Compared to many African countries, from personal experience, Malawi is one of the countries with the least number of female Chess players. During national or regional open tournaments, you can walk into a tournament hall and hardly notice female chess players. I am a chess player, named after the famous poem “Desiderata”, Latin word for my desire and based in the Central Region of Malawi. In some instances I am the only female player in open tournaments. Of course it baffles me.
But how do I get more girls to start playing chess in Malawi? This is the question that had been running through my mind for quite some time. I am one of the most determined chess players you will come across. If you have met me, you have also met one of the happiest people on planet earth. Because of my good social interaction with peers, I keep getting several messages from my social circles asking me to teach them chess. When I move around town, many people associate me with chess and ask me chess related questions. A certain day I was walking back home carrying a chess set from a friend’s house and a shop keeper stopped me, thinking it was a musical instrument because of the way I was carrying it and when I explained that it was a chess set, I managed to draw his attention into playing the game.
I am not the strongest female player in the world, but one certain thing you can be assured of, is that I have a big heart for chess, with a passion that intoxicates and attracts people to the game I love. I broke the record one time when I beat one of the strongest 1900 male player’s with the black pieces who gives some of our top player’s tough times. Many walked over the board to have a look in disbelief; even I couldn’t believe it and neither did my opponent, because we had about 500 ELO difference between us, in favor of him. I was shaking and afraid of my abilities, but from then on, I knew this was a turning point for me, a game changer.
So I thought to myself, I am already a model amongst many girls, because “Unlike in physics, sometimes like terms attract in life”, I understood that they needed to learn from me, so I decided to become a tutor, aside from just being a chess player. Hence, in December 2017, my team and I founded the Daisy Chess Academy, where our vision is to raise a new generation of chess stars (with the development of female chess being the core).
During our registration period, one of the ladies contacted me, narrating how she has been keeping a mini chess board for years, but doesn’t know how to play and was wondering if I could help out with some lessons. I told her about the academy, what we do and what we hope to achieve through it, and I was super excited when she showed interest in joining us, more so, that I would personally tutor her. On another occasion, earlier this year, I was walking by to one of the local banks and met a friend who told me that she is always inspired by my play, and wanted to enroll for chess lessons but couldn’t, because of her busy schedule at work. When I explained to her that the lessons would be offered online, she was more than delighted to take part and asked if we could also take her niece on board.
The basic idea is to get more girls playing chess. In our planning sessions, we projected an enrollment target of 10 student but we already beat our target by 50%, enrolling 15 students of which 67% of them are girls. Last week Saturday marked the debut of our academy lessons. The lessons have been designed to accommodate everyone, so that they can learn from the comfort of their homes or free time at work. Our target is to introduce the game of Chess to at least 40 girls this year. And I believe we will surpass this goal.
At the beginning of this year, I finished first in a tournament for the first time in my chess playing career, during the Batumi Malawi National Qualifiers tournament with a staggering score of 7 wins and 2 draws out of 9 games. This gives me a chance and an opportunity to continue inspiring others. So I have also set a realistic goal for myself of becoming the first Woman International Master (WIM) in Malawi, Yes the first, because we don’t have a WIM yet. A lot of my peers are inspired and motivated to learn chess, whenever I explain to them in detail what WIM represents.
All I am saying is, we will never be 100% ready to take an action, decide today to be the rare pearl of change. No matter how old or young, experienced or inexperienced, I believe that with the little we have, we can effect some real change in our surrounding. Together, we can motivate more girls to learn chess and join our playing circles. I am Desiderata and This is MY STORY! #MakeChessForGirls.