On the 1st of April, 2023, the Zalika Gardens in Area 2, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria, was the venue for an exhilarating chess tournament, the “Abuja Open Blitz Chess Tournament 2023.” This tournament was organized by the Zalika Chess Club with a prize fund of NGN60,000, which was generously sponsored by six of its amiable members. The sponsors, Messrs. Joshua Ali, Chamatam Musa, Osayende Osiohen, Francis Ogirima, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, and Sasha Winston-Onyiah, ensured that the tournament was a resounding success.
The tournament saw a diverse range of participants, including men, women, and children. Several players came into the tournament with different strengths and skills, and the excitement was palpable as the games unfolded. The tournament was played in nine rounds with a time control of 3 minutes and 2 seconds added on from move 1. The favourites to win the tournament included CM Job Atabor, Mr. Ikechukwu Ezeanya (the past Abuja Blitz Chess Champion), Mr. Michael Christopher Cole (one of the fastest Bullet Chess players in Nigeria), Mr. Femi Iyanda (aka gm-Femix), and Dr. Francis Ogirima. The tournament was moderated by Messrs. Pureheart Irikefe (Tournament Director), Samuel Ojikutu (Chief Arbiter), Babajide Tinubu (Deputy Chief Abiter) and Lucky Ikuku (Arbiter).
The tournament began with a flurry of activity as players from all walks of life converged on the venue with their chessboards and clocks. The atmosphere was electric as the players took their places at the tables, each one determined to emerge as the victor. The air was filled with the sound of chess pieces being moved, the gentle tap-tap-tap of the clocks, and the occasional gasp of excitement from the spectators.
As the tournament progressed, there were many upsets, with some of the favourites losing to lesser-known opponents. The tournament was full of surprises and twists, with each round providing a new set of challenges for the players. The audience was on the edge of their seats, watching in awe as the players battled it out on the boards.
The eventual winner of the tournament was Dr. Francis Ogirima, who played brilliantly throughout the nine rounds, displaying a mastery of the game that was unmatched by his opponents. With a tournament score of 8/9, his strategy was flawless, and his moves were decisive, leaving his opponents with little chance to counter his play. Dr. Ogirima’s victory was a well-deserved one, and he was rightly crowned as the champion of the Abuja Open Blitz Chess Tournament 2023.
Dr. Francis Ogirima (L) receiving the First Prize and Medal from Mr. Sasha Winston-Onyiah (R) (one of the sponsors of the event)
The runners-up in the tournament were Mr. Ikechukwu Ezeanya (7½ tournament points) and Mr. Femi Iyanda (7 tournament points), who came in second and third place, respectively. These players also put up a great show of skill and determination, and they were well-deserving of their positions. Mr. Ezeanya, the past Abuja Blitz Chess Champion, played with the precision and flair that had made him a crowd favourite in previous tournaments. Mr. Iyanda, popularly known as gm-Femix, also displayed great skill with his quick moves and impeccable timing.
Mr. Ikechukwu Ezeanya (R) receiving the Second Prize from Mr. Afamefuna Nwizu (L)
Mr. Femi Iyanda (R) receiving the Third Prize from Mr. Afamefuna Nwizu (L)
There were several other noteworthy performances in the tournament, including that of Mr. Ojo Stanislaus, who was not a favourite to win the tournament. After losing his first three games, many thought it was business as usual for Mr. Ojo. Hurray, they were astonished as Mr. Ojo went berserk with a stunning performance that included a 6-win streak, securing him the position of fourth place in the tournament.
Mr. Ojo Stanislaus (R) receiving the Fourth Prize from Mr. Osayende Osiohen (L) (one of the sponsors of the event)
Other notable performances came from Mr. Michael Christopher Cole, one of the fastest Bullet Chess players in Nigeria, and Mr. Mustapha Othman, who came third place in the Abuja Rapid Chess Championship 2022. Mr. Cole’s lightning-fast moves kept his opponents on their toes, while Mr. Othman’s excellent display of skill showed that he was not just good player at long time controls but also a formidable blitz player.
In addition to the overall winners, there were also awards and medals for the Best Woman and the Best Under 12 players in the tournament. The prize for Best Woman was won by Ms. Favour Celestine, who displayed remarkable skill and precision throughout the tournament. Ms. Celestine was a worthy recipient of the award, and her performance was an inspiration to many young women who aspire to excel in the game of chess.
Ms. Favour Celestine (R) receiving the Best Woman Prize from Mr. Pureheart Irikefe (L)
The prize for the Best Under 12 player was won by Ms. Ivie Urieto, an 8-year-old child prodigy in Nigeria. Ms. Urieto’s performance in the tournament was nothing short of remarkable, and her display of skill and maturity belied her young age. Her win was met with thunderous applause from the audience, who were impressed by her talent and dedication to the game.
Ms. Ivie Urieto (R) receiving the Best Under 12 Prize from CM Job Atabor (L)
The Abuja Open Blitz Chess Tournament 2023 was an event to remember with its thrilling gameplay, exciting twists, and surprises. The final ranking after Round Nine of the tournament can be found here. The tournament was a testament to the enduring popularity of chess in Nigeria, and it provided a platform for players of all ages and skill levels to showcase their talent and love for the game.
The Zalika Chess Club and the tournament’s sponsors deserve high praise for their efforts in organising such a successful event. The prize fund of NGN60,000 was a testament to their commitment to promoting chess in Nigeria and providing a platform for players to excel. According to GM Hikaru Nakamura, “Chess is a game where all different sorts of people can come together, not a game in which people are divided because of their religion or country of origin.”
In conclusion, the Abuja Open Blitz Chess Tournament 2023 was a resounding success, and it has left a lasting impression on the minds of all who attended. We look forward to the next edition of this tournament, where we hope to see even more exciting gameplay and talent on display.