The Chess Star: Amon Simutowe
While many SIPA students will go on to have remarkable professional careers, it is not that common to meet one who has already made history. At the age of 27 in 2009, Amon Simutowe became the first Chess Grandmaster from Sub-Saharan Africa. The title Grandmaster is awarded to world-class chess players by the world chess organization FIDE. The achievement of this Zambian student is all the more remarkable considering he taught himself at the relatively late age of 10 and grew up in a country with little tradition of chess competitions. In Zambia, soccer is the most popular sport, but in 2001, Simutowe was named “Sportsman of the Year” by the Zambian Sports Council.
His victories were featured on the front pages of Zambian newspapers, something that gave domestic visibility to chess. “I cannot complain of the attention and support I got,” he says. While at SIPA, Simutowe has been writing an instructional book with the aim of encouraging kids in Africa to develop a liking for the game. The book was released after his graduation in May. Although he is not currently playing at tournament level, chess takes over much of his free time. “I usually play on Friday evenings, to get my brain to relax”, he says. “I cannot stop playing chess, for me it’s like an addiction”.