Lesotho: Lebajoa, Likhomo Win Chess Championship

20 January 2020

TŠEPHE Lebajoa and 'Malehloa Likhomo were on Sunday crowned champions of the Lesotho National Chess Championship after shrugging off competition in the Open and Ladies' categories respectively.

The 14-year-old Lebajoa was won five out of six games in six rounds.

Lebajoa was tied to Lesotho's top ranked players; Tokelo Klaas and Thekho Khanyapa with five points apiece but emerged the favourite in the tie breaker (buchholtz) system.

Klaas settled for second place while Khanyapa came third.

Lebajoa toppled Sechaba Khalema from the throne after the reigning Ladies' champion finished fourth with only 4.5 points.

For his pains, Lebajoa pocketed M1 500, a trophy, a mobile phone tablet and a gold medal. Klaas took home M1 500 and a silver medal. Khanyapa also took home M1 500 and a bronze medal.

Lebajoa was also awarded a smart watch, wireless headsets and an MP3 player for being the best under-16 player.

In the Ladies category, 'Likhomo bagged a gold medal, a trophy and a mobile phone tablet.

Naleli McPherson and Bonolo Ntsielo finished second and third respectively. Likhomo, McPherson and Ntsielo walked away M650 richer each after being tied on 4.5 points each before the buchholtz tie breaker system was effected.

Ntsielo was named the best under-16 player and received a smart watch, wireless headsets and an MP3 player.

The champions in both Open and Ladies section earned their tickets to represent Lesotho at the 2020 Chess Olympiad in Russia and the 2020 Zone 4.3 Individual Chess Championship to be hosted by Lesotho.

This will be Lebajoa's first time at the Chess Olympiad while Likhomo will be making his second appearance.

Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) public relations officer Khiba Selatela told the Lesotho Times that they were happy with the improvements that the players have made.

"The players have shown great improvement and Lebajoa's progress is proof that chess is not about age," Selatela said.

"Anything can happen in a chess tournament just like any other sport. We are happy to have a young national champion.

"The fact that Lebajoa beat some of the country's top-rated players should motivate other younger players."

For his part, Lebajoa said he was happy with his achievement considering the fact that he will be the first Lesotho junior to compete at the Olympiad.

"I never thought I would qualify for the Olympiad through the National Championship, instead; I was targeting other qualifying tournaments. However, I am happy with what I have achieved," Lebajoa said.

This year Lebajoa also won the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Open Chess tournament in October while he also won the eSwatini Chess Open last month.

He is currently ranked 21.

On her part, Likhomo said she was looking forward to improving her Olympiad performance after her 3/9 score at the 2019 edition in Georgia.

"I worked hard for this and I am happy. Now I am working hard to improve my performance. Olympiads are not easy but I would be glad to come home with a title.

"Last year was my first time at the Olympiad and I hope to improve this year," Likhomo said.

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