Update from Batumi: World Chess Olympiad and the Queen of Katwe

It’s been an exciting time so far in Batumi, Georgia, as I help coach Phiona Mutesi (from Disney's movie Queen of Katwe) and her Ugandan teammates for the World Chess Olympiad.

 Elliott Neff with the Ugandan Women’s Team: Peninah Nakabo, Phiona Mutesi, Shakhira Ampaire, Gloria Nansubuga, and Christine Namaganda.

Elliott Neff with the Ugandan Women’s Team: Peninah Nakabo, Phiona Mutesi, Shakhira Ampaire, Gloria Nansubuga, and Christine Namaganda.

I'm staying near the coast of the Black Sea. Each morning I take a taxi to the hotel where the Ugandan team is staying. The taxi ride costs just 10 lari (about $4 US). We spend 2 or 3 hours preparing for the next round, going over who the team is playing, ensuring each player is confident on what to focus on in the match. 

After lunch the players are transported to the playing hall. No cameras or phones are allowed inside. It's quite interesting to see many of the world's best chess players gathered for this one event, with nearly 1,000 players competing each round. Multiple famous players and past world champions are present, including Nona Gaprindashvili. Nona was the women’s world chess champion from 1962-1978, and is from Georgia.

Each game can take even 4 hours sometimes!

 Phiona Mutesi is leading the 2018 Ugandan Women’s Team on Board 1

Phiona Mutesi is leading the 2018 Ugandan Women’s Team on Board 1

In the evening, the moves played are reviewed to learn from them. Then it’s time for dinner, bed, and back to the routine!

The event itself is 11 games with just 1 rest day, so for 12 days the competition continues. 

So far the US men's team is in a tie for 1st, trying to repeat their gold medal from last Olympiad 2 years ago.

 At five years old, Gloria Nansubuga (pictured right) taught Phiona Mutesi (pictured left) how to play chess. Now they are teammates in the World Chess Olympiad.

At five years old, Gloria Nansubuga (pictured right) taught Phiona Mutesi (pictured left) how to play chess. Now they are teammates in the World Chess Olympiad.

Phiona Mutesi, whose story is represented in the book The Queen of Katwe as well as the Disney movie Queen of Katwe, leads the Ugandan women's team on board 1.

If you have seen the movie, you may remember the little girl Gloria who teaches Phiona the moves. That little girl in real life is now 18 years old and is now playing on the Olympiad team for the first time with Phiona!

In the first round, Gloria scored a draw (tie game) with a player ranked far above her!

In the 2nd round, both Gloria and Phiona won their matches, while a 3rd team member was able to hold a draw, achieving their first team win of the event!


Comment below with any questions you may have!

Also, be sure to check out my new book A Pawn's Journey: Transforming Lives One Move at a Time. Read reviews on Amazon at this link.