Ugandan chess phenom Phiona Mutesi will visit Memphis to share her inspiring story with the award-winning chess team at Douglass K-8 School on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
Mutesi, who lost her father to AIDS at age 3, grew up in a Ugandan slum – one of the worst in the world – and began playing chess in a missionary program as a way to receive free food. She would eventually become the three-time Women's Junior Chess Champion of Uganda and the youngest person to ever win the African Chess Championship.
Douglass chess instructor Dr. Jeff Bulington believes Mutesi's visit will be a great learning opportunity for his students.
"They'll benefit from spending personal time with someone who has successfully used chess not merely as an avenue out of profoundly challenging socioeconomic circumstances, but as a general model of planning, study, persistence, play and delayed gratification," said Bulington.
Chess is not a prevalent game in the Douglass school's community. Yet, the team is excelling in academics and chess competitions. On April 14, the Douglass girls chess team traveled to Northbrook, Ill., and claimed second place in the Under 14 section of the Kasparov Chess Foundation's All-Girls National Chess Championship, one of the largest tournaments of its kind to be held in the U.S. During a recent state championship, half of Douglass' team competed in the high school section, placing in the top three among the state's best high school teams.
Additionally, the students are using chess to help build skills in critical thinking, math and more.
Mutesi and her coach, Robert Katende, will be at Douglass from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They will also visit Kingsbury Elementary, which has a newly founded and highly promising chess program, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. They are scheduled to speak at a public event at Streets Ministries, 1304 N. Graham, at 7 p.m.
The stop in Memphis is part of a U.S. tour during which Mutesi is sharing her story. Disney is moving to make a film based upon the book about her, "The Queen of Katwe."
While recently visiting Clark Magnet School in Glendale, a student asked Mutesi how to get better at chess
"You have to play with people stronger than you," said Mutesi, in a story reported by the Glendale News-Press.
"Don't lose hope in whatever situation you're in," she added.
(For more information about Mutesi or to track her travels in the United States and abroad, Visit www.QueenofKatwe.com for more information about Mutesi and to keep track of her travels in the U.S. and elsewhere.)