Since the creation of the Nigerian chess industry, there has always been that one lady who fights it out with the guys, to give ladies a reason to believe that they can fight for top prizes. Nigeria has had the Lola and Funmi Alabi, Asanga Nsisong, Tobi Olatunji and most recently, the lady whom this article is about, Ofowino Toritsemuwa, who just finished as the best female player at the just concluded Mind Games International Grand Finale in Lagos.
Learning chess at the age of 21 years (2010), one would feel the time was past to make any major impact, but not for the dogged Ofowino Toritsemuwa. She learnt the game from a local chess club at Ekosodin, in the University of Benin, and grew with the help of some young chess players in the club (at the time), with the inclusion of Igwubor Micah, Nesimeye Ejomafuvwe, and a host of other Benin chess playing boys.
Starting her chess playing career in the year 2010, the same year she learnt the game, and she was well baptized on the board of play, but she still picked up one of the female prizes on offer. However, knowing where she was coming from, she did not give up, she could not give up, she had to get better, she had to get stronger, and she dedicated her life to understanding the game better.
She began her journey towards improvement and in a couple of years, she participated at the National Sports Festival, Eko 2012, representing her state, Delta State, in what was a major step in the right direction for the young girl.
They won the team gold medal, pipping other strong female teams to the medal table. Even though she was not given enough opportunities to show what she was capable of, it would have been a slap on the coach, if the team had not won the gold medal, considering the super talent they left on the bench for the most part of the tournament.
With this understanding, she planned for the National Championships, which was being organized by the Nigerian Chess Federation, in partnership with Nigerian Breweries, for the NBL National Chess Championships in 2013. With the Female National Championship title up for grabs, she played some interesting games to finish the tournament as the 5th best female player in the country after the tournament.
Toritse, as she is fondly called by many, participated in the last Olympiad trials that held in Nigeria, in 2014, which was the qualifiers to the Tromso Olympiad. After some training with Benin/Delta peeps, she came out to show the things she had learnt, and boy, was she playing some good chess (in the female section).
At the end of the first trials, she finished joint 9th and it was as though she was going to lose out, considering she drew her last game and another lady won hers, to finish joint 9th. But the tie break favored her and she went on to qualify from the second trial tournament, only to miss out on the Olympiad, due to the unavailability of her fide id, which took too long for the federation to sort out at the time.
It has been a tupsy turvy ride for the brilliant lady, but her mindset changed after the Olympiad, and during the National Friends of Chess, where everyone played against each other and the prizes were given in categories (to help boost the confidence of both the juniors and the ladies).
In one of the rounds, she was paired against a top player, Akinwamide Oluwadamilare, who was in a bad position, due to a dubious opening played and Toritsemuwa’s understanding of the opening line. After much play from both sides, the game ended in a painful draw (and just like when Phiona Mutesi’s brother told her that she would never be able to beat him), FM Kigigha Bomo then said she would never be able to beat Mr Akinwamide. This sparked a renewed will to train harder and beat top players, which she eventually started to do.
2015 was a brilliant year for the young lady, who picked up virtually every top female prize on offer at virtually every tournament being played, and she eventually started picking up points off the top players in the country, which led to her being given the nickname “MAN BEATER” after she defeated series of guys at the Millionaire Satellite Chess Festival in Lagos, Nigeria, the President’s Cup in Accra, Ghana, where she picked up the best female prizes.
One of the highlights of her 2015 career path came, after her 1st place finish at the Nigerian Breweries Open Chess Championship, when she was invited for the Ashton Wells Chess Championship in Abraka, Delta State, where she toppled the best female players at the time to come out champion of the event.
She has continued to be consistent ever since, and when she had seemingly done enough to qualify for the Olympiad again, in 2016, with a best female performance at the Zone 4.4 Individual Chess Championship, where all the players had to play in one category, and yet another best female performance at the CPAN Chevron Chess Challenge, where she showed strength against some notable male oppositions, the national federation lacked the funds to take the female team to Azerbaijan, for the event.
She would keep on training and fighting to become a better version of herself that she can be, this has made her the lady to beat in the Nigerian Chess Industry, and one whom virtually every other lady is aiming to not just surpass, but overcome in their pursuit of excellence in the mind sport.
Her most recent achievement in the game is most recent, after picking up the best female prize yet again and finishing ahead of several other guys at the MPC Grand Finale in Lagos, Nigeria.
With the future in her grasp, Toritsemuwa is one to consistently grow, improve and develop, which would hopefully make her one of the very best on the continent. Even after conquering the West African zone earlier in the year to qualify for the Woman International Master title (barring her reaching ELO 2000), and defeating WGM Wafa Shahenda at both the African Individual Chess Championship and the African Games 2019, her final standings at the continental events show how much she needs to improve, in other to achieve true greatness in the sport.
Asked the question “why chess?”, Ofowino Toritsemuwa responded “Honestly, I do not know, but maybe because I won a prize in my first event”.
There is definitely much more to see of the brilliant Nigerian “Man Beater”, and for those that want to know…..She is now hooked to her trainer!