Zambia Zambia Zambia
Amon Simutowe receives his certificate for the GM result. Photo by Ben Schulte.

Amon Simutowe receives his certificate for the GM result. Photo by Ben Schulte.

Not long ago Zambia's Amon Simutowe questioned whether he would have the energy to continue his quest for the GM title. Talent was never the issue, but with the dwindling resources, no foreseeable financial support and prospects for graduate school looming, the 25-year old had to make some tough decisions. Having just graduated with distinction from University of Texas-Dallas, Simutowe had been feverishly preparing applications to get into a competitive graduate school. Chess had become an afterthought.

At some point in the spring, Simutowe made the decision that would change the course of his life. In a May 28th interview with The Chess Drum's
Daaim Shabazz, he stated his intention. "The most important decision for me was to decide that I would put in the next six months to get the norm done," he stated.  He then charted a course by listing a number of competitive tournaments to get into form and made pleas for assistance… financially and in terms of coaching. Neither of those materialized, but certain omens started to happen.

The aforementioned interview was conducted during the
Chicago Open where he was inspired by his exciting draw with GM Alexander Shabalov. Sometimes one can catch a glimpse of destiny by following omens. In the Chicago Open, GM Anatoly Lein forfeited his game with Simutowe and stated, "I am not playing two Grandmasters in a row with black pieces." Of course, Simutowe was not a Grandmaster, but the wise Russian master had seen something. These signs and others would continue to follow the young Zambian.

He then trekked to the National Open, World Open, U.S. Open and the New Jersey Futurity… following his dream. His results were mixed, but Simutowe had played some inspiring chess including a nice win against GM Hikaru Nakamura at the U.S. Open. Congratulatory remarks came in from around the world.

After a mediocre New Jersey Futurity event, Simutowe stated that he needed a break. The opportunity came for him to travel to the tropical island of Trinidad & Tobago to play in the
CMMB Caribbean Championships.  He would come in joint 1st and the tournament would provide him with a tune-up for the Euwe Stimulans tournament in the Netherlands.

Armed with one piece of heavy luggage and his laptops, Simutowe then flew from Trinidad to Barbados, transferred in London and then on to the Netherlands for the Euwe tournament. Playing against three legendary figures and several hungry lions, Simutowe prepared for tough road.

IM Amon Simutowe at the 2007 Chicago Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Amon Simutowe at Chicago Open.
(Photo by Daaim Shabazz)

Another omen occurred when the "Zambezi Shark" started the tournament with four wins and told the Zambian Post,

"This is incredible for me. I was hoping for a good tournament but I did not expect such a good start. What is even more incredible is that I have won three of these four games while playing black pieces as this is considered a disadvantage.

He continued,

Gaprindashvilli is a 66-year-old female chess legend who was the first woman to earn a male grand master title. Playing her was a great honour and beating her was something else. She is a former women's world champion and first woman to earn a male grand master title."

By now, Simutowe knew he was in good form and pressed hard in each game. He proceeded to beat Fridrick Olafsson and Bianca Muhren in tough endings, but nearly met catastrophe against a determined Helgi Ziska.

Miraculously, he held the 77-move draw, thus clinching the final GM norm.  "Mission accomplished," he stated. It is a mission that he has had since he blazed onto the African scene wreaking havoc as a precocious teen. Now it had become a reality.

Amon Simutowe in Trinidad & Tobago. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Amon Simutowe in Trinidad & Tobago.
(Photo by Daaim Shabazz)

It is befitting that he would be ushered into Grandmaster status by legends Nona Gaprindashvili, Fridrick Olafsson and Oscar Panno. In Trinidad, Simutowe stated that he wanted to be an ambassador for chess. This in part explains his reasons for traveling twice to Jamaica and then to Trinidad. "I'd like to do a tour of Africa to promote chess," he told Daaim Shabazz. The "GM-elect" will now compete in the African Championships in Namibia with hopes of qualifying for the World Championship cycle for an unprecedented fourth time. Perhaps the best thing is that he now travels back to Africa… where his journey began.

Paulo Coelho's, "The Alchemist" a young traveler named Santiago meandered from his native land and settled in a foreign country for a short time. At different points in his journey, Santiago learned more of his "Personal Legend" and then  trekked through a desert. Almost giving up his search, he continued forward and after many trials and tribulations, found his treasure. While Simutowe did not travel across the Saharan desert, he has come a long way to find his Personal Legend. He will now fly over the Sahara… with his destiny fulfilled as a chess Grandmaster.  "Maktub"… it was written!

Congratulations to GM-elect Amon Simutowe!!
GM-elect Amon Simutowe receives his 1st place trophy at the Euwe Stimulans tourney. Photo by Ben Schulte.

GM-elect Amon Simutowe receives his 1st place trophy at the Euwe Stimulans tourney. Photo by Ben Schulte.

National Anthem


The Chess Drum, "Africa's Next Hope,"
21 March 2007.

The Chess Drum, "Interview with Amon Simutowe,"
(conducted by Daaim Shabazz), 28 May 2007.

Official Site here! Drum Coverage here!

Note: Post your congratulatory remarks on the Drum Blog!

Essay was written and posted 25 August 2007
by Daaim Shabazz

Posted by The Chess Drum: 25 August 2007

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