It was a battle of three (3) Nigerians from the beginning of the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships until the end, as Ajibola Olanrewaju (Papa), IM Adu Oladapo and FM Oragwu Chukwunonso held the forte at Sierra Leone to take up the most medals at the championship.
The most brilliant of the trio was Ajibola Olanrewaju, who replicated a Magnus Carlsen performance by claiming the championship trophy at the three levels of Blitz, Rapid and Classical, which made him the first in a long time to achieve this feat, and the first untitled player to achieve it.
His toughest challenge came in his game against Nigeria’s most haunting player, Cote D’Ivoire’s Fide Master Simplice Armel Degondo, who gave nothing away in their fifth-round encounter, as the Nigerian was unable to overcome the Ivorian in their encounter and had to settle with a draw.
Being the highest rated player at the event, Ajibola did not allow the favorite tag to dwell so long on his mind and showed his workings on the board of play, as he was unstoppable at the championship even amidst the COVID-19 issue threatening the world.
He was not always the fastest of players in Nigeria, but was able to string up some super important victories during the Rapid and Blitz championships, where he had 6.5/7 and 9/9 respectively in an outstandingly brilliant performance in Freetown.
International Master Adu Oladapo, who would have been one of the huge favorite for the rapid section was unable to finish in the medals table, but it was Liberia’s duo of FM Barcon Harmon and Thomas Saah, who outdid the Nigerians and claimed second and third positions after Ajibola Olanrewaju claimed the top place in the section with a standout six and a half (6.5) out of seven (7) possible points. The Liberians relegated the next Nigerian to fourth place, even though Thomas Saah finished with same points with FM Oragwu Chukwunonso, he beat the Nigerian to third place with a better tie break when he defeated the Nigerian in their encounter.
The Nigerians were looking to bounce back during the Blitz section and even though Ajibola Olanrewaju continued his dominant performance with a super impressive perfect nine (9) out of the possible nine (9) points, FM Oragwu Chukwunonso was able to pip the Liberian juggernaut, FM Barcon Harmon, to second place, even though they ended with the same number of points with seven (7) wins and two (2) defeats apiece, out of the nine (9) games played. Relegating Nigeria’s IM Adu Oladapo to fourth place.
This victory increases the number of International Masters that Nigeria will boast of, going into the Olympiad later in the year, when the COVID-19 case is finally sorted out, as Ajibola Olanrewaju will become the latest international master being welcomed into the club, seeing that he has more than the required rating for the title confirmation. This presents a mix of veterans and youngsters as internationally recognized top players who would be flying the Nigerian flag at international events.
Considering the fact that there were not enough ladies to make up for the female section, the ladies played alongside the guys and Senegalese Marochkina Nadezda Valerevna ended the event as the best lady of the tournament, even though she was unable to finish the tournament because she had to catch an earlier flight back to Senegal, owing to the COVID-19 lockdown. Who knows, maybe she could have picked up the Fide Master title at the end of the tournament!?