Jonathan: The Story of a Determined Young Nigerian Chess Player!

He was only 15 years of age, when he was called upon to play as an under 16 representative in the inaugural CPAN Chess League, against the highest rated Nigerian chess player at the time, FM Kigigha Bomo, a very resourceful chess player and one who takes his tournament games like his life depended on it, and the then 15 year old boy had a superior position getting out of the middlegame.

FM Kigigha Bomo

He did not know who he was playing at the time, but all he just wanted to do was play chess to the best of his abilities, and boy, did he push FM Bomo. It felt like any other game and the boy with the will to win, met the man with the will not to lose to a ‘small boy’. At the end of several hours of play, the boy came out with a draw against Nigeria’s top dog and his name was on the lips of virtually every top player and opens players as well, during the league, and that created an exodus for the young players to take their chances.

What was supposed to be a propellant for greater achievements, took him down a path no chess player would want to tow, but one, if towed as early as Jonathan has, always propels them to greater heights once they don’t give up nor give in, which he did neither.

19 year old Oyelabi Jonathan

In 2018, Jonathan said, I need to go back to the basics, and he did just that, going back to the love that brought him into the game in the first place and he came back stronger. In the same year, he finished joint 1st in the U2000 category of the National Friends of Chess event and more recently, in the last 3 tournaments, Jonathan has been within touching distance of the top prize of the under 2000 category, and he has finished joint 2nd in the last two tournaments, prompting his harder preparation for the African Junior Chess Championship in Ghana. He underwent this training program with the current Number 3 chess player on the FIDE rating list for Nigeria (who is currently number one on the live rating), Papa Ajibola Olanrewaju. Jonathan took the training for 2 weeks, after which Mr. Olanrewaju requested for a match, to see his readiness for the championship that starts in just about a week to this time.

Papa Ajibola Olanrewaju vs Oyelabi Jonathan

This match was played at the Pedachess building at Ikorodu, Lagos, and the opening was filled with attacking ideas that tore open the king sides and created a type of imbalance that Papa would have thrived on. But it was the 19 year old that had the initiative and the play as at move 15, when the boy had to determine how to secure his king from an impending onslaught by the ravaging queen on f6, supported by the rook on f8, on a half open f-file.

The brilliant looking f3!? which would have kept the pressure on ‘the tormentor of the youths’ was unplayed on the 16th move, but instead 16. Be3 was played and the game continued, with Papa calmly getting back into his rhythm. Jonathan held sway, as he was doing his best to get a win from the position that had so much going for him in the middlegame, where he played some computer recommended moves, albeit 2nd or 3rd in the list of computer moves.

Getting towards the second time control, which gives both players an extra 30 minutes, it was a battle to find the best moves for the young lad who is yet to play a game without getting into time trouble, but even though Jonathan gave away some important pawns that would have given him an endgame advantage, he hoped that he can do some damage with his passed h-pawn, only for Papa to sac his rook for the pawn and a bishop. A move that tilted the game in Papa’s favor, but with 2 rooks against a rook, a bishop and a pawn, the game eventually ended in an agreed drawn game, which gives plenty of positives for the boy who needs to make a statement at the Juniors tournament coming up in Ghana, in a few days’ time.

With the boy making a final push for sponsors, having raised over a hundred and fifty thousand naira (N150,000+) for a tournament that looks likely to gulp about N250,000, he has shown his readiness to push for the top spot at the event, setting a target of top 3 for himself at a tournament that provides the opportunity to become the youngest International Master in West Africa and believing in his abilities along with trainings received, to make it at the end of the tournament.

Helping kids like this achieve greatness should be at the core of every visionary and I know that we have a number of visionaries who have the heart and funds to provide the remaining funds to help the young lad towards the African Junior Chess Championship, 2019.

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