Three (3) years, it has been, since the Orchid-Lekki Chess Club (OLCC) received the rights to host the Nigeria National Chess Championships, and what a job they have done.

President of OLCC, Mr Kunle Kasumu playing against the Chairman of OLCC, Engr. Jonathan Odega at the Clubhouse!

From a club of individuals who love the mindsport, to becoming the host of the biggest National event in Nigeria. The OLCC team has evolved from just a club, to The Club, in Nigeria.

The 2023 edition of the championships had a few notable landmarks, which has seen chess on a new rise in the country, called Nigeria. The landmarks are as follows:

The Ooni of Ife was ably represented by HRM Muraina Adebanjo Adedini – The Asoya Of ISOYA ILE IFE

Hosting the maiden edition of the Nigeria Chess Hall of Fame.
Welcoming the greatest King in the South Western parts of Nigeria (HRM Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi CFR), the Ooni of Ife, to become the Grand Patron of Chess in Nigeria.
Having the youngest participant in any Invitational Chess Championship till date, as well as receiving the youngest National Champion to date.

These and many more are the exclusive stories regarding the 2023 championships that this article will focus on.

The Nigeria Chess Hall of Fame

The Archives and Records Committee of the Nigeria Chess Federation, while discharging their duties, thought it right to recognize the great achievements of the founding fathers of the federation, as well as individuals who have left an indelible mark on chess across the country.

The committee then set up a sub-committee, to handle the process of the Hall of Fame, and what a job they did.

The sub-committee dug into the history of Nigerian chess, led by the versatile and brilliant chairman, Mr Kunle Kasunmu. These research led the team to decide that the first set of Hall of Famers, must have had great impact on the game, as a player, administrator, arbiter, or sponsor, within the years in view (1975-1985), and they must be Nigerian.

Therefore, from the list of nominated individuals, seven (7) men, a woman, and two (2) organizations were earmarked to receive the honour of becoming the first batch of Hall of Famers.

L-R: Mr Etokowo (for Imeh Etokowo) Mr Oluwaseyitan Oluwafemi, Dr Ebigwei Sylvan, Current NCF President, DIG (Rtd) Sani Mohammed mni., Vice Admiral Jubrila Ayinla (GCON.), Mr Omuku Emmanuel, Representative of Punch Newspaper – Image Credit: OLCC

They are:
Dr Sylvan Ebigwei
Mr Emmanuel Omuku
Vice Admiral Jubrila Ayinla
Mr Femi Oluwaseyitan
Mr Tajudeen Oyeneyin
Fide Master Obafunmilayo Agusto
Woman Candidate Master Imeh Etokowo
Nigerian Breweries Limited
PUNCH Newspaper

Dr Sylvan Ebigwei came out to receive his awards – Image Credit: OLCC

It was truly sad to hear of the passing on to the beyond, of the Father of Nigerian chess, Dr. Sylvan Ebigwei, just a few weeks after receiving the awards, and Africa Chess Media uses this opportunity to commiserate once again with the family.

The Championships

Qualifying to become one of the challengers to the coveted championship of the Nigeria Chess Federation, was no mean feat, as players had to battle to attain twenty one (21) rated games, as well as attain any of the following:

Attain top five (5) on the FIDE rating list for Nigeria by a certain date, which is before the first qualifier.
Attain such rating, as to be eligible to participate in the Qualifiers that happen about a month before the main event.
Attain top three (3) position from (2) above, to gain entry into the main event.
Attain top junior player status on the FIDE rating list, as at the date in (1) above.
Receive a wildcard nomination from the president of the Nigeria Chess Federation.

Furtherance to the above listed points, the following players qualified to challenge for the title of Nigeria National Chess Champion:

Female
Suleiman Azumi Ayisha
Ofowino Toritsemuwa
Michael Bridget
Onoja Iyefu – Best Young Player U20
Quickpen Deborah (12-years old) – Entry via Qualifiers
Amadasun Rosemary
Diachavbe Chemuete
Nwankwo Michelle Chiamaka – Wildcard (9-years old)
Erhabor Joy Felix
Oyelese Mayomi – Entry via Qualifiers
Olabisi Elizabeth Oluwaseun – Entry via Qualifiers
Nzeako Treasure – Entry via Qualifiers

Male
Kigigha Bomo
Abdulraheem Abdulrahman Akintoye
Balogun Olwafemi Daniel
Okemakinde Toluwanimi
Olanrewaju Ajibola
Akinseye Abiola Daniel – Entry via Qualifiers
Ferdinand Tersee Nyuima – Entry via Qualifiers
Eyetonghan Denyefa Callistus
Ekunke Goodness (12-years old) – Entry via Qualifiers
Olisa Tennyson – Best Young Player U20
Emmanuel Joy Idara – Entry via Qualifiers
Adu Oladapo – Wildcard

It was a round robin battle in the invitational section, where these twelve (12) male and female players had merited their invitation to challenge for the national championship crown.

The Female Section:

In the second round of the tournament, there were two (2) super interesting games, both victories for young girls under the age of thirteen (-13).

Quickpen Deborah and Nwankwo Michelle

On board two (2), 9-year old Michelle Nwankwo played what was one of her best games in the tournament, as she defeated Olabisi Oluwaseun with some interesting combinations, that ended the game in less than forty (40) minutes and on the stroke of twenty (20) moves.
The rook sac on move 18 was nothing short of inspirational.

Find the game below.

The second game that struck a nerve was Quickpen Deborah’s victory over seasoned female player, Ofowino Toritsemuwa.

Ofowino Toritsemuwa Vs Quickpen Deborah: NNCC Round 2

Started as a symmetrical variation of the Queen’s Pawn Game, Toritsemuwa quickly asserted her dominance on the queenside, after gladly taking the sacrificial c-pawn on the 4th move.

It must have been a prepared sac, because after the pawn was taken and protected, white became the defender, and kept on responding to black’s barrage of attacks.

Deborah’s resilience paid off, as the c-pawn was taken back, but with immense compensation that led to a brilliant tactical finish.

After ten (10) grueling rounds of games between the ladies, it was down to the final round 11, where there were still possibilities for two (2) ladies, representing the same state (Bayelsa State), Quickpen Deborah and Suleiman Azumi Ayisha, were the only ones with the realistic chances to become champions.

However, Michael Bridget, who had been trailing just behind the leaders, had an outside chance, if she could defeat Suleiman Azumi, and Onoja Iyefu defeated Quickpen Deborah.

After playing so well, Bridget was left dumbfounded when her knight was captured, and a recapture would have lost the rook in an endgame battle, where she had good chances to convert, although the tension was tilting the match towards a seeming draw.

It was a good win for Azumi, however, Deborah was not going to let the title slip off her grasp, as she employed the Anti-Nimzo-Indian variation of the Indian Defense against Onoja Iyefu. The defense transposed into the Harrwitz attack variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined opening line.

The Chairman of OLCC watching on as Deborah bids to take the Championship!

Heading into the middlegame, Deborah ensured to exchange off the queens at the immediate ask, and went into an endgame that she felt comfortable with.
The game would have ended a draw with three-fold-repetition, but Iyefu chose to change the movement of her knight, and chose the losing square to put it.
This provided Deborah with the spark she needed to go for the kill!

She pounced on the opportunity on the 47th move and played brilliantly until the end, claiming her very first Women’s National Championship Trophy.

Deborah being interviewed by the foremost News station in Nigeria, Channels Television, after claiming the women’s championship at 12 years old!

To Be Continued…….

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