The Zambian Talent Called Prince Daniel Mulenga – Operation Grandmaster

He was aged twelve (12) going on thirteen (13) when he learnt the game of chess and fell in love with the game. He was taught by Godwin Kosamu, who was a club player in Chambishi, a small mining town in the Copperbelt region of Zambia. And the young prince had to bury his head in books to get ahead of others who knew the game before him. Mulenga Prince Daniel is the Zambian talent that just continue to give his all and never gives up even in the face of despair and career threatening challenges.

Going through his journey, he got his major chess breakthrough when in 2009, he won the National Schools Chess Championship, which qualified him to represent Zambia at the African Junior Chess Championship in Cairo, Egypt, but for lack of funds by the Zambian administration, he could not make the trip.

Young PDM taking on super IM Jere Daniel back in 2012

He continued to work hard on his chess, with the hope that he would get another opportunity, which came in 2010, and he was yet again victorious at the National Junior Chess Championship. With the African Junior Chess Championship billed to hold in South Africa this time, Zambia was only able to send Douglas Munenga and Epah Tembo, who happened to be the Schools champions for the year, and left out both Prince and Lorita Mwango, who were the junior champions for the year.

After this, he knew he had to really dig deep and pull off the impossible to get ahead of the pack (or at least get the notice of those in power) since they seem to be looking elsewhere for the qualities he had. Attending the Copperbelt University, PDM won the University chess championship in 2013 and was also victorious above all else in 2013, when the best players of all the Zambian universities met for the National Universities Individual Chess Championship.

Representing Zambia at the Confederation of Universities Colleges Sports Association of
Universities in Southern Africa (CUCSA Games) 2014

A year after, in 2014, Prince Daniel Mulenga was finally given an opportunity to represent his motherland, a gesture he grabbed with both hands as he played for Zambia at the Confederation of Universities Colleges Sports Association of Universities in Southern Africa (CUCSA Games). He claimed the individual board Gold medal and helped the Zambian team to the team Silver medal with his performance at the event, showing flares of brilliance and his tactical ingenuity.

As every great sportsman would tell you, there is always that down time. And PDM had his after this event, and he battled a whole variety of challenges on and off the board, which paused his success, but he was not going to be denied his dream of being one of the very best players on the continent and not just in Zambia. And as such, he put in more work time needed and came back to prominence during 2016/2017 years, where he was the Copperbelt Chess Champion for six (6) championship events of the eight (8) that held.

Victorious PDM at the Copperbelt Chess Championship

In 2017, PDM attained the title of Candidate Master by playing at the then Zone 4.3 Chess Championship, where he achieved six (6) points of the possible nine (9).

2018 was a year he would always cherish for its ups and down moment, considering his participation in the Olympiad qualifiers, which after preparing so hard for, he fell just off the last qualifying slot for the second qualifier. But for the withdrawal of the tenth player, which allowed him to show that he deserved a spot in the Olympiad team, which he did brilliantly and got into the Zambian sports paper with.

Prince Daniel Mulenga in the Zambian Times Printpak

In a pool of International Masters, Prince Daniel Mulenga and a few other players who had no titles, showed the titled players what it meant to be hungry for success and dislodged them from what would have rightly been their rights (Olympiad Representation). With this feat, PDM finally got the opportunity to go play against Grandmasters and see the world from a different point of view, which enlightened the young man.

Participating at the 43rd World Chess Olympiad gave the young man so much joy, partly because he was one of the best Zambian performers at the event, but with that also came the pain of missing out on his coveted Fide Master title by half a point, which is the next step after the Candidate Master title.

Concentrated Prince Daniel Mulenga at the Batumi Chess Olympiad

The last year of a successful decade could bring nothing but more success stories for the Zambian talent, as he exceeded his plans for the year 2019, one which eventually gave him joy at a feeling of achievement.

Starting off the year, PDM participated in a rigorous Zambian trials that was used to select the best five (5) players that would represent Zambia at various international events and retained his spot among the best players in the country, which qualified him for support from the National Federation, one which President Chilufya duly delivered for all the top five (5) players of the country.

This enabled PDM to travel for the Dubai Open tournament (before which he lost his passport, laptop and other training materials), where he defeated a Grandmaster for the first time. A feat which prepared him for the 2019 Zambian Open Chess Championship.

A joyful PDM at the Dubai Opens in 2019

The Zambian Open had four (4) Grandmasters, several International Masters and other titled players, but it was Prince Daniel Mulenga along with two (2) other International Masters that took the podium at the end of a nine (9) rounds of brilliant plays, with the trio tied for the first position and the young PDM third on tie breaks, despite starting at the thirteenth (13th) rank at the beginning of the tournament.

This performance earned him his very first IM Norm and ensured that the elusive Fide Master title was conferred on him before the year turned around and cap off a super impressive 2019.

Now in the year 2020, the goal is to not just participate in a number of highbrow, targeted tournaments, but to also get the training needed to truly attain the mastery of the chess game, which would aid his achievement of the Grandmaster title, one which only five (5) black players have been able to attain globally, following after the footsteps of the Zambezi Maestro Grandmaster Amon Simutowe.

GM Amon Simutowe of Zambia: Photo Credit – Fred Lucas for www.asimutowe.com

And this would require huge funding, which only corporate bodies would be able to support with, seeing how much good publicity the attainment of this coveted title would bring to the brand, since the last black player to achieve this feat did so in 2016, at the African Individual Chess Championship, and before then has been eons ago.

The Go For A West African Chess Grandmaster Initiative (formerly Go for A Nigerian Chess Grandmaster) is also working towards achieving this feat of the very first West African Grandmaster and they hope to actualize theirs this 2020, which makes it a matter of who would achieve the title first!?

So, who do you think would become the next Black Grandmaster?

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