Tasnim Amra

It was a stroke of fate that introduced Tasnim Amra to chess. As a grade 2 learner at Durban’s Gordon Road Girls School she had to choose an extramural subject from computers, chess or music. She chose computers, but, because the class was already full, had to opt for her second choice — chess. Two weeks later she was chosen to play in her first schools’ tournament and the rest is fodder for her biography. At nine she became the youngest recipient of the eThekwini Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. Amra went on to become the South African Girl Chess Champion in the under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 divisions. She was also crowned the under-12 African Girl Chess Champion in Cape Town in 2009, and scooped the under-16 title in Lusaka in 2011. Her outstanding achievements have taken her around the world. She has represented South Africa at the World Youth Chess Championship in the United States (2006), Turkey (2007), Vietnam (2008), Greece (2010), Brazil (2011) and Slovenia (2012). It’s not surprising then that the World Chess Federation has twice awarded Amra the title of Woman Fide Master — a prestigious ranking. Amra is proud of her achievements but would like to see South Africa become more serious about its talent. “South African chess champions still have to purchase their own tracksuits and kits and cover their own travel costs to represent their country,” she says. Although chess involves receiving coaching, studying the games of opponents and developing an individual style and strategy, Amra dedicates many more hours to her schoolwork, which is why she averages 70% to 80% at Northlands Girls High School, where she is currently in Grade 11. Amra recently won the South African Junior Closed Chess Championships in the under-18 division, making her eligible to participate in the World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates later this year. — Fatima Asmal