MASERU – The chess national team has crashed out of the ongoing World Chess Federation (FIDE) Online Chess Olympiad, but team captain, Mphetole Mona, has praised his charges for a reputable showing in the opening rounds of the competition. Lesotho was pitted against Mauritania, Lebanon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Cameroon, Oman and eSwatini in Division 4, Pool C.
The local chess team could not proceed to the next stage of the competition following poor results against Lebanon, Mauritania and Ethiopia last Sunday. Lesotho lost 1.5-4.5 to Lebanon, 2-4 to Mauritania and another
2-4 Ethiopia in round 7.8 and 9 respectively. This was after Team Lesotho put up a superb performance in the opening games, beating eSwatini 3.5-2.5 in round 4 and drawing 3-3 with Oman and Sudan each in round 5 and 6 respectively; all last Saturday. The team went further to play as the home players started the competition with two straight victories; 4-2 over Malawi in round 1 and 6-0 over Cameroon in round 2 before they lost 1-5 to Nigeria in round 3 last Friday.
“We are out of the competition since only the top three teams qualify for the next stage,” said Mona in an interview with Public Eye on Monday. “Those three teams are Mauritania, Lebanon and Nigeria.” Lesotho finished on position six after garnering eight points, equal to Sudan who finished on position five. Mauritius topped Division 4 having collected 17 points, Lebanon 16 and Nigeria 15. They were followed by Ethiopia with 10 points; two ahead of Sudan and Lesotho, while behind the latter was Malawi with six points, Cameroon and Oman with four points each and Eswatini with two points.
“We needed to win our three last games or at least two and play draw in another game in order to proceed to the next stage of the tournament. But we got it tough as we failed to win any game on Sunday,” Mona said. This despite Mona saying a win against Ethiopia was possible on Sunday had it not been because of the distraction caused by an unexpected pause of their computers during the game. “Our players were beaten by the time in the game against Ethiopia. We had a chance to win that game until we experienced a technical problem as our computers paused during the game while on the other hand the time was running out.
“But this is not an excuse because the same thing also happened in other games,” he said. The Ethiopia game was Lesotho’s last game in Division 4, and winning it could not make any difference as they had already lost in two previous games. But Mona said they needed a consolation win “and nothing else.” “That was our last game in the competition and we could see the possibility to win it, which if it was not because of that technical problem it could have been our consolation win.”
Mona further said: “But all in all, our players played well because they competed against some of the highly rated players in the world, and for them to win against some of them means they are on par with those best players.” The competition commenced on July 22 and it will come to an end on August 30.