We recently interviewed Chitumbo Mwali about chess and life in general. Chitumbo, who is popularly known as Copper Eagle in the chess circles shared his insights and experience on the game of chess. Enjoy!
What do you do [profession]?
Answer: Currently I am an Accountant [Bsc(Hons) Applied Accounting and ACCA] , Chess player (International Chess Master)and a Chess coach (FIDE Instructor).
Congratulations on your success in the recent tournaments that you played in. Chitumbo Mwali recently won the Botswana Open. How did you achieve this feat?
Answer: After my poor performance at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway where I lost 19 elo points, I realised I had to improve my concentration in the middle game and try to reduce my time trouble phase during the game, I had some good positions at the Olympiads which I ruined mostly because of time trouble. I improved my calculating abilities in the middle game by solving mostly middle game puzzles and also this; I know to some it might sound crazy I restarted playing blitz games too. I should also say that at the Olympiads I played some strong players who I took note of how they handle chess problems at the board, I guess that helped me reduce my learning curve.
When did you start playing chess and how did you start playing?
Answer: I started playing chess when I was 7-8 years old from my immediate older brother.
Which is your favourite piece on the chess board and why?
Answer: The king, this is where the interesting part about the game of chess is. You get to wonder how a piece that moves one step can be the most powerful piece on the board. I guess that those are chess rules and facts that have to be followed. The Mystery of chess I guess?
What has been the greatest highlight of your career thus far?
Answer: I know you asked for highlight but I will give you highlights, First of all becoming an International Chess Master and winning the African under-20 chess championship in 2006.
Secondly, I have been able to get my University Degree and a Professional qualification in ACCA. As you might know chess is just like school, very difficult to balance the two, chess and academic/professional education, but very achievable I should say.
Lastly having managed to get Individual Silver and team Bronze at the 2007 All African games in Algiers, Algeria.
Which of the two first moves do you prefer, e4 or d4 and why?
Answer: e4 is what I prefer mostly because that’s the opening I was taught as a novice and that’s what I have studied, I have never pushed d4 in my serious games before in my chess career, though some of my games transpose to d4 opening position in the middle game because I play c4(English opening). How I wish you included c4 in your question, as this the opening I have taken up recently from e4.
How has chess impacted your life?
Answer: A day does not pass by without me thinking about chess be it a game I played, puzzle or a classic game. Sometimes when am asleep I am dreaming of chess positions. Chess has made learn about different cultures from different countries, it has increased my network connection (as in friends from different countries).
How much time do you spend working on chess every day? Do you have a regular programme of work?
Answer: From the age of 16-23 I would spend 4-5 hours a day on chess and I had a regular programme but currently I rarely spend time on chess I spend about 1-2 hours a day and I no longer have a programme of working on chess.
What do you regard as your 3 greatest achievements in chess?
Answer: Achieving the title of International chess master, winning the African under-20 chess championship and finally winning Silver and bronze at All- African games.
Who is your favourite chess player and why?
Answer: Robert James Fischer (Bobby Fischer), He was a very good chess player as in his type of play; his approach to the game also was very interesting. His biography
It’s been said that a chess player’s personality is mirrored or reflected by their chess style (positional, tactical, and strategic). What are your thoughts on this?
Answer: Yes to some extent it is reflected in there style of play, but again very contentious perception e.g when I was and aggressive chess player years ago I did not find my personality aggressive and it has been said Robert James Fischer was aggressive on the chess board and had an aggressive personality.
What do you think is the right age to start playing chess and why? I think the right age to a start playing chess is 8, I should think by this age it is quite is easy for a coach to communicate to the child. At 8 the Childs communication skills is better.
Why would you encourage anyone to take up chess?
Answer: I would encourage someone to take up chess because it increases one analytical skills and there some situation in the real world that can be solved by possessing those analytical skills.
How would you best describe your chess style?
Answer: From the age of 12-23 my style was aggressive , this was because I used to read a lot of chess opening and just generally spend more time reading chess(middle game studies). I had more time to study chess during that phase, but after the age of 23 I took up more positional chess, adopted position opening such as the c4 (English opening), spend more time on the endgame.
Recently I have not have had time to really spend on chess, because of my education studies. So, I can say right now I am more of a positional chess player.
How would you like to be remembered as a chess player?
Answer: As a Zambian chess player who helped improve and market the game of chess in Zambia and Africa.
What do you think it will take for Africa to have a world chess champion?
Answer: I will take the question, by World chess Championship you mean World Classic Chess Championship? We have quite a long way but I am starting to see some serious initiative being taken up by the African Chess Federation in the improvement of chess on the continent such as the African Individual has more prize fund, if one wins the African Individual he automatically becomes Grandmaster and the Introduction of African Grand prix tournaments we also have the Zonal championships back again.
The Kasparov Chess foundation is also doing some great works in Africa. With that being said we are on track to having a world classic chess champion though we have had a world chess champion one in form of world junior-20 chess champion Adley Ahmed of Egypt. So by looking at what’s taking place on the continent we are on the right track and we are having more chess tournaments in Africa. Oh yes! Even individuals like you have taken up a good initiative in South Africa, Kathu. Difficult but very much achievable.
The Vishy Anand/ Magnus Carlsen rematch is coming up? Who is going to win in your opinion and why?
Answer: I think Magnus Carlsen is going to defend his championship. The reason is that he has shown he is the best chess player in the world by having won Rapid, blitz and classic world chess championship and ofcourse his huge elo rating. (Magnus Carlsen won the match 6.5 – 4.5)
What is your typical day like?
Answer: I start by exercising be it going to the gym or a regular jog, then after that I go for work at our family company where I work and finally home, go through some latest news especially on chess on the internet, look at the latest chess tournaments and chess puzzle solving routine.
What is the most romantic thing you have ever done for a person/partner?
Answer: I have done quite a lot, cannot really pinpoint one I guess.
What do you like most about Zambia?
Answer: The most things I like about Zambia is we are very peaceful people and very welcoming, e.g when Zimbabwe was going through economic problems we as Zambian embraced a lot of Zimbabweans, we welcomed them with open arms.
What would you change about yourself?
Which animal in the world would you want to be like?
Answer: I guess a Lion
If you were to meet God, what would you ask him?
Answer: Very difficult to pin point, there are lot of questions that I would like to ask God, probably I would take over the whole interview.
Are you married?
Answer: No, not yet
What makes you happy?
Answer: Every day I can work up knowing that I will contribute in some way to the growth of my country (Zambia) with my skills is it economically with my accounting skill or putting the country on the map with my chess skills.
What is the Zambia character in your opinion?
Answer: Religious and peaceful.
What do you do with your change/coins?
Answer: I usually give to the man, woman or child begging in the streets or save it for any upcoming chess tournament fund.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Answer: Increase my effort in helping my country (Zambia), by improving skills both in chess and accountancy. I want to have a chess academy based in Zambia, own a business company and probably running the Administration in Zambia and Africa.
Who is the biggest influence in your life and why?
Answer: My mother, because I have been raised by her all my life and of course she has been very supportive of me playing chess. She has been the main sponsor for my chess career.
What’s your favourite story from your work life?
Answer: Sorry I cannot really point out a story that strikes me a lot from my work, there are a lot.
What is the most important thing that has ever happened to you in your career?
Answer: Graduating from University.
Any advice to those who look up to you?
Answer: Few words “Follow your dreams and control your own destiny”
What’s your favourite place to eat?
Answer: Fast food restaurants I guess that is the reason I have gained a few pounds.
Women or cars?
Answer: I will be coy for this one”both”
Tell us something people don’t know about you.
Answer: Most people think I am boring person because I play chess but I am not, I am a very interesting person.
When was the last time you cried?
Answer: Cannot really remember
Are you online? Yes
Face book: https://www.facebook.com/chitumbo.mwali
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