Phiona Mutesi of Uganda achieved worldwide fame as the subject of the book, “The Queen of Katwe“. This was a spellbinding book that details the tremendous hardships of her life and how her discovery of chess helped to give her hope for a better life. Despite being from the poorest villages in Uganda, she was able to make the national team and take her first trip outside of her country for the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Phiona also represented her country at the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.
After her whirlwind American tour last year, she returned this year to attend the Women in the World Summit in New York. She had a desire to meet former World Champion Garry Kasparov. The meeting was arranged and Kasparov entered the room bearing gifts. He signed a copy of his “Kasparov vs. Karpov” detailing some of his epic matches with his chief adversary (now ally). Kasparov challenged her to a game.
After going into a ending Kasparov’s pawns steamrolled her into resignation. However, she was grateful for the experience. Kasparov mentioned that she had glimmers of talent and added, “Who knows, she could be the next Judit Polgar.” The point was that one’s fortunes may lie in their determination, but must also be a factor of the resources they can secure to reach maximum potential. We may never know Phiona’s full potential, but chess is not the main point of her story.