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Phiona Mutesi: Meet the Ugandan Chess Prodigy

March 4, 2016

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As legend now has it, 9-year-old Phiona Mutesi simply wanted a meal when she went into a church in Katwe, a neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda.  The church offered a chess program, and the snacks were a way to get folks in.

Mutesi discovered chess that day and a prodigy was born.

Her talents were clear and within two years of playing she became Uganda’s national women’s junior champion.  She went on to compete in Olympiads in Turkey and Norway, earning the Women’s Candidate Master ranking by the World Chess Federation. She’s even played against her idol, former world champion and Grandmaster Garry Kasparov.

If going from the harsh slums of Uganda to the world’s top chess tournaments seems the stuff of dreams, Disney has come along to make her real life tale into a movie.  Directed by Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe stars Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo and is slated to be released sometime in 2016.

Not only has Mutesi inspired girls in her native Uganda to take up chess, doubling enrollment, she will soon reach and inspire kids that have never heard of her, or Uganda, or maybe even chess.

So the next time someone offers you a meal, take it. It could change your life.


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