World Champion Viswanathan Anand in Botswana

by ChessBase
8/31/2009 – Whenever Sheela Raja Ram looks out of her office window in Gaborone she sees students playing chess during class breaks. This made the Botswana managing director of the Indian technology company NIIT decide to bring over the their spokesperson on a goodwill tour. Vishy Anand received a warm welcome, especially since he is the first World Champion to visit the country.

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World Champion Viswanathan Anand lands in Botswana

Report by Kenneth Boikhutswane

The reigning World Chess Champion, Grandmaster (GM) Viswanathan Anand of India, touched down last week in Botswana, and was afforded the welcome befitting of a player of his status. For instance he was allowed to use the VIP lounge of the Gaborone International Aiport. 

Vishy and Aruna Anand arriving at the VIP lounge of Gaborone International Airport

“You are most welcome!” The president of Botswana Chess Federation Tshepo Sitale
shakes hands with the champion.

Present to welcome him at the airport where Botswana Chess Federation president Tshepo Sitale, NIIT Botswana Managing Director Sheela Raja Ram, Ravindra Nath who is the Acting Indian High Commissioner in Botswana, Masego Ramakgate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as chess lovers and members of the press. This visit is a result of the partnership between NIIT Botswana and BCF and the hope is that Botswana will in the not so distant future have a similar version of the Mind Champions Academy which Anand started in India.

Aruna Anand chats with the Managing Director of NIIT Botswana, Sheela Raja Ram

GM Anand visit to Botswana represents the first time a World Chess Champion has visited this country, and as such is a historic moment for BCF and Botswana, as well as the African continent. I have searched, and have not found, any information about any Champion visiting this vast continent. Therefore, this visit reaffirms the well-known fact that the current champion is a modest gentleman, who will do anything possible to promote the game of chess at any opportune moment. While here Anand is set to engage in two simultaneous displays, one against students of NIIT, private tertiary institutions, BCF primary school students, as well as a few invited guests. The second simul, hopefully to prove a little tougher than the first, will see him take on the cream of Botswana chess in the national team. Amongst those set to play him are the likes of three times Botswana champion Phemelo Khetho, the current Botswana champion Providence Oatlhotse, Woman Grandmaster Tuduetso Sabure, Woman FIDE Master Boikhutso Mudongo, Ignatius Njobvu and Gorata Leso, who has just come back from Norway, will also be expected to give the champion a run for his money.

Anand, ambassador for NIIT and the Mind Champions Academy project

A group photo with the World Chess Champion

Straight from the airport, Vishy Anand was whisked off to the Grand Palm Hotel and International Conference Centre. He did not have much time to rest, as NIIT had arranged a dinner for him same evening. Recalling how the trip was made possible, the MD of NIIT Botswana, Raja Ram said it all started “with a one line email to NIIT India!” According to Sheela evertime she looks out of her office window she sees plenty of students playing chess during their class breaks, and this very act by the student reinforced her conviction to bring over the Champion. Raja Ram also mentioned that she was ”committing, in front of everyone present, that NIIT and Botswana Chess Federation’s relationship will go a long way.” A thunderous applause followed that statement.

Anand meeting chess fans outside the airport, with national team player Tshepiso Lopang on his left. The building on the background is the airport being prepared for the Football World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Vishy and Aruna arrive at the dinner hosted for them by NIIT

The BCF team at the dinner – your writer is the man with dreadlocks!

NIIT Botswana MD Sheela Raja Ram addressing guests at the dinner

The moment that everyone one had been waiting for, a speech by the GM Anand, finally arrived. As the champion walked to the podium, the whole hall stood up in a massive show of respect for a man whose title is undisputed, following his tournament and match win, thus ensuring the world has only one champion.

Respect! The whole hall stands up as the champion walks to the podium

I am speaking from the bottom of my heart, the champion seems to be saying in his address

The hall is packed, and everyone listens attentively to the World Champion

The champion noted that he had always wanted to visit Botswana, and has been warmly received. In his speech he mentioned that in chess one always has to come up with a new plan for every game, as what has been played will be studied by opponents and therefore will be of no use in future. As for his Mind Champions Academy project, GM Anand noted that “studies showed lower levels of delinquency in kids taking up the game of chess, and the game also improved academic performance” and was happy that BCF was planning on a similar initiative.

The Anands with the BCF team that worked hard to make sure his stay is enjoyable

In a rare gesture, the champion went around all the tables in the hall and shook hands with everyone, an act that left a lasting impression on all those in attendance.

Booster Galesekegwe (left), whose camera lens brought you all these pictures. Booster is a freelance photographer who has covered many international events in Botswana.

Kenneth Boikhutswane, the author of this report, is Botswana Chess Federation Secretary General, and has written extensively on chess for Mmegi newspaper.

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