Interview By: Paul Kafuko
As we promised, the second part of the Peninah interview is here, following the earlier interview of her success in Italy, as encompassed in the link below
Paul Kafuko continued his interview thus:
Let’s now switch to the Africa Amateurs Individual Chess Championship. In your interview with Channel 44 Television Station, you stated that you went to Zambia alone by bus, to compete at the event. Please tell us about your journey and how you managed to survive throughout the tournament, considering it was your first time there.
I spent four (4) days on the bus. I met a number of strangers and experienced a lot, but I thank God, because prior to my journey, I had been orientated by my coach, who had experienced a similar terrific bus journey to the same destination before. So, I had a rough idea on how to navigate the challenges I faced. During the tournament I made a friend Namakau Cheleka of Zambia who made my stay in Zambia a lot more comfortable.
Why would a person representing the whole of Uganda have to travel by bus for such a long journey? Weren’t there any air flights to Zambia?
Well, umm… I got the funding quite late when the air ticket cost was so high, way higher than the sponsorship at hand but that could not stop a girl from Mukono. I was determined to represent my country. Well, I definitely do not regret the horrible bus experience. I mean, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. It was also good motivation for me to win prize money, so that I could afford to pay for the air ticket back.
During the tournament, you got a walk over against top seed Mwango Lorita of Zambia rated (ELO 1948). Many critics argued that if it weren’t for that walk over, you would not have emerged the undisputed champion. What is your take on this?
I have “sticked” ELO 2000+ before, what would make people think that I could not score a win against Lorita? I respect her strength and experience on the chessboard, but at the same time, I believe in myself. Anyways, it was my good day in the office as WFM Angolikin Goretti always says.
Going into the Africa Amateurs, you were rated 1491 and ranked 5th in starting rank. However you registered a performance rating of 1615 and garnered 53 rating points on your way to being crowned African Champion. What did this victory mean to you at the time?
It meant that am going higher, that my progress is not stagnant, that I can realistically hope and achieve my dreams and goals. I no longer fear dreaming big, because I know it is possible for these dreams to come true.
Are you aware that you are the first Ugandan in history to win gold at the Africa Amateurs and bronze at the World Amateurs? How does this make you feel to know?
I was surprised to know this, entering the history of Uganda Chess is humbling and certainly a great pleasure for me.
How are you planning to use the experience you have gained to develop yourself as a chess player and the chess fraternity in Uganda?
You very well know that experience is the best teacher, well I plan to put in practice, the lessons I learnt from the experiences at international tournaments, especially where I had hard luck, this will help me achieve my chess goals going forward.
As for the chess fraternity, I really want to inspire chess players especially the young ones or upcoming ones like me, using these experiences. I have an inspiring story behind my chess achievements. It will be my contribution towards the chess fraternity for now.
Can you please share with us some of the lessons you learnt?
I learnt that patience is key during a chess game; believing in yourself is very important; when you are in a winning position, it does not mean you have won already, so, proper thinking is vital in such situations; confidence during the game is important, no matter how bad or good your position is. And many more other lessons.
You stated that you have participated in a number of chess events in Uganda, but unfortunately have never emerged number 1 in any one of them. But then, you participated in the Africa Amateurs for the first time, which was also your first international event, and emerged number 1. How did you manage this feat? Is it that your opponents at the Africa Amateurs were weaker than the Ugandans you have always faced.
Have you heard of the rumour that IM Emojong Elijah is a beast outside Uganda? Well, maybe it is the same spirit here.
Anyways, except at the beginner’s stage, the fact is, I had never had serious coaching services all through my chess journey, as it was not until early this year, before Africa Amateurs, that IM Arthur Ssegwanyi started coaching me. A lot positively changed with his help.
While at the tournament, I noted that my opponents were not weak at all, like you know I was not even among the top four at initial rankings. I just upgraded my play while at it.
Also there’s something about playing in a foreign country knowing that you’re representing your country, it ceases to be about you. It becomes a desire and a need to win for your country.
So IM Emojong Elijah is a sheep in beast’s skin in Uganda?
This question best suits Kenya’s Mehul Gohil, he got a taste of the beast during KCB Open, 2018.
Having participated in two international events and finishing on the podium in each of them, how do you compare the level of play in Uganda to other countries?
I can bet on Uganda’s chess talent. It is real. Ugandans are really strong chess players, we only lack International experience in the game, due to travel challenges, especially sponsorship, otherwise I am confident that if such issues are sorted, Uganda can be among the best chess playing countries in the world.
You have played chess for only four and a half years and in a space of only two months you have been crowned Africa Champion and placed third in the world. And your rating has increased from 1388 in November 2017 to 1580 in May 2018. That means your rating has increased by a hundred and ninety two (192) points in the space of six (6) months, having played only five (5) rated tournaments. What sets you apart from other players?
What I know is that I am a determined woman and a true fighter, and not just on the chess board, but in my personal life too. I believe in myself and my abilities. When I start, nothing can stop me until I accomplish my set goal. Not to forget, I pray, when I am really defeated I accept and let God fight for me, and He actually does. Given an opportunity, I concentrate on a set goal and must get it accomplished in the given time, because time is such a scarce resource. I knew that 2017 was my free year after academics so I had to use it to improve my game, such that I can achieve some big things in chess before I get into other life commitments that might make it difficult for me to concentrate on chess. Now is the time.
Watch this space for the concluding part of this interesting interview of the delectable African Chess Queen from Uganda: Peninah Nakabo