Friday, July 6, 2012

My Review of "The Queen of Katwe"

Sports writer Tim Crothers has authored The Queen of Katwe, regarding Phiona Mutesi [pictured], the national chess champion of Uganda by age 15. From a human interest standpoint, Phiona's tale is such a harrowing one that you will never forget it, once you have read it.

The first half of this 224 page book is difficult to get through; at times, it almost wallows in misery.  I found the second half to be more reader friendly, describing Phiona's successes in chess tournaments, both at home and abroad.

Just how strong a player is Phiona, really?  From what I gather on the Internet, she has fared poorly in FIDE rated games and currently has no FIDE rating of her own.  As Black against 1.e4, Phiona plays the Philidor Defense, although not the Counter Gambit variation.

The book contains only one error that I could find: Scholar's Mate is repeatedly called Fool's Mate.

What I like most about Phiona is that she is a fierce competitor.  I always tell my students that how you handle adversity will determine how strong a chessplayer you will be.  Phiona has faced more adversity in her life than any other chessplayer that I know.  The kids in the documentary film Brooklyn Castle have led lives of ease, by comparison; and they live below the poverty line!

Phiona is scheduled to play for Uganda at the 2012 Olympiad, beginning August 27th in Istanbul.  I will be rooting for her.