Chess may not help to build biceps or tone abs, but it guarantees a steadfast, lifelong capacity for mental health....much needed in our puzzled lives of chaos and confusion in the ongoing quest for Africa's emancipation!
Sledge Chizhala realized the potential of chess to align the strategic thinking power of potential leaders at an early age.
He stays purpose driven to develop chess in Africa, as a tool to assess situations and discover committed paths of action on the continent!
I then proceeded to senior high school and met Mr. Sathiya Kandasamy from India who continued to coach me. After his passing, Mr. Mpowe who was also my chemistry teacher took over to coach me in chess.
We played in tournaments in Botswana and around Southern Africa. I proceeded to The University Of Botswana, where I formed a chess club called KINGS chess club which was to participate in the first ever Botswana Chess League.
It takes the whole village to raise a child as we say in Africa and the rest is history…
Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life
My true and soul passion is chess, I love chess and everything chess with my heart, soul, and spirit. What drives me every day is the love for my family, my wife, and kids. She is my Queen! And my two beautiful kids are my Princesses. I was born out of love so let love lead and love conquers all.
What about your passion appeals to you the most?
Chess is life. Chess is life mirrored on a board. Everything that happens in real life is chess, it’s only when you get to understand it and you feel it in your soul and spirit that you get to understand things better.
Unraveling the mystery makes the game so appealing. Chess makes you smart and what appeals to me most is breaking all myths and stereotypes around chess, for example, everyone and anyone can play chess regardless of their age, color or religion. Chess is a beautiful game for everyone. Chess is like music to my ears!
What drove you to make money from your passions?
It has never been about the money, it’s about the people and spreading the Chess Gospel to all four corners of the world, through my Chess Foundation,
The Sledge Chizhala Chess Foundation which is the first of it’s kind in Africa. I have played chess all my life and my wish has always been to see it grow to dizzier the world over!
The mandate of my chess foundation is to help the Botswana Chess Federation promote chess and help where the federation falls short by bringing the corporate or private companies to assist in donating chess sets to marginalized places, the underprivileged and helping in gender issues.
The government surely cannot do it alone, due to other constraints, and that is how the Chizhala Chess foundation come in to bridge that gap. I also write articles for a local newspaper all in a quest to promote and sell the game for free.
When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
The first time I was ‘paid’ for my passion I was fourteen years of age, after coming 3rd and winning a bronze medal at the Debswana Junior Secondary Schools Championships.
It was a fierce battle amongst the top chess players in Botswana. I won a chess board and a small trophy for my efforts which I still have. It was payment in kind so to speak because here in Botswana we do not encourage paying school kids in cash so they focus on their studies rather than chasing the money with no education.
Chess is part of education but we encourage that we balance the school work which is the books with sport , which I believe is a brilliant idea. See I still have the small trophy, if it was money I would have long spent the money. My trophies, chess accolades, and my chess talent are for keeps. Money comes and goes.
I have played chess greats such as International Master Robert Gwaze from Zimbabwe, Grand Master Judit Polgar from Hungary one of the best woman players of our time, to name but a few. I have played in the Junior Ranks and senior ranks and I have also represented The University Of Botswana at the inter-varsity games winning all medals in the process during my time at University.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
Growing up in rural Tutume, north of Botswana there was no electricity. One day, my favorite teacher Ms. Kgomo sent me to her house to pick up something and when I got there, I found her kids watching a South African TV station powered by a generator. I was so fascinated by the television set. It was my first time to watch a television in my life……I must have been 7 years or so.
Botswana did not have its own TV station then, then there came a TV commercial with a boy my age doing the unthinkable and at the end the boy said ” BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, NEVER GIVE UP, EAT JUNGLE OATS’‘ and that stuck with me ever since.
I got in trouble for taking too long at the teachers quarters. Giving up has never been an option for me really, I could share other countless episodes and then came chess which then has always kept me going, be it academically or in my personal life.
Chess is what cemented who I was and who I am, chess is my destiny. In chess after losing or playing to a draw with your opponent you rectify your mistakes, go back to the drawing board then start afresh, you never give up and its what makes life interesting, you win some you lose some BUT never give up!
My parents also taught me to have willpower and the power of prayer at a very young age, I always prayed though I had no proof nobody could hear at such a young age, I just prayed for a better life, good health and getting more lambs (baby sheep)!
What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
Reading, prayer and seeing the happy faces and inquisitive looks on people’s faces when I impart my chess skills, unravel chess novelties and beautiful moves with the people motivates me to wake up every day. Chess gives all my students hope.
Charity begins at home. My parents have always taught me that I should share everything that I have, no matter how little it goes a long way. In Botswana, I have since volunteered to teach chess to prisoners, psychiatric patients, able-bodied kids, disabled kids and everyone willing to learn.
Given a chance, I can spread that all across Africa and the world and motivate people. Chess is a gentlemen’s game and makes you humble yourself in defeat and in victory by shaking hands with your opponent after the game!
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?
Nothing at all… Silence is Golden……
What advice do you give to aspiring creatives who look up to you?
Everything happens for a reason, so remain steadfast, remain committed and always be honest and true to life. Do not drop the ball. We are one people, one world! Amen