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From farmer to chess champion

other Updated: May 16, 2010 00:43 IST
Anupma Tripathi
Anupma Tripathi
Hindustan Times
chess

Zambia has produced just one Grandmaster so far, but this little fact hasn't deterred Zambians from taking up chess and dreaming of making it big one day.

Phiri Richmond, from the Zambian capital Lusaka, is one such dreamer. He is here to participate in the Parsvnath Commonwealth Chess Championship.

Born to a family of farmers, the 22-year-old is the youngest of seven siblings. "My family grows and keeps all kind of stuff," says Richmond.

"From keeping pigs, to growing tomatoes, bananas, peas, baby corn and other vegetables."

By his own admission, coming to India and playing the Championship wouldn't have been possible, had it not been for his sponsors who spotted him at the African Ch’ship in 2006. " I finished third in the championship. Later, the Green Eagles Club approached me and I grabbed the offer," said the Zambian champion, who has an ELO rating of 2165.

There's been no looking back for Richmond. In 2006, he clinched gold at the Chess Olympiad in Turin. The African won the 'junior champion' title for two consecutive years (2007-08) and claimed the national championship in 2008.

Interestingly, none of his siblings play chess. But at this point, Richmond is quick to add, " The important thing is they don't stop me from playing either. I remember, in 2004 I was about to quit school for the love of the game. But my parents asked me to quit chess instead. They wanted me to concentrate on studies. That was a difficult experience."

He belongs to Zambia's 'Chewa' tribe, and fluent in the tribal dialect. When asked to say something in his native tongues, Richmond rattles off a line that translates into, " Wait for me. I can make it big."