Zambia: Meet Jonathan Thomas – Zambia’s Youngest Chess Candidate Master
3 MAY 2014

“CHESS is a good mental sport to play. It helps develop the mind and gives a person great patience and strategic thinking.

“I learnt that I should not give up, every loss is a step toward another win,” these are words coming from 14-year-old Jonathan Thomas, Zambia’s youngest titled chess player.

In a good way, just like sensational players like Gillian Bwalya, Daniel Jere and Stanley Chumfwa who have established an iron grip on chess, Thomas has also made himself a supreme figure in his own right, holding the title of best player in his group age category in Zambia for a couple of years now.

Winning every game and losing none is a driving force in him, however, his eyes are set winning the world championship title that has been held by India’s Viswanathan Anand since 2007.

Interestingly, Anand is Thomas’ role model and the Zambian maestro believes the Indian’s calmness, kindness and the all round prowess are critical steps to victory.

Drawing his inspiration from world class top players like Anand, Thomas is definitely on the right track and sooner than later, he will be Zambia’s chess superman.

Thomas likes playing attacking chess and he takes pleasure in keeping his opponents on edge while making use of complex positions with many tactics on the board.

These characteristics have made him a dangerous player to face during tournaments.

Zambian Chess, which has been dominated by the likes of Amon Simutowe in his heydays, is desperate for a new story to tell, and the rise of Thomas to stardom could just provide one.

Taking into account the enthusiasm that young genius players are exhibiting so far, success for Zambia at a global chess event is no more a far-fetched dream and time is ripe for these future stars to shine as their self belief will absolutely yield positives someday.

Thomas is a unique combination of self-belief and self-confidence. He nevertheless enjoys playing for victories and ascending to the summit of the rest.

Indeed, success in everything comes with patience, self-confidence and optimism.

If one is not optimistic, they cannot grab their chances at all costs.

“I just started playing chess for fun. I loved playing with different people and winning. My role model is Vishy Anand because Anand is calm, kind and an all around strong player,” he says, “Anand has inspired so many kids to pursue this game.”

In common with most top chess players, he started playing when he was only seven years old in 2007.

During that period, he played chess for fun and had no idea that it would later land him on the competitive stage, and more importantly being a flag bearer for the country.

Ironically, the same year that Thomas developed interest in the game, his role model Anand was winning the world championship title for the first time.

From then on, Thomas has made rapid progress and he pays tribute to his parents for his rise, “My parents have provided me with support and encouragement in all areas.

“They have helped me to receive the necessary coaching and exposure, including helping me to develop the daily discipline for practice.”

Chess players are regarded as prodigious problem solvers in mathematics and Thomas no exceptional.

Once he applied his academic intelligence to chess with passion, he became an unstoppable force.

Thomas, who plays under the auspices of the Little Legends, a Lusaka based club where he is team captain, has participated in many local and international chess tournaments which include Zambia Closed, South Africa Open Chess, Botswana Open Chess, Africa Youth games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Youth Chess tournaments.

In 2012, he made a giant leap in his chess career when he scooped the third spot in the Africa Youth Chess Championship in South Africa.

A third finish at that feat earned him the title of Candidate Master (CM). He was only 12 years old.

Thomas went on to secure another third place finish in the South African Open B-Section while he has dominated the scene in his age group, holding the title of best player since 2012.

Becoming chess Candidate Master at the age 12 is not strange in developed countries, but in Zambia where the sport is just gaining momentum amongst the youths, it is something to marvel about.

“The tournaments gave me good experience and exposure because I learned a lot and I also really enjoyed making new friends from all over the world and having fun.”

“In chess I want to become a Grandmaster, and to do well in all future tournaments,” he explains.

Thomas is a curious player who is always eager to learn and sharpen his skills. During matches, he dislikes losses or draws as he fights to the bitter end.

Being young and in excellent physical shape gives him an advantage over his older rivals especially in draining games.

This young star has combined chess with general education very well. He is determined to achieve the best out of both.

Currently doing his ninth grade at the Lusaka International Community School where he is studying a Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) programme, his dream professionally is to be a game designer/developer because of his passion for games.

Even though he has always played chess, his performance at school is undisturbed.

“Sometimes I have to balance chess with school work especially when it collides with exams or other school events but I manage to juggle both with good outcomes,” he says, “I believe I am doing really well and hoping to get good results for my recent checkpoint exams.”

Driven by passion and intellectual curiosity, Thomas is able to create something special in the game and it is captivating to watch him play.

Many chess players are lifers and the 14 year old is eager to carry on playing until he attains his dream title, the Grand Master (GM).

On home soil, he is undoubtedly an inspiration to many young people in the country.

For now, he has to maintain his upward trend in the game, the future is bright.


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar