Taking a few months off the tour was one of the best things that could have happened to the junior players in this season. It is imagined that a bit of fear gripped some of the junior chess players in the Southern parts of Nigeria when they heard that some of the top junior players in the country are storming their zone.
Unfortunately, they also did not realize that this was an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves. A particular twin realized this and made their way from Anambra (watch out for them).
The event kicked off with some brilliant plays in the hall of the famed Orchid Hotels, Asaba. These brilliant plays asked questions of the top players, which received prompt answers too. It should have been a quiet start, but it seems these kids are out to stamp their authority in Asaba.
It seemed like accelerated pairing, although it only happened because the pairing was done with most of the players not having Fide rating. The first round had a final before the final, as Okemakinde Toluwanimi had to face off against one of the favorites to win the tournament (himself a joint winner of the Abuja event too), Emmanuel Idara.
With the match up on board two, the fans did not see it, because the highest rated player, Eyentonghan Callistus was on the top board, which was live online. The Abuja event had this match up as the final game of the tournament and on board one (1), which ensured that everyone saw how Okemakinde triumphed against Idara, after a brilliant comeback run at that tournament.
It was a fierce battle, as Idara ensured that he avoided any home preparations already made by Toluwanimi. He took Toluwanimi into the dark forest where 2+2=5 and the only way out was only wide enough for one (1) person – Mikhail Tal. When they got to the forest (on board), Idara showed why the Edo team should not drop him anymore.
He converted the game in special form, while refuting every attempt by Toluwanimi to get anything from the game.
On board one (1), however, Callistus was on the ropes while facing the Bayelsa sponsored Ekperi Shine. Ekperi Shine is one of the girls to watch out for in the very near future with her understanding of the opening and middlegame.
Although, some basics need to be understood, such as “do not allow a knight stay too long in your environment” and “look before you leap”, which was one of the reasons she eventually fell to the sword of Callistus.
Ekunke Goodness had the worst possible start to the tournament, and it seems to be the rise of Gabriel Israel (brother of Gabriel Will). Although he lost his first game at the Abuja Tour, Goodness had his older brother, Perez, and his coach, Peter, to uplift his spirit and urge him forward.
Onoja Iyefu was another casualty of the first round, as she lost in spectacular fashion to Idahosa Amos, another young talent from the Southern parts of the country. Hopefully, some of these kids get the opportunity and grace to participate in more events to hone their skills.
Round one (1) was “either kill or be killed” on the chessboard, with no draws on the sixteen (16) boards.
The second round had an interesting match on top board, a match that fans hoped to see during the Abuja edition of the event but was not. Emmanuel Idara taking on Eyetonghan Callistus was always going to be an interesting matchup, seeing the style of play of both players.
Callistus had to bow to the superior prowess of Idara in what was a battle of King’s Indian understanding.
For those who followed the match between IM Adu and IM Balogun back in 2017, they would have understood the fact that the King’s Indian Attack (KIA) is not as potent as the King’s Indian Defense (KID). This was exemplified by Idara’s use of the King’s Indian defense to conquer Callistus’ attack.
On board two (2), the super improved Matan Adebayo fell to Gabriel Israel in such way that Adebayo did not realize what hit him until it was too late. Indeed, this is the rise of Gabriel Israel, who started the event on the very best note.
Both Olisa Tennyson and Okeke Isaac got routine victories over their respective opponents. Suleiman Azumi also got a good victory over Keyi Lucky Musa, who would have thought to himself “how did I make that blunder”.
Omesu Miracle stood her ground against Afolabi Emmanuel, who felt he could overrun her (because it is a girl). Emmanuel got the rudest shock of his life when she held the advantage and refused to let go until he had to resign. Both Okemakinde Toluwanimi and Ekunke Goodness had super important victories in this round, after their first round losses.
As the first round, this round had no draws from top to bottom.
Employing the Ruy Lopez opening, Emmanuel Idara came at Olisa Tennyson with an interesting opening choice. Although, Idara had chances to open up the game and go for a fight, he locked up the game and both players could not advance their positions. The game ended in a draw and that became the first draw of the tournament.
Meanwhile, on board two (2), Okeke Isaac was on the ropes against Gabriel Israel, who has taken the tournament by storm. In a position where Okeke would have lost an officer, Israel went for the wrong plan and eventually lost the advantage he had built. The game was lost, however, not before he made sure Okeke remembers his name for putting him in a bad spot.
Chima Mount Zion kept up with Okeke Isaac with an all important win over Omesu Miracle as Suleiman Azumi was also broken by Orjiekwe Raphael. Okemakinde Toluwanimi’s renaissance continued with yet another win in this round, as it seems he is looking to turn the tables again.
Coming from down below, both Onoja Iyefu and Pelomoh Jessica dispatched off Keyi Lucky Musa and Quickpen Deborah respectively, in their pursuit of top place finish at the event. Unfortunately, Ekunke pushed himself too much and fell against Iheanacho Emmanuel.
Finally, at the top, in the fourth (4th) round, Okeke Isaac (in his mind) would be like “there is no way I am leaving here”. In comes Chima Mount Zion to challenge Isaac for the point to stay on the top board. Chima employed the use of the classical variation of the Pirc defense to dislodge Isaac’s 1.e4.
What followed was a series of attacks on a queen that avoided a trade, an eventual exchange, and a knight loss. This led to a predictable ending, which saw Isaac run the position ragged and secure his first victory on the top board.
The trio of Olisa Tennyson, Emmanuel Idara and Eyetonghan Callistus, all secured victories on their boards respectively, to try keeping up with Isaac. In a game that was seemingly heading for a draw, Afolabi Emmanuel offered Okemakinde Toluwanimi the draw, however, Toluwanimi felt he could get more from the position (with a pawn up), hence his push for more.
With single rooks and pawns on the board, Toluwanimi dropped his rook right beside Emmanuel’s rook during time pump. Seeing it, he jumped up in a mixture of emotions, shouted, and resigned. This was going to hurt his push for the top this time around, while the game gives Emmanuel the push he needs to keep going forward.
Ekunke was only able to secure a draw from his game against Omesu Miracle, who has definitely been a revelation at the event. Pelomoh Jessica, on the other hand, secured a hard fought win against Iheanacho Emmanuel, while Ekperi Shine and Omesu Mercy both secured victories too.
It was the first round in the tournament where there would be more than one draw (three), and where else would the first draw come from if not the top board!? In a repeat of the 6th round of the Abuja Tour, Idara played black, with Isaac opening the game with an interesting 1.b3.
It was always going to be an interesting game and Isaac made sure of that after giving up his queen for both of Idara’s rooks. Unfortunately, the queen is just too versatile to allow any form of meanderings in the position, and Isaac had to settle for the draw.
In the game that took the round by storm, Olisa Tennyson chose an inferior opening against Pelomoh Jessica, which backfired in the middlegame. Holding a pawn in the middlegame, Jessica continued to apply pressure on the position, which eventually made Tennyson to give up another pawn.
In a few more moves, Tennyson resigned and handed Jessica a huge boost going into the second day.
The second draw of the round came on board six (6), where Omesu Miracle held her own against Okemakinde Toluwanimi, in what seemed like a major win for the young girl and a huge blow to Toluwanimi’s quest.
After experiencing the wins of Chima Mount Zion, Afolabi Emmanuel, Matan Adebayo and Suleiman Azumi in this round, the final match of the day was between Akinbodewa Adebayo and Eyetonghan Callistus.
Both players had a knight apiece, but Callistus had a pawn ahead, as you will see in the position below:
After various knight maneuvers, Adebayo went for the pawn break, which would have killed him (on the board) if Callistus had just focused on moving his h-pawn to queen. However, he did not calculate Adebayo’s king movement, which was enough to capture the pawn and give him the draw he worked hard (with faith) for.
Day 2 will definitely prove to be a fiercer day, considering those who fell today. They would be looking to gather points towards the Grand Finale in Lagos.
However, Okemakinde just fell to Goodness!
Whom do you tip to win at Asaba?
Who will go into the Grand Finale with the highest points tally?
Kindly leave a comment and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.