KAMPALA, UGANDA—In Uganda, the Disney movie production of The Queen of Katwe, about young chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, has sparked new interest in the game. Now children from around the country are taking up chess like never before.
Enthusiasm for chess has been on the rise in Uganda ever since Disney started filming The Queen of Katwe. The movie follows the life of Phiona Mutesi, who made it from the slums to become one of Uganda’s best, and youngest, chess players. This publicity has had a noted impact on Uganda’s Chess Federation, as enrollment has doubled in recent months.
Once a game played primarily in cities, chess has expanded its reach, with children in rural communities becoming interested in the game. Unable to afford a chess board, kids will often create their own set out of soap figurines or bottle caps, and play against their classmates.
Caxton Rodgers Kalule, the publicity specialist for the Ugandan Chess Federation, has been playing the game for 17 years. He now finds himself traveling around the country teaching chess to youths. However, he said, chess is more than just a simple board game. Rather, it teaches people how to think, focus and understand strategy. For this reason, one of the federation’s many focuses are vulnerable kids.
“In the not too near future we want chess being played in every district across the country. Especially in these densely populated slum areas. Because we discovered that we can use chess to put kids out of the streets. For example even Mutesi was among the kids who were on the street, but it was because of chess we managed to put them together in one place,” said Kalule.
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