Also there was the issue of technology once the games were on. The Arbiters would randomly ask them to share screens through zoom, and that brought concentration lapse to some," he said.
He said Botswana were underdogs in the group, but they gave a good fight. "Remember we knocked out Sri Lanka from qualifying though they were a better team than us. I had the best team compared to previous Olympiads. This was our time," he said.
Makabe said there was no consistency. He said they lost to weaker teams and did well against top-seeded countries.
"To me it does not make sense at all. This is the highest level one can find himself or herself playing on. Composure, confidence and determination is all you need as a player, not forgetting training, practice and concentration," Makabe said.