Skip to comments.Checkmate: From a Slum to Chess Superstar
Posted on 12/13/2012 12:43:00 AM PST by expat1000
A 16-year-old from Uganda just wanted something to eat the day she wandered into a chess tournament that swept her out of the slums and into the international spotlight.
In 2011, Tim Crothers wrote a viral piece for ESPN Magazine about Phiona Mutesi. The story is once again getting attention as Crothers tours the U.S. this week to promote a full-length book about the teen, who he says is the ultimate underdog.
Before I discovered chess I was living on the streets, Mutesi told CNN in an interview broadcast on Monday. You couldnt have anything to eat at the streets.
In 2005, a hungry Mutesi arrived at a missionary where 28-year-old Ugandan Robert Katende was teaching locals to play chess in exchange for a cup of porridge, the Guardian reported. Her brother, who was with her, had seen the tournaments before and also needed food.
I had never heard of chess, she told the paper. But I liked how the pieces looked. Katende showed the basics to Mutesi, who was nine at the time.
(Excerpt) Read more at thingsgoneright.com ...
After a club soccer match in 2003, his coach told him about a job at Sports Outreach, and Robert, a born-again Christian, found his calling. He started playing for the ministry's team and was also assigned to Katwe, where he began drawing kids from the slum with the promise of soccer and postgame porridge. After several months, he noticed some children just watching from the sidelines, and he searched for a way to engage them. He found a solution in a nearly forgotten relic, a chess set given to him by a friend back in secondary school. "I had my doubts about chess in Katwe," Katende admits. "With their education and their environment, I wondered, Can these kids really play this game?"
The contents of Phiona's home are: two water jugs, wash bin, small charcoal stove, teapot, a few plates and cups, toothbrush, tiny mirror, Bible and two musty mattresses. The latter suffice for the five people who regularly sleep in the shack: Phiona, mother Harriet, teenage brothers Brian and Richard, and her 6-year-old niece, Winnie. Pouches of curry powder, salt and tea leaves are the only hints of food.
“Earlier this year, she earned the title of Woman Candidate Master at the 40th Chess Olympiad, according to Fox Charlotte. Shes also the youngest winner of the African Chess Championship.”
No foodstamps. No government handouts. Just her intelligence and her will. G-d bless her. I hope her dreams come true.