Mandla Ncube, Sports Reporter

The Zimbabwe Chess team heads into the Zone 4.5 Online Chess championships hoping to redeem themselves following a disappointing showing in the recently held Online Chess Olympiads.

The two day virtual tournament which starts on Thursday will feature also countries like South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland and Namibia.

Zimbabwe have named a largely unchanged youthful team that participated in the Olympiads in August.  Seasoned player Kudakwashe ‘Krunchmaster’ Sibanda expressed his confidence in turning the fortunes in the championships.

“Everyone has been busy working on their chess game and the increase in online tournaments has helped in preparing in keeping us competitive, the lessons we got from the group of death in the Olympiads, the youngsters we have are quite talented as well and have gained experience over time through the exposure both locally and internationally with that we can bring glory home,” Sibanda said.

Highly rated Tapiwa Gora who missed the Olympiads welcomes the challenge which he believes will be a step up on a personal level and exposure wise.

“This is quite a huge tournament for me because here I will play in the Open session which will see me play against Candidate Masters, International Masters, FIDE Masters which in a way will be a step up,” Gora said.

“Playing online against stronger opponents is a bit easier now as it takes away the intimidation factor and the rush of emotions and the constant eye contact and all the facial expressions that come with the physical battles when seating across an actual chess board,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Chess Federation whose calendar was like many other sporting codes hamstrung by the Covid-19 pandemic has over the months experimented with virtual tournaments to get its players acquainted with the seemingly new normal in the game. ZCF media and communications director, Thabo Elisha is positive the team is better prepared to perform.

“We are now used to the virtual playing conditions and we are highly confident we will punch through, our team has had the necessary exposure that is needed after playing top division in the chess Olympiads were we played countries like China, India and Germany,” he said.

Zimbabwe will kick start their tournament against Botswana in the opening [email protected]_Ncube