Nigeria’s chess scene hugged the lime light on global map yesterday as three chess masters namely; International Master Bunmi Olape, Bomo Kigigha and Olawaseun Bisiriyu all performed brilliantly at the just concluded African Individual Chess Championship Zone 4.2 in Abuja.
The tournament, which Nigeria is hosting for the first time since 1995, had the last All-Africa Games gold medallist, Olape finishing as leader ahead of Egyptian master, Sameh Sadek.
Olape will be one of Africa’s representatives at the World Cup next year in Norway.
The Egyptian master was the highest rated player in the competition with an elo rating of 2378. Two other chess prodigies, Kigigha and Bisiriyu also performed brilliantly and joined the rank of top players in the International Master title of chess.
The two players incidentally met in the final round of the competition and shared honours to earn six points each out of nine games to meet the requirements set by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) who will confirm the titles at the next Presidential Board meeting next month in Elista, Russia.
Elated President of the Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF), DCP Sani Mohammed, said the performance of the players in the tournament was an indication that if given the opportunity to play at major competitions, many more Nigerian players would earn FIDE titles because of the talents in the country.
“The funding of this event clearly shows that if Nigerian players have the opportunity to participate at the world stage, the better for the country as a whole. This particular event has afforded several Nigerian chess coaches the opportunity to update their knowledge of the game and I am delighted that most of them are now FIDE Chess Instructors.
“It gladdens my heart that as many as 14 Nigerians coaches are now FIDE Instructor and this is the highest by any country in Africa. In the long run, they would be able to use their wealth of experience to nurture more chess players to the pinnacle of the game,” he explained.
Before now, only the Head Coach of the national team, Lekan Adeyemi was a FIDE Instructor while only five Nigerian chess players have the International Master title namely: Thomas Oparaugo, Dapo Adu, Odion Aikhoje, and Bunmi Olape. While many other players based on their performance at various World Chess Olympiads have secured various FIDE titles ranging from Candidate Master to FIDE Master.
However, in the female end of the competition, Oluwatobi Olatunji missed the chance of earning the Woman International Master (WIM) title after placing second behind Wafa Shrook from Egypt who won the section and bagged the title.
Although Olatunji defeated the Egyptian in the round robin tournament, the Nigerian could not meet up with the required number of games to qualify for the honour but may still get waiver from FIDE when the board meets later this year for ratification of titles.
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– GM Susan Polgar