Far, far away in October 2012, we featured the remarkable story of 15-year-old Phiona Mutesi, the Ugandan chess prodigy who fought her way out of the slums of Katwe- replete with poverty, sickness and illiteracy- with her proficiency at playing a board game.
Fast forward to 2015, and the Queen of Katwe seems unstoppable!
Phiona Mutesi has competed in chess Olympiads in Siberia, Turkey and Norway, and has played against her hero, Russian former world champion and Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. She has earned the title of Woman Candidate Master ranking from the World Chess Federation and has become the inspiration for school students in the United States who have started a tournament in her name.
This is the girl of who author Tim Crothers wrote: “Phiona Mutesi IS the ultimate underdog. To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. And finally, to be female is to be an underdog in Katwe.”
Underdog? Not anymore!
The president of the Uganda Chess Federation Vianney Luggya, attests to the impact Phiona’s success has made on young girls in Uganda and upcoming chess players, stressing that the number of female players participating in the Ugandan national chess championships has doubled.
The tale of the Queen of Katwe has evidently inspired folks way beyond Uganda’s borders as it is billed to become a Hollywood film starring Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o who is tipped to play her mother and Golden Globe nominated Nigerian actor, David Oyelowo . It is to be filmed in Uganda and South Africa, directed by Mira Nair and produced by Disney.
Phiona aims to become a Grandmaster, the highest level a chess player can attain, as well as a paediatrician. For someone who could barely read at nine, chess has opened up a world of possibilities hitherto unknown. Now, Phiona can dream. She also desires to run a home for children, in order to help overlooked and underrated girls from her community.
We are cheering you on Phiona! Thank you for being such an inspiration!