Phiona's rise from slum girl to international chess star
Uganda's three-times Women's Junior Chess champion - Phiona Mutesi stumbled into the foray of chess with a totally different agenda. She would go to chess clubs hoping to get a free meal but gradually got drawn into the game. Phiona's success story is yet another of the transformation of a poor slum girl into another rising African star already shining on the world sphere.
There are conflicting accounts as to when she was born in the mid-1990s. While Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) - the organisation that governs international chess competitions has her as born in 1993, it is believed that she might have actually been born in 1995 or 1996.
She grew up in the Ugandan slum of Katwe where as of 2011 fifty percent of teen girls were mothers. When Phiona was about three her father died of AIDS and shortly afterwards her older sister Juliet died of an unknown cause.
When Phiona was about nine, and had already dropped out of school as her family could not afford to send her, she found a chess programme run by the Sports Outreach Institute, which taught her how to play chess.
In 2010, she played on board 2 for Uganda at the 39th Chess Olympiad, and as of 2011 was three-time Women's Junior Champion of Uganda. In 2012, Phiona and Ivy Amoko earned Woman Candidate Master (WCM) titles as a result of their performances at the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, making them the first FIDE titled female players in Ugandan chess history. That same year Phiona became the first female player to win the open category of the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda.
2012 has been a dramatic year for Phiona as a book written by American sports writer Tim Crothers was published about her titled: "The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster." Disney has also optioned the rights to the book, and has started work on a movie about the young chess star. The money paid to her by Disney has enabled her and her family to buy some land. She hopes to become a doctor and a Grandmaster.
Phiona is also the youngest person ever to win the African chess championship.