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Africa Individual Chess Championship Kick Off

by Ogunsiku Babatunde
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The Africa Individual Chess Championships (AICC), Lagos 2022, was flagged off by the chairman of the Local Organizing Committee, Prince Adeyinka Adewole. A grand opening ceremony, which had the President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Mr Arkady Dvorkovich, in attendance.

The Chairman, Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the Africa Individual Chess Championships, Lagos 2022

The opening ceremony had the long lost 1998 Elista Chess Olympiad gold medal, presented to International Master Odion Aikhoje, by the FIDE President himself.

The FIDE President presenting the gold medal to IM Odion Aikhoje

During the event, the president of FIDE opined that the Nigeria Chess Federation, and indeed, Africa is ripe to host some major global tournaments. He also encouraged the African federations to bid for these events.

The FIDE President in his Agbada regalia!

Before the end of the event, an award was also presented by the AICC 2022 LOC, through the FIDE Vice President, Mr Olalekan Adeyemi, to the FIDE President, for his commitment towards the development of chess in Africa.

The FIDE President receiving his award!

The technical meeting held on the morning of September 18, 2022, and various decisions pertaining to the participants of the championships were agreed upon. A part of these decisions, is the decision to start the first round by 5:30pm, rather than the original 3pm (only for the first day).

Technical meeting before the championship began.

Before the commencement of the first round, the FIDE president officially declared the championship open, as the president of the Africa Chess Confederation, ably represented by her first Vice president, Mrs. Nadedza Marochkina, gave a remarkable speech.

Mrs. Nadedza Marochkina of Senegal speaking on behalf of the ACC President

In the Open (usually male) section, it was 18-year-old International Master Okeke Isaac, who claimed the first win, over Bruno Koffi of Togo.

The game started as a Scotch opening with the battle for the center of the board and this was easily conceded by the Togolese, without knowing it.

International Master Okeke Isaac in action

While Okeke was going for the kingside break with 12. f4! Bruno was oblivious of the threats and continued the game as usual, whereas something had significantly changed from the 10th move.

Bruno further harmed himself with his 13….f6? move, which ultimately opened up the f-file for Okeke. The boy exploited the offer graciously and he did not delay in closing out the game.

Callistus battling it out against FIDE Master Akintoye.

With that point in the bag, Callistus was tested by FM Abdulrahman Abdulraheem Akintoye, and pushed to the limits, in an 84 move thriller that ended in an agreed draw. The game was double-edged, where Callistus had a rook and a pawn to Abdulrahman’s rook in the endgame.

The game was an interesting battle within the Greûnfeld defence atmosphere, and Callistus did the most to win, only for the game to end a draw.

Okemakinde Toluwanimi in action

The upset of this section came on the 9th board, where 19-year-old Okemakinde Toluwanimi overcame the powers of (former Nigeria Number 1) Ajibola Olanrewaju in a keenly contested game.

A game of attacking intents from beginning to the end. Using the Karklings- Martinovsky Variation of the Russian Game, Toluwanimi took the game to the veteran, know has been know to be both a youth lover and a youth slayer (how do you make the two nicknames align?).

The opening showed that Toluwanimi was not going to castle in the game, and this was confirmed by his 16th move, Kf2!? As the middlegame battle went on, decisions had to be made as regards the battle for the endgame.

Arbiter responding to a call.

Ajibola unknowingly chose his dark-squared bishop (with pawns on the light squares), while Toluwanimi chose his knight.

These choices determined how the game would end, as Toluwanimi ultimately had the better endgame, due to the superiority of his knight over the dark-squared bishop.

Female Section

However, in the female section, it was a Nigerian affair for the upset of the day, where Oyelese Mayomi handed a cool welcome back to Woman Fide Master Oloruntola Tobiloba.

Mayomi Oyelese overcoming the challenge of Tobiloba!

Tobiloba comes out of early retirement to participate in the championship, and while she may be rusty, she still showed that with a couple of games under her belt, she would get back to the lioness that she was known for.

Mayomi must have been working hard to secure this all-important victory, and it was a truly deserved victory for a lady that has dedicated the most part of her life to chess.

WFM Luiza Pires!

The second upset of the female category was handed down by Likando Namakau of Zambia, who defeated the higher rated Woman Fide Master Luiza Pires.

Round 2 continues today, by 4pm. This time was also agreed upon by the players during the technical meeting, yesterday. However, this time was only agreed upon to balance off the late kickoff that happened yesterday.

All games will be transmitted live from today onwards, and thus everyone will be able to follow the games as they are happening.

Links to the games:

The Open Section: https: //lichess.org/broadcast/african-individual-chess-championships-2022/round-1/vPK7PrtS

The Female Section: https://lichess.org/broadcast/african-individual-chess-championships-2022-women/round-2/WYT0BLcu

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