Who is Phiona Mutesi?
Phiona Mutesi is a Ugandan chess player. Born in one of the largest slums in Kampala, she is the three-time winner of Ugandan Women's Junior Chess Championship and is one of the first titled lady chess players of Uganda. Mutesi has represented her nation at four chess Olympiads including the 41st Chess Olympiad and 42nd Chess Olympiad. Today, this young chess star has become an inspiration for several people who dream of becoming a chess player. Mutesi, who had spent her early childhood days in utter poverty, is adored not just because of her chess playing techniques but also because of her sheer dedication towards her game. She is one of the top chess players of Uganda who have a massive fan following all across the nation. Mutesi is also the subject of Tim Crothers’ book titled ‘The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster,’ as well as its film adaption.
In 2010, Phiona Mutesi played at the 39th Chess Olympiad in Russia, appearing in six rounds on board 2 as well as one round on board 1. Impressed by Mutesi’s performance in the Olympiad, chess journalist John Saunders commented that her current playing standard could be referred to that of a modest yet capable player. However, placed in the perspective of her environmental and educational deprivation, Phiona's accomplishment in reaching such a point has been overwhelming.
Mutesi became the first Ugandan woman chess player to win Open Category of National Junior Chess Championship in 2012. The same year, Mutesi, along with Ivy Amoko, was accorded the Woman Candidate Master title. This made both the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history.
In 2013, the Ugandan chess star played in Uganda’s National Junior Chess Championship once again and reached the finals. There, Mutesi won ‘Under 20 Girls Category’ but unfortunately couldn’t win the Open Category. A year later, she represented her country at the 41st Chess Olympiad in 2014. After this, Mutesi once again represented Uganda at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in 2016.
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Phiona Mutesi was born in Kampala, Uganda in 1996. When she was three, her father died of AIDS. Later on, her older sister named Julia died of unknown causes. At age nine, she dropped out of her school because of financial problems.
She started playing chess in an after-school program run by Sports Outreach Institute, a Christian and sports mission. Her coach was Robert Katende who immediately recognized the potential the young girl possessed.
Mutesi later returned to school in 2010, appearing for her primary exam at Universal Junior School in Kampala. She then completed her secondary education from St. Mbuga vocational school. In 2017, the Ugandan chess player started attending the Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, USA.