Within the last one year, the Danhypro Service Limited has invested in Nigeria’s young chess players under the age of twenty (20). During this period, Danhypro had provided gadgets that would help these young ones to achieve quick development and evolution.
Today, virtually every chess player under the age of twenty (20) wants to be a Danhypro junior, whom the organization works with, to ensure their development. Danhypro has given a new meaning to youth chess in Nigeria.
The first Danhypro invitational was overwhelming for the young lads, and by the kickoff of the second invitational, chess fans felt it was going to be a whitewash, considering the calibre of non juniors that made themselves available for the event.
Looking at the participating nine (9) juniors, five (5) had no ratings, two (2) had ratings less than (1800), while only one (1) had a rating above (1800), and Okeke Isaac was the only junior with a (2100+) rating.
On paper, the experience of the non juniors, who have won tournaments at various aspects of their chess sojourn, was expected to overwhelm the juniors, however, it turned out to be the best matched invitational thus far.
As expected, the juniors gave too much respect to the non juniors, and the opponents won most of the games.
The biggest win of the round came in the match between Onovughe Ochuko and Afolabi Emmanuel (considering two players with ratings).
Choosing the Benoni Indian variation of the Benoni defense, Ochuko had hoped to catch the young (1500+ rated) chap unawares. However, Emmanuel showed a good understanding of the opening and got the edge over the national (2100+) player.
The pendulum swung back in Ochuko’s favor with a series of attacking moves that caused Emmanuel to make some bad moves, which put the white king in jeopardy.
However, the move that would have put Ochuko firmly in the driving seat (25….h3), was not played, rather another move (25….Kg7) was preferred. This made all the work done (to that point) vanish.
Furtherance to the above, Emmanuel started to make all the right moves, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Emmanuel was on a roll and Ochuko was going down. The attack had swung to the side of the junior, and he was not going to let go. He huffed and puffed and blew Ochuko’s position away.
This secured a very valuable win for Emmanuel and the juniors, whose top player (Okeke Isaac) already lost to the experience of the top non junior (Edet Udeme).
Afolabi Emmanuel was boisterous going into the second round. He was playing against a former (highest rated) junior, Ogosi Rafael. Unlike Ochuko, whose attack was seemingly lacking the needed finishing touch, Rafael Mary was on the attack from start to finish.
Employing the mighty King’s Indian Defense, Emmanuel had hoped to attack the center from the flanks, Rafael Mary chose the best attacking route, with the Delayed Fianchetto variation.
Having his two (2) rooks on the center files, Ogosi brilliantly exchanged the right pieces, while keeping the attacking initiative. Owing to a cramped position, Emmanuel sacrificed his knight for three (3) pawns.
However, Ogosi ensured that before he lost the third pawn, he had another attacking plan in the works, with his minor pieces doing the dirty jobs.
At the end, the attack was too coordinated and overwhelming for Afolabi to handle. The queen was coming back for Rafael Mary, or Emmanuel’s last defending officer was going to die for a pawn. Emmanuel resigned and the point went to the non juniors.
Although, Okeke Isaac redeemed himself, with a splendid victory over (Olympian) Ogunwobi Tolulope, it was not enough to stop the rundown in the second round that had only two (2) wins and a draw for the juniors.
The first two (2) rounds had been devastating for the juniors, albeit, they were fired for the third round, and were not going to end the day feeling dejected.
How best to achieve this aim, if not by taking down the highest rated non junior!? Orjiekwe Raphael Chidera (who was feeling a little feverish) was saddled with this responsibility (by fate).
Chidera chose the closed variation of the Catalan opening, giving up a pawn for the initiative. This put Udeme in a precarious dilemma of (unconsciously) trying to defend the pawn, while Chidera built an attacking fortress.
To continue protecting the c4 pawn, Udeme sacrificed his rook for the dominant knight at the center of the board. Unfortunately, that was not going to be enough. The young man had all the tricks figured out, and he was not going to fall for any.
The pawn was eventually exchanged, the disturbing bishop was also exchanged, and the rook advantage came to life (after the queens were traded).
The a-pawn became a passed pawn that took the life of the only surviving rook, and Udeme’s passed pawns were going to fall (with the rooks behind them). Udeme resigned, advantage juniors.
The other juniors were buoyed by this victory that they committed to putting more into their ongoing games. It worked for most of them.
The quartet of Okeke Isaac, Olisa Tennyson, Iheanacho Emmanuel and Emmanuel Idara, all converted their games to victories, while Afolabi Emmanuel was very satisfied with a draw against Awesome Chess Rapid Champion, Akinseye Oladotun.
This provided the very first victory for the juniors and a great way to end the first day.
Day two (2) kicked off with a renewed set of juniors, looking to hold their grounds no matter what happened within the day, and round four showed just that.
Although, the trio of Iheanacho Emmanuel, Ekunke Perez and Emmanuel Idara lost to the formidable Okonkwo Ifeanyi, Ajayi Peter Taiwo, and Dr Martin Odum, there were four (4) hard fought draws in this round.
One of these draws was the nerve wrecking draw, played out between Chima Mount Zion and Edet Udeme. A game that would have gone the junior’s way, if only he had a little more experience and coaching.
However, it was the manner of Okeke Isaac’s victory that gave the juniors hope in the round. Starting out with a Symmetrical variation of the Queen’s Pawn Game, Isaac was able to get his balance from the get go.
Transposing into the Three Knights variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, was an idea the Fide Master wanted to test the young Nigerian prodigy with. Unfortunately, it was Ochuko who was left reeling after Isaac’s 8….b5!
A declaration of war on the chessboard, one which the young chap was well equipped for. With the c-pawn putting pressure on the queenside, Ochuko was unable to manage the position better. This gave rise to a series of complications that put white on the back seat.
The advanced “b and c” pawns eventually decided the game after a series of exchanges, along with a sacrificial exchange that did little to douse the attack. The b-pawn, the rook, and ultimately, the queen, all ensured that Ochuko resigned, in what was a massive victory for Isaac.
The juniors lost the round, but took massive steps towards rediscovering themselves.
This round saw an angry set of non juniors take to the board with determination to exterminate. This notion was made evident by the style with which the non juniors converted their respective games, showing no mercy and squeezing for every available blood in the various positions.
However, there are always a couple of juniors that always find a way to outwit their opponents. In this round, following up on his earlier draw, Salako Clinton was able to secure his first win of the invitational in fine fashion, against (Nigeria’s chess “Batman”) Oluwalasinu Bamidele.
Opening with the classical variation of the Open Sicilian Defense, Clinton chose a battlefield that he was accustomed to and stuck to his ideas. The battle of ideas and wits in the middlegame was where the battle was won for Clinton.
Removing the light squared bishop with his “not so active” knight, was a huge plus for him. This allowed him some level of freedom on the queenside, where he was able to create two (2) passed pawns without much of an issue.
It was his handling of the later part of the game that proved that he understood exactly what he was doing, as he secured his all important full point, against his more experienced opponent.
Round six (6), a round of grit, fear, contentment, and understanding. A round where non juniors did not lose a single game, where juniors had to be contented with four (4) draws, where non juniors showed experienced grit to convert, and where some juniors recognized their fears.
The sixth round was one for reassessment on the side of the juniors.
However, in the midst of the gloom for the juniors, Ekunke Perez shone as the little light. His draw against Olympian, Ogunwobi Tolulope was met with joy in the juniors camp.
After five (5) straight losses, the young boy had come to an understanding that a draw was as good as a win (in his case).
The draw showed him that he is not a bad player and he can push himself to become one of the bright prospects in the country.
The draw also takes him away from the shadow of his little brilliant brother Ekunke Goodness, who is currently the best chess playing 10 year old in the country.
As the games of the final day kicked off with the seventh round, the non juniors were not going to soft-pedal, but continued in the form of the previous day.
Although they could not repeat the solidity of the fifth round (that saw them refusing to lose a game), they took the team score up a notch.
Inasmuch as the juniors lost the 7th round matches by two (2) points, both Okeke Isaac and Olisa Tennyson secured valuable victories to boost their respective ratings. Their wins also reduced the cumulative score for the match.
Unrated Ekunke Perez followed up his sixth round heroics with another brilliant draw against Dr Odum Martin, in a keenly contested bout. The duo of Iheanacho Emmanuel and Emmanuel Idara were also held to impressive draws, as the team battled for every possible points.
In a game that Afolabi Emmanuel could have drawn, he allowed his happy emotions get the better of him, against the super resourceful Edet Udeme.
Playing so well to get an almost impenetrable position, Emmanuel missed the closing ideas, as he made perpetual draw offers to his opponent.
Rather than distracting his more industrious and experienced opponent, Emmanuel ended up distracting himself, which eventually led to his loss.
The penultimate round was like a merger between rounds six (6) and seven (7).
This was because the juniors were able to muster more draws than in any other round, and Okeke Isaac stood out with yet another victory (against his state teammate).
Afolabi Emmanuel was one of the standouts during a draw infested round, securing a draw against Ogunwobi Tolulope without making the draw offer.
Meanwhile, Okeke Isaac’s victory put him within a win of the 2200+ rating. He already achieved the highest rating (in the last two (2) decades) for a Nigerian chess player under the age of twenty (20), however, achieving the 2200+ rating would shoot him even further.
The manner of finish employed by the eighteen (18) year old was nothing short of class. The maneuvering, the piece coordination, the ideas, everything was seamless for Isaac, who has carried the weight of the juniors on his shoulders, with the help of the Danhypro Service Limited.
The final round seemed set for more fight than one can imagine. The top two (2) players, Ogosi Rafael Mary and Edet Udeme were in a tug of war, over who would pick up the tag of the champion, as well as go home with the star prize of a hundred and twenty thousand Naira (N120,000).
Ajayi Peter Taiwo was in a bid to gain some ratings as he faced the expectant Okeke Isaac, who was also hoping to achieve victory (for his 2200+ rating pursuit). The unrated juniors were also fighting to finish strong and get a solid initial rating.
Unfortunately for the juniors, the non juniors had other plans. The final round produced only four (4) draws, while the non juniors claimed all other points. Brilliantly so.
Both Edet Udeme and Ogosi Rafael Mary ended victorious, as Ogosi Rafael Mary scooped the top prize without losing a game through the nine (9) rounds.
The event showed how far these juniors have come, thanks to the Danhypro enterprise, who saw the need and remained focused on getting the best out of the young Nigerians.
See you soon.