On Monday, December 10, Phiona Mutesi, 3-time Women’s Junior Chess Champion of Uganda, will speak to young chess players about her incredible journey from a street kid in Katwe, a notorious slum in Uganda, to becoming a champion chess player.
The event, presented by the US Chess Federation, will be held 12 noon to 2 pm at Gompers Preparatory Academy, 1005 47th Street, San Diego, CA 92102. Phiona and her Coach Robert Katende will lead a question and answer session and participate in tactical exercises with the Gompers students.
Phiona Mutesi’s story begins in the Katwe slum, one of the poorest and most despairing places on earth. Phiona grew up sleeping in a decrepit shack with her mother and three siblings. Her father died of AIDS. Phiona has been out of school most of her life because her mother cannot afford it; she has often struggled to find a single meal each day. One day in 2005, while searching for food, nine-year-old Phiona followed her brother to a dusty veranda where she met Robert Katende, a war refugee turned missionary, who had an improbable dream: to empower kids through chess. Laying a board in the dirt, Robert painstakingly taught the game each day to a rag-tag group of local children. At first, the slum kids came for a free bowl of porridge, but many quickly grew to love chess—a game that, just like their daily lives, means using strategy in order to survive. Of these kids, one stood out as an immense talent: Phiona. Her remarkable story is captured in a new book by Tim Crothers: “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster.”