In life, there are only three ways a person can be declared a child prodigy. These are music, mathematics and chess. The odds of anyone having any one of these 3 gifts as a child is extremely rare and when it does happen, it is a unique anomaly of the capabilities of the human brain.

There have not been that many top chess prodigies in the last 300 years that stand out among all the rest. The top two were Bobby Fischer and Paul Morphy, both from the United States and both went on to achieve the title of world champion but both of them also went insane during their adult life as have several other chess Grandmasters over the years. Chess is the most taxing thing you can do to the human brain and the main reason is that there are so many combinations of moves, even within the first 10 moves of any game. In chess, it’s so easy to make a subtle mistake and lose a game very quickly, which is why so many great chess players become very paranoid. Chess requires extraordinary memory and pattern recognition ability and especially stamina because a 40 move chess game during a tournament can take as long as 5 hours to play which is a very long time to remain very focused and in great stress.

Over the years it has been rare to see many movies that are specifically about chess or a chess player. Searching for Bobby Fischer is probably the most famous example when it was released in 1993, followed perhaps by last years Pawn Sacrifice about the insane life of Bobby Fischer. This latest movie “The Queen of Katwe” is a very good chess movie about Phiona Mutesi who is a female chess prodigy who came out of a dirt-poor village in Uganda and very quickly at a very young age she became a chess champion even though she could not even read. The story is a good one, and the reminders of how poor a country Uganda is come up throughout this 2-hour movie. Considering where this young girl grew up it’s a miracle a chess set was even available for her to learn the game in the first place.

As far as the movie, Phiona is played very well by newcomer Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo plays her chess coach in a very good performance and recent Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Phiona’s mother in another very strong performance that might earn her another Academy Award nomination. As a chess player myself, the movie does a very good job showing the moves of some of the games and some mating combinations, the most famous one shown in the film was a
“smothered mate”
. The film also does an impressive job showing all the highs and lows of trying to be a competitive chess player and at one point in the story, Phiona almost gives up on her quest to become a chess master after a bad loss to a Russian woman player during a tournament in the Soviet Union. Losing a chess game is as humiliating as is the euphoria of winning a game.

This is a very good movie about chess and a rare chess prodigy from one of the poorest countries on earth. Whether or not you are a chess player this is a must see movie and I do recommend it.

The Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

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