game of chess and perhaps it should be no surprise that they are so good at the game.With five International Masters and a host of players on the brink of qualifying for this prestigious title, Angola is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s strongest chess nations.
Some say Angola’s love of chess was inspired by the Cuban troops in Africa during the conflict years. Che Guevara was known to be a keen player and members of the Angolan national team had a Cuban coach for a number of years, which some say laid the foundations for their strong performances.
Among this hall of fame is Adérito Pedro, an International Master, the 2007 Vice African Champion, and currently Angola’s best chess player. He started playing at 15 with a homemade board and plasticine pieces. What began as a hobby, however, fast became a serious talent and within two years he had won the African Junior chess Championship. In his 20s Pedro won a scholarship to the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess in Switzerland. Since then he has toured the globe, playing some of the world’s best players.
Raising the profile of the game is part of Angola's Deputy Prime Minister Aguinaldo Jaime’s plan; Jaime is also a chess fanatic and former head of Angola's Chess Federation. “Sponsorship tends to go to the most popular sports like football, basketball and handball and I think some companies might overlook chess because it seems elitist,” he says.
“I don’t know if you can really say it was a Cuban or any other country’s influence. I think chess is a very natural talent and maybe, for whatever reason, Angolans are born with this talent. “I also think Angolans enjoy strategic thinking: they are very disciplined and they have a strong resolve and these are all the qualities you need to be able to play chess, and that’s why the Angolans are so good. It has a lot to do with concentration."
“It also has nothing to do with academic background. There are a lot of people who for various reasons, financial or social, did not finish their schooling but are very good chess players because they have the qualities and the mind for chess.”
“It doesn’t take a lot of academic thought but instead you need strategy. Chess develops the mind and we say the best player wins, so you have to be the smartest. Chess is a scientist’s sport, so I hope they increase the programmes to teach Angolan children because they need it. It will develop their maths. If they can play chess they can learn maths.” (Sonangol Universo Magazine)