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People & Stories

Alan LayLay


Student, Chess Player

It is such a privilege to be a part of this growing community wherein we share, promote, and enhance our talents about chess which bonds us wherever and whenever we are.

Len Radić


Runner up City of Zagreb Championship, Chess Player and Content Creator

My story starts in 2007 when I was born in Zagreb, Croatia. I learned how to move the pieces from both my father and grandfather, when I was 7 years old but a more serious play started a bit later. 

Anish Neupane


MBBS Student

Hello, my name is Anish Neupane. I am from Nepal. Born in 2002, I am currently pursuing MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) as my career. Talking about my passion for chess, it started when I was first introduced to this beautiful game at age 11.

Shatakane Smela

Republic of south africa

Law Student, Arena Candidate Master, 1st Smiling Pawn Champion

Hello, my name is Shatakane Smela. I am from South Africa. Born in 2002, I am currently pursuing LLB (Bachelor of Laws) as my qualification. Unlike most  kids I was a late bloomer, I got into chess quite late when my mathematics teacher bought me a chessboard as a birthday present.

Winner V. Echano


Student BS Criminology, Chess player and coach

My name is Winner V. Echano 24yrs of age from Labo, Camarines Norte Bicol,  Philippines. I am a sporty person, the sports in my past are badminton, billiards, soccer, volleyball, and basketball that I really liked and love. I am now 3rd-year in college and taking BS Criminology. I am a funny, friendly, and talkative person. Also like reading books.

Blessings Motshabi


Arena FIDE Master, 2nd Smiling Pawn Champion, Smiling Pawn Coach

I’m in my twenties and I started playing chess in the street at the age of 8 years but it took 7 years without playing the tournaments because of not having a guide or a coach in the beautiful game.

Emmanuel Dut Majier Leek

South Sudan

Member of the Olympiad Team

I am Emmanuel Dut Majier Leek from South Sudan, from Jonglei state, Bor. I learned chess in 2012 in Bor before I flew to Uganda as a refugee of the war that broke out in 2013.

Fran Rautner


Student, City Champion

Hello everyone! My name is Fran. I was born in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, in the year 2007. My grandfather introduced me to chess and I enjoyed our evenings battling over the chessboard.

David Kaniki


Student, Owner of Dubrovnik chess set

My name is David Mumba Kaniki from Lusaka, Zambia. I am currently in my 3rd year studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Zambia. My passion is learning theories presented in theoretical physics.

Mihael Jakrlin


Student Civil Engineering, One of the top U20 in Croatia

I am a civil engineering student, born in Croatia in 2002. I started learning about chess at 3-4 years old. I saw my dad playing with his old friend and I became interested in the game.

Rahul Mukherjee


IT Engineer

Hello, I am Rahul Mukherjee. I am from India. By profession I am an IT engineer and working as a software developer. I had many ambitions in my childhood and being a chess player was certainly not one of them. Although I had a chess set with which we friends used to play and I hardly remember if we followed any correct rules to play the game but it was fun.

Katlego Selebogo


Engineer and Educator, Arena FIDE Master, 3rd Smiling Pawn Champion, Smiling Pawn Coach

My name is Katlego Selebogo and I am from Botswana, currently staying in Gaborone. I am in my twenties and I am a qualified electrical and electronics engineer specializing in telecommunications. I am also a private educator as I am a firm believer in the importance of education.

Adam Bosak


Student, Member of the 3rd National School Team

Hello! My name is Adam Bosak, I live in Zagreb, Croatia,  and I was born in 2008. I train chess and judo since 2014th. I won 3 gold medals in judo. I also love playing video games,  math, computer science, and history. I’m a member of the chess club Travno.

Franka Paulić


Student, County Chess Champion

My name is Franka Paulic. Born in 2010 and I live in Samobor, Croatia. I love traveling, animals and sports. I started playing chess at my school as an extracurricular activity but soon I joined Samobor Chess Club as I fell in love with the game.

Ledion Berisha


Student, The Most Decorated Player in Smiling Pawn

My name is Ledion. I come from Norway and have parents from Kosovo. I started playing chess when I was 8 years old and played my 1st tournament in 2014 where I got 2nd place. Chess has always been in our family. My brother plays it, my father did, my grandfather too and so on. I like history, chess, geography and English.

Jan Horčička


Smiling Pawn Champion

I am a student, born in 2007. I don’t remember when I learned the rules of chess, my favorite sport, but I do remember that my dad taught me the rules and that I started actively playing it about 7 years ago when I was 7 years old.

Andrew Mulenga Mumba


B.Sc in Biology and Chemistry, School Teacher, Arena FIDE Master, Smiling Pawn Coach

I’m Andrew from Kitwe, Zambia, and I’m in my twenties, with a B.Sc. in Biology and Chemistry. The Smiling Pawn chess community has been one of the most helpful and reliant with regards to chess improvement.

Thomson Kaniki


Medical Doctor

I am Thomson from Lusaka, Zambia, a Medical Doctor, – about to begin my Junior Residency. A good friend of mine taught me how to play chess at the age of 13 and I was very fascinated by the game. Over the years I played irregularly not until 2020 due to Covid-19 lockdowns when I was introduced to Lichess.

Gomolemo Mokgathi


Smiling Pawn Candidates 2022 Winner

My name is Gomolemo Mokgathi, I’m 21 years old from Botswana. I learned chess at the age of 11 (2012), then I played my first tournament in 2014.

Ivano Močić


Croatian State Champion, Chess Content Creator

My name is Ivano, and I was born in 2012, so probably one of the youngest members of Smiling Pawn. I started playing FIDE rated tournaments in 2021, and this game completely won over me, and I decided to give my very best in becoming a chess champion.

Sabarish Kannan


Mechanical Engineer, Chess Coach

Hello! I am Sabarish from India. I am a self-taught chess player who started playing chess 7 years ago. I am a Graduate in Mechanical Engineering. I took chess as my profession in 2019. Currently, working as a Chess coach.

Dražen Čačić


Internet Wizard for Chess Players and Streamers

I am Dražen and I am a chess aficionado from the city of Slavonski Brod in Croatia. There are days when I play so well that I imagine I am a reincarnation of Jose Raul Capablanca. 

Pande Munashe


Cyber Security Specialist

My name is Pande Munashe and I am from Zimbabwe, Cyber Security Specialist by profession and a Chess Enthusiast. I am 30 years old and I am a Registered Cyber Security Specialist specializing in Computer Science.

Agbakoba Onyeka Martins


Chess Academy Club Owner in Delta State Nigeria

My name is Agbakoba Onyeka Martins, born in 2005. I’m a native of Onitsha north local government Anambra state Nigeria but I was born and brought up in Delta state Nigeria. I started playing chess at the age of 13. It all started when my eldest brother Arinze was being taught by our neighbor.

Opu Bonnie


Mechanical Engineer, Smiling Pawn Candidates 2023 Winner

I am Opu Bonnie from Nigeria. A Mechanical Engineer by profession. I was taught the game of Chess at nine years of age by my French lesson teacher.

Thuto Mpene


Student at Moselewapula Junior School

My name is Thuto Mpene, born in 2009 from Gaborone, Botswana student at Moselewapula Junior School. I started playing chess at the age of 5 years under the influence of my parents who used to play chess on daily basis.


The best time with Smiling Pawn was when I could visit our studio and spend some time playing OTB with Len, and recording videos.


I learned a lot after watching the streaming video where Coach Goran gave commentary about the games and learned from my mistakes. I’m looking forward to my chess journey with my Smiling Pawn friends.