At 15, Yvonne Saina is poised as Zambia's next star!
Zambia Zambia Zambia

Tamara Gundu, "Saina, 15, Becomes Leading Female Chess Player," The Post, 1 June 2003 (Lusaka, Zambia).

"I would like us to have more training material," says upcoming chess player Yvonne Saina. At 15 and a grade 10 pupil at Matero Girls Secondary School, Yvonne has won a number of major local tournaments and is poised to become the country's leading female chess player.

"I could love it if we had more equipment and material because it would help us a lot. Sometimes when we are playing at a big tournament, we don't have chess clocks on all boards and I think this affects us in a way," she says.

Last weekend Yvonne caused an upset when she won the Zone Four Closed championship held at Lusaka's Fairview Hotel. Yvonne finished first, beating seasoned senior female players who were drawn from across the zone (Lusaka and Central Province). "I was happy to win the championship and after this, I don't think I fear any female player, I only fear male players," she says.

Yvonne has represented Zambia in only one international tournament: The Zimbabwe Open, where she finished in joint first position in the lady's category.  "The only difference between me and the lady I tied with is that she is rated by the International Chess Federation, FIDE and I am not," Yvonne says.

"I want to be like Amon Simutowe, he is an extremely strong player, I like the way he plays, I particularly like playing games which are solid, I don't like open games."

"My first major tournament was the Zambia Open championship in 2001 when I was only 13 and I didn't perform well, but the following year I took part in the Agip Open and I surprised everybody when I was first, despite my age." Since then, Yvonne has continued her brilliant performance in all major tournaments. "I also won a tournament sponsored by the Alliance Franšais," Yvonne says. "My latest victory was last week at the Zone Four Closed championship."

Yvonne attributes her success in chess to the dedication she has to the sport.  This has earned her a place in the Chess national team which will represent Zambia at the All-Africa Games to be hosted by Nigeria in October.  "I really enjoy it, I belong to Red Arrows Chess Club and I play every weekend, but I also try to train at home," she says.

Yvonne pays glowing tribute to Zambia's International Master
Amon Simutowe, the former Africa Junior champion.  "I want to be like Amon Simutowe, he is an extremely strong player, I like the way he plays, I particularly like playing games which are solid, I don't like open games."

"My advice to my fellow young chess players is that they should study more about the game, because it is a unique game that requires you to read a lot."

Yvonne says her ambition is to become a grand master. "But I can only achieve this if I got more help and practice from senior players and this brings me to the point of equipment, which we seriously need in order to achieve our goals. When I was at the Zimbabwe Open, I saw a big difference in the facilities. At the moment I don't even have a coach."

Yvonne says she started playing chess when she was 10 years old.  "It all started with my father (
Edfil Saina) who used to teach my two elder sisters Sibongile and Sipiwe, but it so happened that I developed more interest in the sport than my sisters and my father's attention shifted to me. Since then, I have been training with my father at least five days a week and I have even become better than him," she says.

Yvonne also pays tribute to
Kennedy Phiri, the proprietor of Four Knights Chess School.  "I used to train at this school when I just started playing chess and I thank Mr. Phiri for his encouragement," Yvonne says. "My advice to my fellow young chess players is that they should study more about the game, because it is a unique game that requires you to read a lot. I also urge other kids who are not engaged in any sporting activity to find something constructive to do, so that they pre-occupy themselves."

Yvonne says she wants to become a lawyer.  "I want to study law, because I like the way lawyers perform their duties," says Yvonne who is the third in a family of four girls. "My favourite subjects at school are Maths, Biology and English and I also play Badminton."

Stanley Chumfwa, one of Zambia's leading chess players had this to say about Yvonne: "I think she is quite a strong player. In my opinion she is the best lady player in the country. I do assist her from time to time and I will continue to do so."

Posted by The Chess Drum: 5 June 2003