‘Queens of Chivhu’ defy the odds


American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody, he said. The ‘Queens of Chivhu’—Natasha Choko (12), Ruramai Tapambwa (10), Grace Zvarebwa and Lynne Chidanire (both 8)—have been knocking since 2017 only for the gates to be opened this year.  

It’s a story of hope, perseverance and sheer determination where the quartet—from a rural school 40km outside Chivhu— seeks to conquer Africa by participating at the 2019 African Youth Chess Championships in Namibia from December 14 to 22.

They almost missed participation at the tourney had it not been for Tatenda Tavaziva who created a Gofundme account and the required US$5,500 was raised within 24 hours.

Only last year, Natasha and her twin sister Natalie conquered the local scene but failed to participate at the African Youth Chess Championship due to lack of funds.

Natasha has never lost in local games and takes turns with Natalie to look after their grandmother.

Tavaziva said he was motivated to create a Gofundme account after seeing a tweet by the team’s coach Godknows Dembure on the plight of the players.

He sees the rise of the girls as a story of the “phoenix rising from the ashes”.

“It’s about four girls who have never been on a plane but using chess as their way out,” he said.

The story of the Queens of Chivhu will be incomplete without mentioning Dembure who introduced the game at Mudavanhu Primary School where he was deployed in 2014 after completing his teachers training at Seke Teachers’ College.

His passion was to introduce the game in the rural areas. There were no funds to buy the tools and Dembure made a chess board out of cardboard box.

“I went around the school and picked the top 3 in mathematics in every class and started coaching them. The school saw my effort and bought chess board, it was not a standard chess board but we used what we have,” Dembure said who has so far coached 20 students.

“We reached the provincial finals and the girls were happy. In 2017 we represented the province at finals and we couldn’t represent Zimbabwe at the Africa Youth Championships. Last year we won at the nationals and we failed to go to the African Youth Championship.”

It has not smooth sailing for the youthful coach who confessed that it is “difficult to coach someone who is hungry”. The corporate world has responded with fast moving consumer goods firm Vamara Group chipping in.

Under its Sunrise Brand, the group has given food hampers for the girls and their families. This is meant to ease the burden on the girls to focus on academics and chess. Other sponsors have also come on board.

Zimbabwe Chess Federation secretary general Clive Mphambela said: “We have given them all the technical assistance and registration requirements as well as supporting their crowd funding initiative.” 


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