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Phiona Mutesi

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Name  Phiona Mutesi

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Phiona Mutesi (born c. 1996) is a Ugandan chess player. She was born in Katwe, the largest of Kampala's eight slums. Mutesi has won the Ugandan Girls' championship three times, has represented Uganda at four chess olympiads, and is one of the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history. She is the subject of a 2012 book and the 2016 film Queen of Katwe.


Phiona Mutesi From slum life to Disney film Ugandan Phiona Mutesi

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Phiona Mutesi End of the Road for World Renowned Phiona Mutesi

Mutesi grew up in the Ugandan neighbourhood of Katwe. When she was roughly three years old, her father died of AIDS. Her older sister, Julia, subsequently died of unknown causes. At age nine, Mutesi dropped out of school because her family could no longer afford to send her.

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Living day to day, Mutesi sold maize in the Katwe street market. One day she followed her brother and discovered a project run by Sports Outreach Institute, a Christian and sports mission. In an after-school program run by Robert Katende, Mutesi began playing chess.

Phiona Mutesi Phiona Mutesi 17YearOld Ugandan Chess Player

Mutesi later returned to school, sitting in 2010 for her primary exam and studying at a Universal Junior school in Makindye, Kampala. She continued her secondary education at St. Mbuga vocational school.

Chess career

In 2010, Mutesi played six rounds on board 2 and one round on board 1 for Uganda at the 39th Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. She earned 1.5 points from the seven games she played. At this event, she attracted the attention of journalist Tim Crothers, who wrote a substantial piece on her for ESPN The Magazine.

As of 2012, she was a three-time winner of the junior girls' chess championship of Uganda.

In 2012, Mutesi and Ivy Amoko were accorded Woman Candidate Master titles after scoring the required 50% from 9 games at the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. This made them the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history. The same year she became the first female player to win the Open Category of the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda.

In 2013, she again played in the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda and reached the finals against Lutaaya Shafiq of Makerere University. She won the Under 20 Girls Category but not the Open Category.

Mutesi represented Uganda at the 2014 41st Chess Olympiad and the 2016 42nd Chess Olympiad.

Commenting on one of her games from the 2010 Olympiad, British chess journalist John Saunders wrote that "Phiona's present playing standard is that of a modest but competent club player but, placed in the context of her environmental and educational deprivation, her achievement in reaching such a level has been awe-inspiring."


In 2010, Silent Images made a short documentary film about her. Sports Outreach used this documentary to interest The Walt Disney Company in making a film about Mutesi's story, which came out in 2016.

In 2012, a book was published about Mutesi entitled The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster and authored by Tim Crothers.

Walt Disney Pictures optioned the rights to the book and began work on the film in 2012.

The 2016 film, Queen of Katwe, stars Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo. Mutesi is portrayed by Madina Nalwanga. Mutesi attended premieres of the film in Toronto, Canada (September 10), Hollywood, California (September 20), and Kampala, Uganda (October 1).


Phiona Mutesi Wikipedia