I’m writing about Phiona Mutesi because I think she’s a great athlete…
Mutesi plays chess and I believe chess is a sport. It requires hours of practice and a range of strategic skills in order to beat an opponent. It’s competitive. It also requires physical and metal stamina. There are tournaments and champions crowned. Yup chess is definitely a sport and Phiona Mutesi is one heck of an athlete.
Last week, the Disney movie, The Queen of Katwe, opened in theaters. It tells the incredible life story of Phiona Mutesi, the unlikely chess champion from Katwe, Uganda.
Mutesi was just 9 years old when she began learning to play chess. She grew up in one of the harshest slums in East Africa where she had to overcome stereotypes and family hardships in order to become a champion. She admits she wasn’t a big fan of the game at first, but her coach, Robert Katende, saw her talent immediately. He brought the sport to Uganda because he believed it could be a way to connect to the village children while teaching them important life skills: focus and strategic thinking.
“Chess is a lot like my life. If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger, but you know any bad decision could be your last.” ~ Phiona Mutesi
Mutesi was a quick study. By age 11 she was junior chess champion of Uganda. However, she faced opposition from her peers and family members who believed that chess was not a game for girls. However, she overcame adversity and became Uganda’s first titled female chess champion. Now at age 20, she is a Woman Candidate Master, spending her time traveling the world competing in tournaments.
“After playing some tournaments and getting some prizes, I became interested. I felt good. Most of the time when I’m playing, I feel something is within me. It’s natural.” ~Phiona Mutesi
Mutesi still finds it hard to believe there is a movie about her life. The money she has received through the book and film contracts have made her family financially secure so she can now focus on finishing school and returning to chess. Phiona is not done yet: she has her sights set on becoming a Grandmaster, the highest title a chess player can attain. #goPhionago