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Aug. 15, 2021

TEBOHO JAFETA

4 min read

The highly decorated Chess Master Tokelo Klaas

The highly decorated Chess Master Tokelo Klaas

CM Tokelo Klaas (left) at an international chess tourney

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TOKELO Klaas is one of the most decorated chess players in Lesotho and holds a Fédération Internationale des Échecs, (FIDE) Candidate Master (CM) title.

His standard rating is currently 1830 and is the second player in the country who holds a CM title after veteran chess master, Chief Joang Molapo.

Klaas, 24, is ranked number one in all active chess players in Lesotho.

He is also ranked 1388 under active players in Africa and 50859 under active players worldwide.

The tactical player has done exceptionally well in local, regional and global tournaments.

He was awarded a CM title after a sterling showing at the 43rd World Chess Olympiad held in Batumi, Georgia in 2018.

His list of accolades won over the years is endless. He won a silver medal at the 2015 BOLESWA Intervarsity Games held in Gaborone, Botswana. In 2016, he collected a silver medal at the Lesotho Open before winning a bronze medal at the Blue Mountain Inn (BMI) Open later that year. The same year, he collected a silver medal at the BOLESWA Intervarsity Games.

He was crowned the national champion in 2017 before winning the Mohale’s Hoek Open the same year. He won gold at the 2017 BOLESWA Intervarsity Games in Swaziland.

He also won a bronze at the 2018 Eswatini Open. Later that year, he won the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Open. The following year he collected gold at the BMI Open and a silver medal at the BOLESWA Intervarsity Games in Maseru.

He collected a cold medal at the 2019 Albert Moroka Open in Thaba Nchu, South Africa.

He was named the 2019 Lesotho Annual Sport Awards (LASA) Sportsman Star of the Year. In July 31, he won a gold medal at the 2021 Spring Open.

Born on December 2, 1996, Tokelo Klaas is the son of Lerotholi and 'Mathabiso Klaas of Sekamaneng, Berea. He is the second child in a family of two boys.

He did his primary education at Tšepo Christian Primary School from 2002 and completed in 2008. He proceeded to Lesotho High school in 2009 and obtained a Junior Certificate in 2011 and later a Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) in 2013.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) Degree from NUL in 2020 after entering the institution in 2014.

As a young boy growing up on the dirty streets of Sekamaneng, Klaas played football with his peers.

He took up chess at high school and his family stood behind him throughout his journey.

His maiden appearance at a tournament was in 2013 at the High Schools Chess Championship Team event, where his team, Lesotho High School walked away with a silver medal.

He cut his teeth internationally in February 2014 in Pretoria at the Lesotho versus South Africa chess challenge.

He performed poorly, collecting 1.5 over 9 points though he had the highest points among his teammates.

As an aspiring chess player, he was groomed by the National Chess Instructor, Masilo Mafube.

In the coaching department, Klaas reveres another National Chess Instructor, Moseli Phera. He is also a huge fan of the U.S Grand Master Fabiano Caruana, Zambian International Master Gillian Bwalya and South African International Master Watu Kobese.

His best local competitors include Sechaba Khalema and Theko Khanyapa.

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Khalema describes Klaas as a cool person whom he has known since their high school days.

“His style of play matches with his cool character. When he does not understand something he quickly asks. He is a relaxed player who never panics no matter the pressure he is under, hence, he makes a few mistakes,” he says.

He regards him as a formidable opponent in any competition.

His former coach, Mafube shares similar sentiments about his cool disposition, saying he is also extremely curious.

“He pays special attention to details and is extremely focused. Another thing I like about his style of play is that he has a fierce fighting spirit under that cool temperament.”

His worst moment was losing a game playing for the country at the 42nd edition of the 2016 World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016.

“I was playing against an Oman FIDE Master (FM) Salim Mohammed rated 2050. I had an advantage to win the match but I failed to convert and my experienced opponent capitalised,” Klaas recalls.

His best moment was defeating the Malawi National Champion, Chiletso Chipanga at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Troms, Norway.

He considers competing at the 2014 Chess Olympiad as his best moment ever, as a chess player. 

“Another best moment was winning the 2017 National Chess Championship,” he says.

Klaas works fulltime as a pharmacist at the Divine Pharmacy in Maseru.

Apart from his undying love for chess, he also enjoys listening to music, playing board and video games as well as watching football.

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