FIDE Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho could be the country's highest ranked player come July should his games at the just-ended national chess championships be rated. The Botswana national champion scored an impressive 5.5 out of six points in the finals to take the crown for the third successive year.
Ignatius Njobvu, the country's strongest player did not take part in the finals as he had missed the first round qualifiers. This will have a significant impact on who is Botswana's top player on July 1.
In the latest rankings released on April 1, Njobvu is still the country's leading chessman, a position he has occupied since last July. Botswana players have not taken part in any rated tournaments since then and as such, their latest rankings are unchanged. Khetho will keep his fingers crossed that Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) sends the results of last weekend's national championships to FIDE for rating purposes.
If this happens, then he will surely be the top Botswana player. Khetho defeated rated players in Barileng Gaealafshwe, Tebogo Pitlagano and Baone Kealeboga; and drew against Providence Oatlhotse. Njobvu's rating will remain stagnant at 2247 but Khetho's 2240 could soar beyond this mark because he has amassed points. There will be changes for Botswana's other rated players. Kealeboga will add some points to his 2096 rating following his second place finish in the national championship. He could cross into the 2100 region.
Gaealafshwe's rating might remain unchanged as he finished with a 50 percent score in the championships. Oatlhotse finished joint second with Kealeboga but is not expected to add many points to his 2154. The biggest loser will surely be Pitlagano. He had a bad tournament finishing sixth in the seven-player event with two points. He is likely to drop drastically from his current 2155 points. This could see him fall outside the top five in Botswana. There is bound to be further changes in the local rankings as chess players take part in the All Africa Games (AAG) in Algeria later this year.
Although the men's team has been left out of the AAG contingent, three players could feature in Algeria - not in the AAG but in the lucrative Africa Individual Chess Championships (AICC). With Khetho and Njobvu looking the obvious candidates to fly Botswana flag at the AICC, their ratings could change further depending on their performance. Njobvu played well at the last AICC in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2005 and finished 10th. That performance, coupled with Khetho's below par show at the Turin Olympiad last year, saw Njobvu overtake him and claim top spot. Khetho will be playing in his first AICC.