Phiona reigns as Queen again!

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Phiona playing hard for the win!

 

Phiona Mutesi has again taken the championship of the Uganda Rwabushenyi Chess Championship 2015 which just concluded this week in Kampala.  Phiona only lost to fellow Olympian Gorretti Angolikin to finish with seven points out of possible eight.

In second place was Gloria Nansubuga who managed to challenge all the Olympian ladies and won her match against Christine Namaganda in the final round of the championship to get to second place and Namaganda finished in fourth place.

The top 12 ladies have been advanced to the last round of the Olympiad 2016 qualifiers to be played next month.  The SOM Chess Academy qualified five girls in the super 12; that is Phiona, Gloria, Stella, Vanessa and Joan.  Five players are to be selected eventually to represent Uganda for the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan in August 2016.

In the men category, three boys from the Academy have advanced to the next phase of the Olympiad qualifiers of 30 players. They are Benjamin, Brian and Samuel.  In total, Robert Katende, Sports Outreach Kampala Director and chess coach, was able to select and register 25 children from the ministry’s chess centers.

 

Phiona and Gloria with trophies

Phiona and Gloria accept their trophies

Sit-down with Robert Katende

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This past October Sports Outreach was honored to have Robert Katende share at our annual banquet.  While Robert was in the United States he was able to catch up with friends, update us all on the latest happenings on the chess academy and the students, but there was so much to share we thought we would just let him tell you himself!

While the rest of the world will come to know Robert Katende from his portrayal by award winning actor David Oyelowo, Lynchburg, Virginia and its Sports Outreach Institute’s headquarters were recently treated to the man himself. Set to release next year, Queen of Katwe was an amazing opportunity for the people of Uganda—some receiving money for acting as extras—and reawakening Katende’s celebrity status, which he admits is of little concern to him in the face of what it means for his ministry.

Katende traveled from his home in Kampala, Uganda, to rainy Lynchburg to speak at SOI’s fifth annual banquet October 29.

“First and foremost I feel like I want to thank the people for their love. Their giving and their love has a tremendous impact to the world,” Katende said.

The Lynchburg Ballroom was clouded with an air of joy, gratitude and hope, but also a poignant realization of the work still needing to be done. As Robert rose to speak, his smile and gratitude gave testament to the work that has been done in his life and the lives of his students, by God utilizing SOI.

Just a few days prior, Robert sat in the SOI offices speaking about his life, the chess program and his hope for its future. As he spoke, the smile that preceded each of his sentences, was in stark contrast to the portrait just over his right shoulder displaying the intense glare of his chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi.

Years after his and Phiona’s story became the stuff of headlines, Robert still works to build his program. At that moment, his student Gloria—who some may remember as Phiona’s toddler chess mentor—was busy representing Uganda at a chess tournament in Greece.

“We have started seeing some of the fruits of our work,” Katende said.

The fruit spoken of translates both as infrastructure and resources that are growing the program, and as the success stories of slum kids that result. Robert hopes to teach the kids more about life than anything else, admitting that “chess is just a platform that I use to interact.”

Robert was happy to have attended one of his former student’s graduation party, who went on to become a math and physics teacher. He also notes that many of his current staff were former slum kids from his chess program.

Many developments have taken place and are currently underway in Uganda. From the humble beginnings of his one chess board and little shack, there are now about 1,400 children in the chess program, according to Robert and SOI. There are a total of five slum chess centers in Kampala, with some spreading into Gulu. Robert recently trained 36 teachers in Kenya to begin teaching chess as well.

Additionally, the program has spread to SOI’s Central American branches and is seeing some growth, according to SOI Director of Operations/CFO Sal Ferlise.

“Chess itself is more like life. People don’t know they are playing the chess of life. Everyone plays chess. Whatever you can find on the chess board you find in your day to day life. But, the chess board avails you the opportunity to try out situations and make those mistakes. So you have a platform where you can practice from, decision making, strategy, time and resource management,” Katende said.

Perhaps the most significant development currently underway, is the implementation of the Kampala Ministry Center. The center still has much work to be done, but will feature several key branches that address SOI’s main tenants. A few facilities include, a primary school, vocational centers, a health clinic, a sports ministry complex, lodging, and of course, a chess academy.

The center will serve as a hub for developmental learning and ministry for the eastern region of Central Africa. As Robert points out, there are many chess programs all over the world, but SOI’s goal is to use chess to mentor kids about life.

“I was not looking at making chess champions. My goal was having a platform to build relationships and see how I can build lives,” Katende said.

Although much of Robert’s success can be seen through the growth of the program, one cannot deny the growth he has had as a person. Robert has gone from an orphan, to the soccer star of Kampala, to a novice chess player just trying to reach kids, to a chess coach and family man.

“Robert is one of those rare leaders that has the ability to administrate positive change with all the intellectual, diplomatic, operational and visionary skills required. At the same time, Robert embodies the most sensitive and humble traits of a teacher and servant, never losing sight of sharing with one in need of hope and transformation,” Ferlise said.

Currently, Robert works as a social action secretary for FIDE World Chess Federation. He is a husband and father to two girls called Hope and Mercy, with a few more children he has adopted from the slums. Robert’s own family struggles as a child without a father, made him nervous to become one himself.

Robert found himself doing extensive research, reading books and attending seminars to learn how a father should conduct himself. He realized that his time as a mentor to the slum children was excellent training for such an undertaking. His children are even learning to play chess, beckoning him “Daddy come, let us play chess.”

“I think one thing I’ve learned is to yield a positive attitude in every situation. Especially as a believer. Whatever God allows to come my way, there is a lesson in it.”

Robert is now working on a program that will train the physically handicapped to be successful in the chess world. This coming March Robert will see the fruition of his petition to bring the first ever commission meeting of the world chess body to Africa, let alone Uganda. Robert hopes his program will receive greater recognition and his kids can attain higher rankings by training under visiting masters.

Interview by one of our very talented interns, Jeremy Angione.

Where to begin…

What a crazy few months it has been for Robert and Phiona with the filming of Queen of Katwe and their extra time needed there to the growth of the chess program in Uganda and Kenya and the nearing completion of the future Chess Academy and Mentoring Center!! It’s all so exciting, so we will just get to it:

Lupita at a Disney event

Lupita N’yongo speaking at a Disney event

We will start with the movie filming, since I know that naturally stirs instant jitters in all of us!  The Queen of Katwe filming has wrapped as far as know and is now in the editing phase!  Check out the Disney link for the movie.  We are still not positive on a release date, that is something that they like to keep close until they know for sure!  But, all news from Robert, who was on set probably 75% of the time helping and answering any questions, everything went really well and he seems very excited for the movie!

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Chess Program in Nairobi, Kenya

Now lets talk some chess, it is incredible how this program just continues to grow month to month.  More and more children become interested and more and more doors and opportunities seem to open and become available.  It is such a blessing the way this program helps so many children!  In Nairobi, Kenya where this program is barely a year old, they already have numerous chess programs.  They have even begun a special chess program for those with physical or mental handicap with the objective always being to share the gospel of Christ and also encourage the handicapped on the values of self esteem and to nurture talents as one way of solving our problems.

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It’s also very exciting that a dear friend of the chess ministry, Beatrize Marinelli, who works with the World Chess Federation, FIDE, is traveling to Uganda this week.  She will be visiting and training for four days in Gulu, Uganda and four days in Kampala, Uganda.  Beatrize has a team with her of coaches so that they can help answer, train and coach the current coaches and teachers while also delivering 40 chess sets to each location! WOW!   It will also be an awesome experience for her to see the Chess Academy and Mentoring Center which is part of the Kampala Ministry Center in person!  The Kampala Ministry Center will in addition to having a Chess Academy and Mentoring center, will have eight children’s homes, a school, public health facility, chapel, soccer field, basketball court, and much more.  If you would like to know more about this center or how you can get involved with this, please email us at, info@sportsoutreach.net.

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Make sure you check back next month for more updates on the growth of the chess program, the building of the Chess Center and the movie!

US Embassy Visit

This month, Coach Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi were invited by the USA Ambassador to start a Chess program in the US      Embassy Information Resource Center.  Coach Robert picked six children from the program to escort him and they were all able to enter the US  Embassy and meet with the Ambassador.

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Coach Robert  and   Phiona   presented   at   the   meeting   and   they  presented the Ambassador   with an autographed copy of the Queen of Katwe. The ambassador was very thankful to receive a copy of the book and he said he shall treasure that copy as one of the special items in his home!  The students to attend, applied via internet and among them was a lecturer from Makerere University.   The speaker was very thankful for the event and inspired enough to promise to mobilize other lecturers and some of her students to come and attend the sessions since they are once every month.  It was an amazing experience for everyone and just another way to demonstrate how chess is changing lives one move at a time!

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Queen of Katwe Movie News!

The filming has wrapped in Kampala and they have moved to South Africa.  With the move to South Africa also went six chess players from the Kampala Chess program who have never been outside of Uganda.  This is an amazing opportunity and experience for these children and we are incredibly thankful for the movie director, Mira Nair who is striving to show the real people of Uganda.

The Observer also published an article that featured David Oyelowo, who is playing Robert Katende and he speaks a little bit about the importance of this movie and telling the story if we ever want things to change.  Read the article here!

This summer has been a busy one already and we really have just begun!  Can’t wait to see what else is to come!

Chess is Moving…

Here at Queen of Katwe we typically discuss everything going on with Robert and Phiona in their immediate life and area, where they practice and coach in Kampala, Uganda.  But today, we want to share a little more about how their story has truly stretched across countries and even continents! When Robert started the chess program almost 10 years ago, it was to allow the opportunity for children who did not want to or could not participate in the soccer outreach.  He found that it then became much more than just a tool to engage children, but a way to teach them how to strategize and apply the thought process and planning aspect into your everyday life.  Learning to be aware of your surroundings, watching out behind you, beside you, in front of you, something that the children where they work have to do everyday.  So, Robert coached, he reached and ministered.  And now, Robert is not only coaching a group of children in Kampala, but now there is a Chess Academy being built in the new ministry center that is being constructed right outside of Kampala.  This will allow for much more room for teachings and also provide a space so that they can host their own tournaments.

Through Robert’s coaching and guidance there is now a chess program in Gulu, Uganda, Nairobi, Kenya and the newest location, Nuevo Cuscatlán, El Salvador.  These programs are still learning and growing, but aren’t we all?  We look forward to having the opportunity to now show and introduce you to a few other amazing players across the world!

In Gulu, Uganda which is a few hours away from Kampala and another ministry site with Sports Outreach, they have also started using the game of chess to start ministering and teaching the children in the area.  It was remarkable to watch as the new boards were handed out and these boys who had been playing soccer in the field came running over when they spotted the new boards.  They instantly started setting up the pieces and starting to play.  It is amazing to watch these boys sit and concentrate and be quiet and respectful to wait until one game is over before they switch so that everyone is allowed a turn.  These photos include some of the children in the area along with the teachers that take the time afterschool and on the weekends to teach the children the game of chess.

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In Nairobi, Kenya teacher Erick Oyugi saw the need for a chess program there.  With his leading it out starting at the beginning of this year, they now have a number of students who are interested and it is growing every week!!

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Now lets head to Latin America, in Nuevo Cuscatlán, El Salvador.  This is the newest chess program having just started last month!  But, they are already hard at it and everyone is wanting to learn more and be a part of the program.

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Don’t worry, we wouldn’t leave you without an update from Kampala too!

First, the filming has officially begun on the movie, Queen of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.  Here a few photos that Robert was able to catch between normal chess classes, his everyday duties with Sports Outreach and being available for the movie crew to help them with anything they may need.  We hope you enjoy these photos of a look into the movie life in Katwe!

Robert Katende breaking a coconut in celebration of the start of filming

Robert Katende breaking a coconut in celebration of the start of filming
Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/maishafilmlab

Lupita N'yongo meeting Harriet, Phiona's mother whom she will be playing.

Lupita N’yongo meeting Harriet, Phiona’s mother whom she will be playing.

Robert Katende tutoring David Oyelowo who will be playing Robert in the movie.

Robert Katende tutoring David Oyelowo who will be playing Robert in the movie.

We are so thankful to Mira Nair, Lupita N’yongo, David Oyelowo and all of the Disney crew who have been in Kampala for a few weeks now.  They have been so kind to all of the native Ugandans and accepting and excited to learn of the culture.

On the chess side of things, we just received word from Coach Robert yesterday that three of the SOM Chess Academy players Glorai, Phiona and Joan are now representing Uganda in the ladies category for the Zone 4.2 Chess Competition. The countries competing are Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi among others.  After this event, they shall then connect to the national schools chess competitions that shall have started a day earlier.For the schools even, SOM Chess Academy is to register three teams from Gulu, two teams from Jinja and three teams from Kampala!

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Phiona

Gloria

Gloria

Phiona

Phiona

Make sure you sign up for email updates if you haven’t yet so that you don’t miss out on the movie updates as they come in!

We thought 2014 was going to be busy…

2014 was a whirlwind and filled with so many exciting opportunities but we are even more excited about what is already happening and 2015 and everything to come!  So, without further delay…

First things first,

The ladies category was won by 13 year old Gloria Nansubuga. This is her first major victory at the highest level. She finished with 7 points out of a possible 8 and walked off with a cash prize of 700,000 and a trophy. On her way to victory, she beat WFM Ivy Amoko, Robina Namwanje, Esther Nakitende, Jacinta Nantume, Joan Nakimuli, Rhoda Namuswe and Olympian Goretti Angolikin. She only lost to WCM Phiona Mutesi.  In second position was Ivy Amoko and Phiona Mutesi finished in third position having made two draws and losing to Ivy Amoko in the second last round

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The new Chess Academy and Mentoring Center

Construction continues at the Kampala Ministry Center and last month some children from Katwe (Slum Project in Kampala, Uganda) got a sneak peak at the new facility, including the upcoming Chess Academy and Mentoring Center.  While there, time was taken to pray for the new Center, where several of its buildings will become operational in 2015.

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Kawuma Chess Championship 2015

Stella and Phiona finish in first position in the women’s category!!
They both finish with 6.5 points out of possible 7. Using the system tie break depending on the positions of the opponents you played; Stella is better on tie break. Gloria, Rhoda, Carol, Joan and Vanessa all from SOM Chess academy follow in line.

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Queen of Katwe, the movie

AND have you heard the news about The Queen of Katwe MOVIE??  That’s right it looks like production is starting and this could really happen!  The director, Mira Nair has been hard at work in Uganda trying to pull things together, remember she also directed that great movie showing Robert’s life, “A Fork, A Spoon and A Knight.”  What we know so far is that David Oyelowo will be playing Robert Katende, Lupita Nyong’o will be Harriet Mutesi, Phiona’s mom and who will be playing Phiona is still a mystery to us!  But we will be sure to share once we hear!

WOW, it’s only February and this year has already been full of exciting and surprising events!  Can’t wait to see what Spring brings!

A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight

A film by Mira Nair depicting the life of Robert Katende

The life of Robert Katende, the founder and director of the Sports Outreach Chess Academy, has now been depicted in a short documentary. The film entitled “A Fork, A Spoon, and A Knight,” was released in mid December to help commemorate the anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela. Director, Mira Nair believes the documentary will inspire young people everywhere as it brings to life a famous quote by Mandela, “Difficulties break some men, but make others.” See how Robert overcomes many challenges to complete school, become a teacher, a husband, father and member of Sports Outreach staff, while turning  the Katwe slum of Kampala into a world famous chess sanctuary and place of healing for abandoned children. Robert’s courage, fortitude and faith illustrates Mandela’s quote beautifully.

 The film also features a song written by Ugandan recording artist Edwin Ruyonga about Robert, “Ekitakumenya.

Please take a moment to be inspired and challenged as you enjoy A Fork, A Spoon and A Knight, the story of your friend and Sports Outreach staff member Robert Katende.

Mira Nair is also directing the Walt Disney movie project “The Queen of Katwe,” starring Lupita Nyongo The film is based on the book of the same name, by Tim Crothers and tells the complete story of Robert as well as that of one of his students Phiona Mutesi.

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World Youth Chess Championship : Gloria and Tendo

The World Youth Chess Championship which began on 20 September runs till 30 September 2014.   The first time a Ugandan participated in the World Youth Chess Championship was when reigning National Junior Champion, Benjamin Mukumbya took part in last year’s event held in Al Ain, UAE and earned himself a first rating after a solid display in the Under 18 category. Uganda’s upcoming teenager, Gloria Nansubuga made the country proud beating a 1613 rated Irina Andriatsiferana of Madagacar in the second round of the ongoing World Youth Chess Championship played on Sunday 21 September 2014 in Durban, South Africa.  Nansubuga had earlier lost to Romania’s Coman Emilia Florentina rated 1814 in the first round played yesterday. She is on zero rating and participating in the Under 14 age category.   Gloria secured her second win after beating South Africa’s Gardiner Nina rated 1663 in the third round played at the International Convention Center in Durban yesterday evening!!  Nansubuga now has 2 points out of 3  in The Under 14 Girls category. She is now up against  much tougher opposition in Australia’s Chiara Polterauer rated 1903 in the third fouth round to be played today.

Another Ugandan based in the USA, Tendo Lumala(The same young man who Phiona had the opportunity to meet while in Seattle, WA this past spring!!) , is also participating in the Under 10 boys category. He lost the first two games, but has secured his first win in the same round. He beat Malawi’s Charles Gondwe Kimwa in the Under 10 boys category.

GLoria with the Flag

Gloria has been given the National Flag by the president of Uganda Chess Federation Mr. Vianney Luggya (left) and her school Flag by her school administrator Mr. Isaac Kahinda (Center) during a press conference before she left for competition!