All The World’s A Chess Board

Famed Chess Queen Phiona Mutesi Plays a Life-Size Game

Queen of Katwe film shot

Toronto, ON, April 7, 2017: Phiona Mutesi, the Ugandan chess player behind the Disney film, Queen of Katwe, which premiered at TIFF in 2016, is back in Toronto this week. Her visit wraps up Saturday with a life-size game of chess at Branksome Hall.

Like Lewis Carrol’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, Mutesi’s story is very much that of a pawn promoted to queen. She started life in a slum area of Kampala, working as a street vendor. Through chess, she rose to national and international fame, winning the national Junior Championships and representing Uganda several times at the international Chess Olympiad.

Her current tour of Toronto with Beautiful World Canada has included a Q&A with young players in Regent Park on Monday, and a game against Canadian General Roméo Dallaire on Tuesday. Saturday she is guest of honour at a charity tournament in Rosedale, where she will play a living game of chess with costumed children as pieces. The event raises funds for children’s chess programs in Toronto through Chess Institute of Canada and for women’s scholarships in Uganda, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone through Beautiful World.

A living chess game from Monselice, Italy

A living chess game from Monselice, Italy

All the world’s a chess board? “Chess, the way we teach it, is more than just a game,” says tournament organizer, Tal Granite. “We are changing lives.” Granite uses chess as a tool to teach important life skills, like goal setting. Mutesi’s chess coach Robert Katende, from Sports Outreach Mission in Uganda, sees chess the same way. As he says in the film, “Chess helps us solve problems. It teaches us to make a plan.”

One important lesson to be learned from chess is to face life’s challenges courageously. “If your goal scares you,” says Granite, “you are on the right path. Dare to dream.” It’s the same advice Katende gives his player when she fears her life will never change: “What matters is when you reset the pieces and play again.”