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Teenage Chess Prodigy from Uganda to Appear at Providence Hall

Phiona Mutesi
Phiona Mutesi

Phiona Mutesi sleeps in a decrepit shack in Kampala, Uganda, with her mother and three siblings and struggles to find a single meal each day.

Phiona has been out of school most of her life because her mother cannot afford to send her. She is not sure when she was born, but estimates it to be 1993. Just now, in her late teens, she is learning to read and write. Phiona is also one of the best chess players in the world.

She began playing in tournaments and became the first female player to win the open category of the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda. Phiona is also the youngest person ever to win the African chess championship.

In 2012, a book was published about Phiona, titled The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster and written by Tim Crothers. Disney has optioned the rights to the book, and is starting work on a movie.

Phiona will speak from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. this Friday at Providence Hall, 630 E. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara, about her journey from the slums of Uganda to international chess stardom. Then Phiona will challenge some Providence Hall students in a game of chess!

For more information, click here to watch an ESPN short documentary on “The Queen of Katwe.”

— Elaine Rottman is the director of advancement at Providence Hall.

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