Inaugural Junior Chess Championship gets underway


The inaugural Elite Besa Masaiti 2023 Botswana Junior Chess Championship is scheduled for the Independence Day holiday at Botho University in Gaborone. The competition is intended to empower girls, young men, and the youth in general.

The championship is the brainchild of the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) and Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) first chess Elite scholarship recipient, Woman FIDE Master Besa Masaiti.

Tournament director, Charles Masaiti told Mmegi Sport that the championship has drawn local participants, as well as participants from Angola, Poland, South Africa, and Zambia, amongst others. The registration deadline has been extended to today (September 29). Masaiti noted that the tournament has received support from Courtney Frank and former American champion Grand Master Jennifer Shehad, who are Besa’s mentors in the USA. Besa is currently based in the USA.

Charles added that the junior's tournament serves as a curtain-raiser for a larger event to be held in December, the Elite Besa Masaiti WIM Norm titled chess tournament. “During the Elite Botswana Junior Chess Championship, we are going to witness the women’s national champion, Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Natalie Banda playing against Under-21 boys to test her mettle. Remember that she recently won the Africa Youth Chess Championship in Cairo, Egypt.

The tournament will allow the youth to lift their standards as they compete with more highly rated players. The juniors’ event will also assist us to market the December tournament,” he explained. Charles pointed out that eligible players for the tournament range from four to 21 years of age.

The event's purpose is to inspire young girls and youth in general, both in chess and beyond, by providing sporting opportunities in the absence of government sponsorship. He said the inaugural Elite Besa Masaiti 2023 Botswana Junior Chess Championship is recognised by BCF and registered under the World Chess Federation (FIDE), thereby offering local players opportunities to enhance their gameplay and ratings in preparation for the 2024 Chess Olympiad in Bucharest,Romania. "Sponsorship has been a challenge for us. Fortunately, Besa received support from some individuals in America. We also managed to secure assistance from some local companies. There will be prize money for the players," he stated.

Other local players expected at the tournament include WFM Naledi Marape, Under-21 Re Ba Bona Ha champion Gideon Masaiti, Thuto Mpene, and other national team members who represented Botswana at the 2023 FIDE Chess Olympiad in India. Speaking to Mmegi Sport from the USA, Frank expressed her delight in being friends with Besa for two years. “She approached me in early April with her dream of hosting an inaugural chess tournament in Botswana. She asked me if I knew anyone who might be willing to sponsor the tournament, and the answer was an immediate yes. She wrote personal letters to people she knew would likely support the initiative,” she recalled.

Frank revealed that by June 15, 2023, they had raised US$6,600 from nine different sponsors. She also mentioned that this week, they will be sending an additional US$6,500 from two more sponsors. “I am thrilled that Besa asked me to come alongside her, Charles, and the rest of the team to organise the December tournament. Many people here believe in this vision to shed light on the importance that chess plays in the lives of so many people in Botswana,” Frank said. Prizes: Under-21: P750; Under-17: P500; Under-15: P400; Under-13: P300; Under-11: P200; Under-9: P150; and Under-7: P100.

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