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Curro Klerksdorp learner breaks barriers in local board game achievement

Board games are gaining popularity across the globe, but one Curro learner is currently dominating a board game with origins closer to home - Morabaraba. Saudah Bhaimia, a matric learner at Curro Klerksdorp, has recently earned the distinction of being the first ever female to climb to the top of the official Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA) Morabaraba rankings.

There is added importance to her rise to the top of the Morabaraba rankings, since doing so breaks the barriers of gender inequality, especially since Morabaraba is traditionally played among men. “As the first female to have won the Championships three times in row and to hold the top spot in the rankings, I hope it can help motivate and encourage other women to reach their goals and dreams, and to never give up,” Bhaimia says.

Earning the top spot

Bhaimia secured her place after walking away as winner of the MSSA's 2020 South African National Championships for the third year in a row and taking the Individual Honours for Morabaraba. With 175.5 points, she is a full 57.5 points clear of her closest competitor on the MSSA rankings.

“Morabaraba is more than just a game; it requires you to think critically and strategically. It also teaches you an important lesson in that, even if you’ve made the wrong move during play and things are not going your way, you have to move forward and carry on. You never know when things might take a turn for the better!” Bhaimia enthuses.

During 2020, she was also awarded South African National Federation Colours (Honours) by the MSSA and secured the coveted ‘Boardgamer of the Year’ award.

What is Morabaraba?

Morabaraba is a local strategy board game, which, like many others, is easy to learn but difficult to master. It is popular in both South Africa and Botswana, with variations found across the globe, including India (Char bhar), Zimbabwe (Tsoro yemutwelve) and Europe (Nine-man morris).

The game doesn’t actually require a physical gameboard, seeing that the layout can even be drawn in sand, with small stones used as pieces, called ‘cows’. With 12 cows each to start with, two players take turns to try and line up three cows on different intersections of the board. Doing so allows one to remove a cow from your opponent off the board. Whoever reduces their opponent to only two cows left, or no more possible moves, is crowned the winner.

Gaining an interest

Bhaimia’s interest in Morabaraba began after Curro Klerksdorp offered this board game as an extra mural activity in 2018, and she believes the game “brings back the roots of Africa with a modern twist.”

As Bhaimia played more games, her skill level increased and soon she was competing in, and winning local tournaments. On the day of a competition, she will make sure she had enough sleep, and begin by having a hearty meal and enough water to stay hydrated, followed by prayer.

Practice for competitions is key, and she plays games against a friend, family members and even online in order to prepare. The longest game of Morabaraba Bhaimia ever played lasted 30 minutes, and that was against her mentor and inspiration in the mind sport industry, Colin Webster.

Her personal dream remains to represent South Africa at the annual World Championships, however, for 2021, it is the Matric exams that are her fiercest opponent. After school, Bhaimia plans to study equestrian management, alongside a goal of becoming an English teacher.