GM Amon Simutowe

Simutowe in 2009. Photo: Wikipedia, CC.
Full name
Amon Simutowe
Born
Jan 6, 1982 (age 39)‎
Place of birth
Zambia
Federation
Zambia
Retired
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Bio

GM Amon Simutowe is a Zambian chess grandmaster, the third-ever Black GM (after GMs Maurice Ashley and Pontus Carlsson), and the first from Zambia and sub-Saharan Africa. Zambia’s sportsperson of the year in 2001, he can count GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Nona Gaprindashvili among his victims over a chessboard.

Early Life And Career

Simutowe was born on January 6, 1982. His older brother, Solomon, introduced him to chess when Amon was 10 years old. By 1994 he had the confidence to join local tournaments in Zambia. The next year he was Zambia’s under-21 national champion at the age of just 13.

In 1996, hoping only to qualify for the Chess Olympiad, Simutowe played for the Zambian national chess championship. He did more than that, winning the entire event at 14 years old. By 1998, he was an international master.

Zambia flag
The national flag of Zambia.

Simutowe’s career did not slow down. In both 1999 and 2000, he won the African Junior Championship, the latter with a perfect 11/11 score. Also in 2000, he participated in his first Olympiad. He won eight games and lost two for a performance rating of 2603, and his 80-percent score was second-best of anyone on the first board, earning the silver medal. The same year Simutowe also finished second at the World Junior Championship.

In 2001, a 19-year-old Simutowe defeated 12-year-old Hikaru Nakamura at the New York Mayor’s Cup.

About this time, Simutowe enrolled at The University of Texas at Dallas on a chess scholarship. He graduated in 2006.

Grandmaster And Beyond

The year 2007 was probably the biggest one of Simutowe’s chess career (with 1996 and 2000 also major milestones), and August the biggest month. After nearly finishing atop the U.S. Open, including another win over now-GM Nakamura, Simutowe traveled to Arnhem in the eastern Netherlands for the Euwe Stimulans tournament. On August 26, he completed an undefeated performance there with six wins in nine games.

It was his third GM norm. Simutowe’s victory was covered by The New York Times with the headline, “Zambian With Little Training Stands Poised to Make History.”

However, Simutowe had yet to achieve a published rating of 2500, the rating threshold that was his final requirement for earning the title. At the 2009 Zagreb Open, he reached 2503 and completed his journey to become sub-Saharan Africa’s first-ever grandmaster. (However, Simutowe had reached 2500, unpublished, in 2001.)

After earning his GM title, Simutowe stepped away from competitive chess (although he continued to play in his free time). His place in the game’s history is nevertheless secure.

In addition to his degree from The University of Texas at Dallas, Simutowe has master’s degrees in finance and economics from Columbia University and Oxford, respectively. As of 2018, he was coaching chess part-time.

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