A superlative performance from Mr. and Mrs Onokpite saw a top drawer finish at the just concluded Tema Chess Classic, 2022.
The Nigerian couple showed distinct prowess to claim the top two prizes at the tournament hosted under the auspices of the Ghana Chess Association.
It is rare to find a couple top an open chess tournament, however, this dynamic duo have achieved just that, in Ghana.
Over the last half decade, Nigerians have dominated the tournament and by the fourth round, when Ghana’s Candidate Master Mensah Joseph Jamena defeated Kennedy Onokpite, the Ghanaians must have felt it is coming home.
Follow us down the journey of a three (3) day tournament in Ghana.
The first day had such impressive games in the first two rounds, as six (6) players picked up maximum points, while a further six (6) were half a point behind the early leaders, and others followed.
Of the top six (6) in the leaderboard on the first day were, Mr. & Mrs Onokpite, CM Sosu Edward, Fomevor Cephas Clinton, CM Mensah Joseph Jamena, and Anhwere Bernard.
The sextet of them faced off against each other in the third round (the first round of day 2). While Mr. Onokpite defeated his wife, both CM Mensah Joseph Jamena and Anhwere Bernard claimed victories, to keep up with the top seeded player of the tournament.
The next round (fourth round) delivered a brilliant show of grit and determination. To achieve victory against the dogged Kennedy Onokpite, you have to be resourceful and unafraid.
This was why when CM Jamena got paired against him; the candidate master played the poisoned pawn variation against Kennedy’s Pirc defence.
Although, Kennedy had a better middlegame from the opening phase, his 23rd move and further continuations gave him away. Jamena made the best moves thence, and fruitfully converted, after claiming one of the rooks with his advanced center pawn.
This victory, along with Bernard’s draw against the Ghanaian top seed, FM Hasford John Kojo, put the duo ahead of the pack of chasers, even though there was half a point between them.
The fifth round was a brutal display by Kennedy, as he chose not to castle his king in other to take Akpa Prince away from preparations and go gangster on the Ghanaian. It worked wonders and Prince resigned after the 30th move, when he realized that the outside passer will only cost him to lose more pawns.
Toritsemuwa stamped her authority in the tournament during this round too, when she played a very interesting line in the queen’s gambit declined, where her rook was on a7 for eighteen (18) moves!
Removing his knight from d1 (defender of the c3 square) cost Kwabena the game, as Toritsemuwa’s rook sat on c3, and the exchange ended the match in resignation, eight (8) moves after.
Meanwhile, Anhwere Bernard defeated CM Mensah Joseph Jamena on the top board to wrap up a brilliant second day for the 27-year old, who finished day two atop the standings.
Day three (3) started with Mr. and Mrs. Onokpite both playing white in the penultimate round of the tournament. Although, they both know their stuff, they ensured they took their respective opponents away from possible preparations with their opening plays.
Kennedy chose not to castle yet again, and while he played knight and bishop against the bishop pair, Bernard failed to check the threats of the knight. Owing to an attack against the a-pawn (which would have created a passer on the a-file), Kennedy managed to fork both the king and bishop, which led to an automatic resignation.
In the game between Toritsemuwa and Fomevor Clinton, an early capture of the b8 knight changed the dynamics of the game. This ensured that there was a level of imbalance in the game.
Tending towards an endgame that had knight+bishop+pawns would only favor the prepared, and Toritsemuwa danced well with her bishop+knight, and exchanged them at the right time.
The final exchange of her knight for the opponent’s bishop occurred when her king had gained access into the opponent’s lair, and could capture pawns at will. This forced resignation on the upcoming 24 year old, while CM Jamena was also victorious CM Adu Jnr Lionel.
In the final round, CM Jamena had the opportunity to defeat Mrs. Onokpite, haven defeated the husband in the earlier round, and what a victory that would have been for the prolific Ghanaian.
However, the resourcefulness of Toritsemuwa was at work yet again, as she exchanged queens early, to allow her minor officers make most of the statement on the board. Although she ensured that Jamena did not castle, she chose not to castle, to keep the king actively in the center.
With the king out of the way, the rooks took up the control of the major files with attack after attack. After forcing the exchange of Jamena’s only remaining rook for her bishop, Toritsemuwa went around with her rook to pick up pawns.
However, it was the final exchange of the rook for bishop that took the game beyond the reach of Jamena, with two (2) passed pawns on the king’s side working the victory magic of resignation.
To join his wife atop the standings, Mr. Onokpite had to get through the flying third seeded player of the tournament and National Champion, Dr. Adu-Poku Kwabena, and what a 50-move game it was.
Playing black, Kennedy opted for the Old Indian defence, and he switched from an attacking Ken to a defensive one. Kennedy started on the back foot, but gradually traded off his inactive pieces while gaining some space advantage (even with Dr. Adu-Poku controlling the half-open files).
After encouraging some pawn pushes on the kingside (which made the kingside relatively weak), Kennedy invited the queen exchange, which the good doctor fell for. The position slowly crumbled with trading off the remaining officers, which created a passed pawn for Kennedy.
Unfortunately for Dr. Adu-Poku, his own passed pawn was kept under lock and key, while Kennedy now has two (2) passed pawns. This forced an eventual resignation from the Ghanaian, and crowned the Nigerian couple as joint first at the tournament.
At the end, the president of Ghana Chess Association, Ameku Philip Elikem, came from behind to join the quartet of players that finished in third place.
In the under 16 category, 12 year old Richardson Mawutor attained six (6) points, of the possible seven (7), to claim the U-16 top prize. He finished a full point ahead of the trio of his brother, Richardson Mawuli, Thakkar Aarush, and Pierrebourg Samuel, who finished second, third and fourth (on tie breaks) respectively.
Furthermore, in the under 10 category, the young Ghanaian prodigy, Acheampong Dave Quansah Chief, strikes with a perfect six (6) points, of the possible six (6) points available. He took no prisoners, and won the category with two (2) points ahead of the chasing pack.
Ghana Chess Association has kicked off on a very good note, and we believe every federation are gearing up for the year ahead, in other to prepare their players for the upcoming Olympiad in Russia.
Welcome to 2022!!