A Champion Reborn

Six years ago, I met this guy
Tall lanky fellow that couldn’t stop raving about chess.

He wasn’t as strong as those on the school chess team
But he had a loud mouth, LOL.
He would say crazy stuff, like he was going to be the best player in Nigeria very soon, that he was going to play the world champion and defeat him.
We would laugh it off as a silly joke, knowing it was impossible as his level of play was still considerably weak and it would take him many more years to even be on par with some of our National players.
Most of them were already playing chess several years before he was born.
How could he just suddenly think he was going to surpass everyone within a few years.
We respected and feared these masters a lot, but Daniel didn’t see things that way.
He feared no one
He exuded the kind of confidence that was light years beyond his level of play.
He would challenge everyone relentlessly
He would lose terribly
But he was undefeated.

We became close friends
More than friends..Brothers
We made it into the school team
We suffered together
We hungered together
We had sleepless nights playing chess
We trekked several miles to the National stadium to participate in tournaments without winning anything at the end of it all.

Daniel got better, stronger and faster.
His intense Hardwork started to pay off
I watched him grow into a force of nature!
He became unbeatable
He started beating those master players we once feared and respected.
He would even give them impossible time odds just so they could have a chance at matching up to his strength.
Three years down the line
Daniel had done the impossible
He became the highest rated player in the history of chess in Nigeria
He was just eighteen years old at the time
It was unfathomable
He defeated Grandmasters back to back at the Dubai opens
History was being made before our very eyes
Sheer will and determination were his greatest strengths.
He represented Nigeria twice at the world chess Olympiads
He got the FIDE master title of chess
He was unstoppable…..

Everything was looking great for Daniel to become the first Grandmaster in Nigeria and the fifth black grandmaster in the world.
But like every great success story, it came with it’s own fair share of challenges, Daniel’s performance started dropping.
His ratings took a nose dive
He dropped from number one in Nigeria to number five.
He suffered the most painful defeats, strong enough to break a man’s will.
He performed badly at tournaments he used to win effortlessly.
He left the chess scene for a while and went into solitude.
I would call him most of the time to encourage him and find out how he was fairing
He would say he was mastering the Art of comeback.
He was having his lonely years.

The hardest thing in this world is staying focused in times of gnawing need. That moment of need is your grim hour when your mettle is tested.
He was forging his greatness in private flames.

He was back to the drawing board
Building the capacity needed to astound the world yet again.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Daniel, it is that he doesn’t waste a crisis.
Nothing puts him down entirely
He always had something to learn from every tragedy and he always came back stronger.
When I started my Chess in slums project, he was the first person to see astounding greatness in the project.
He supported with everything
He flew down to Lagos to inspire the kids we were training.
He got pizza for all of them.
Despite everything he was going through, he still had a golden heart that cared for people.
I trusted him to find his strength from within.

The lonely years… Maker of Men

Three weeks ago, Daniel called me…
He said he was going to play the West African Zonals for a shot at getting the international master title. But he needed to play the e4 genius tournament first to test his strength and make practical mistakes as he hadn’t played a classical tournament in almost a year.
I told him to not bother playing the e4 tournament and just focus on using that time to prepare for the Zonals.
He said he needed to test his own resolve first before going to the grandest stage.
He said he was going to win the West African Zonals.
I believed him

Daniel played the e4 genius tournament which was a week before the Zonals and he lost terribly.
He had to pull out of the tournament in the fifth round
His mind was troubled.
How could he play so badly and still hope to win the Zonals, ahead of the best players in West Africa.
This was a true test of his resolve!
He saw this coming
He said he was going to use his pain as a weapon
I saw it in his eyes the night before he travelled to Ghana for the West African Zonals.
I wished him well….

27th April 2019
International Master (elect) Daniel Anwuli emerged as the champion of the West African Zonal Championship.
With an awe inspiring performance, he defied all odds to become the youngest International Master of chess in Nigeria and the whole of West Africa.
Fortune truly favors the bold.
The international master title is the second highest attainment you can ever earn in the game of chess.
Just one step away from being a Grandmaster.
He just earned the ticket to play the World chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, at the Chess World Cup in Khanty Mansyk, Russia, later this year.
He’ll be the youngest player from Africa to ever play a current world champion, if GM Magnus Carlsen would choose to play.
And of course a thousand dollars (minimum) richer.

Daniel is back as the highest rated chess player in Nigeria.
His dream of becoming the first Grandmaster in Nigeria just took a quantum leap, and now more than ever, the whole world is watching him….
Greatness is unfolding
A legend in the making
A great inspiration to many…

Today happens to be his birthday, so we at Africa Chess Media are proud to say….
Happy Birthday to the TIGER WOODS of African chess..
A true Champion of the game
Champions don’t show up to get everything they want; they show up to give everything they have.
Be happy!
Because your world as you know it, is about to change.

One comment

  1. Wow! I have read it all. Very powerful testimony. A story that gives me courage even in my present situation at the Zone 4.3 in Madagascar. This is truly powerful.

    Congratulations to Daniel!!

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