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Advancing through the Chessboard of Life

Maliha is a recent graduate of SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls' School managed by Zindagi Trust. She started her chess journey from casual games at home but it was the chess class at her school that began to shape her life in a new direction. The quietness and the concentration that chess requires drew her towards the game and after encouragement from her school chess teacher she signed up for the Chess Club at school, designed for students who show special talent.

You have to calculate ahead for your next two moves and your opponent's.When I first got into this I thought wow, this is tough...but it was exactly that which also made it fun for me. I took it as a challenge."

Maliha thinks playing chess against the clock has helped expand her mental capacity to solve problems, be itdoing 3-digit multiplication in her headorbreezing throughpop quizzes to balance equations. In subjects like Physics and Chemistry, she is able to visualize the concepts being taught which she thinks helps her tackle difficult questions. She exudes a quiet humble confidence:

There's nothing special about me or the other girls on the team. It's just that playing chess has trained our minds to solve quickly and given us the self-belief that we can work through any challenge - on the chessboard or on an exam paper."

She also credits chess as havingmade in impact on her personality. Having played in so many competitions and facing opponents from all age groups and backgrounds, including the best elite private schools of the city, has helped develop her confidence and communication skills. She says she has gone from being a shy middle school-er to a quick-witted, present-minded teenager. She is now confident not only in talking to her competitors but also in her ability to overcome any challenges that come her way.

Maliha has won scores of school and city level competitions in chess. She participated in the 2018 National Women's Chess Championship, an open event with no age restrictions, which meant she was up against 30 of the most formidable players from across Pakistan. After a grueling 5-day championship, with three back-to-back rounds lasting three hours every day, Maliha finished at the 7th position - a proud moment for us, specially given that she was not only the youngest player to feature in the top 10 but also the only player from a government school to feature in the final round of the competition.Earlier that year, she was also invited to play chess with Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a challenge she enjoyed and excelled in!

Taking note of the impact chess can have on a child's problem-solving skills and overall brain development, Zindagi Trust started teaching chess at its adopted government schools in 2011. In the summer of 2019, the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan took the trust's chess program to TCF schools - a great achievement for us and a welcome sign that students across a large network of schools will now benefit from the advantages of playing chess. Having graduated the same summer, Maliha was selected to coach the teachers at TCF on how to teach chess, a remarkable achievement for her and a source of great pride for us.

Now in her first year of college, Maliha aspires to be a doctor. Her inspiration comes from her chess coach at school, international chess master and former national champion Shehzad Mirza, who taught her how to balance her professional career and her passion for chess. She leaves us with this goal: to represent Pakistan in chess competitions internationally and win!


Sports promote physical fitness, alertness and better concentration, collaboration, self-esteem, and perseverance in children. Each of our schools features weekly sports classes for all students.
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