Chief Toke’s Abuja Open Chess Classics: A Grand Display of Strategic Brilliance

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The event was a dynamic exhibition of strategic thinking and intellectual duels, hosted by the renowned Zalika Chess Club, a leading chess organisation in Nigeria. Under the guidance of the organiser, ACM Pureheart Irikefe, and the sharp leadership of Chief Arbiter IA Eugene Ehidiamhen Akhiwu and Tournament Director Samuel Ojikutu, the event proceeded smoothly, ensuring fair play and adherence to regulations. Assisting them in maintaining order and facilitating a seamless tournament experience were Arbiters Akpobome Okiti and Goodness Irikefe. The tournament followed an 8-round Swiss-System format, providing each participant an equal chance to compete against similarly skilled opponents. With a time-control of 60 minutes plus a 30-second increment, players had to strategise and execute their moves meticulously. Set in the tranquil and intellectually stimulating ambiance of Zalika Garden, located in the heart of Abuja, Nigeria, this tournament captivated chess enthusiasts from June 15th to 17th, 2024.

SPONSORSHIP AND SIGNIFICANCE

Sponsored by Chief Toke Aka, the President of the Nigeria Scrabble Federation, in celebration of his birthday, the tournament highlighted the growing popularity and influence of chess in Nigeria. Among the sponsors were DIG Sani Mohammed (rtd.) (President of the Nigeria Chess Federation), Joshua Ali, AFM George Obikilli, Jollof Chess Foundation, Tunde Oduwole, Sanusy Onoja, AFM Anthony Ogor, Rupetta Academy, Osayende Usiohen, Sema Sokpo, Felix Biyama, Aboki Theophilus, Mohammed Abdulkadri, Bruvschess Media, MindGames Incorporated (MGI), among others. The generous sponsorship provided a substantial prize fund of ₦300,000 to be distributed among 12 deserving participants. The enticing Star Prize of ₦70,000 added to the event’s grandeur, encouraging participants to strive for victory. Furthermore, the Best Lady prize of ₦20,000 was a commendable gesture to recognise and empower female chess players.

The tournament gained significant attention as it was the first FIDE-rated classical event in the region for the year, adding prestige and attracting talented chess players from across the country. With over 40 participants, including several newcomers to the chess scene, the air buzzed with anticipation and excitement as the first round began. The stage was set for surprising upsets and the rise of dark horses ready to challenge the established favourites.

Favourites to Win

Among the favourites to win the title were CM Job Atabor, the only titled player in the event, whose formidable skills commanded respect. Joshua Adejoh, the 2022 Abuja Rapid Chess Champion, carried high expectations, while Femi Iyanda, known as gm-Femix, radiated confidence and determination. Other notable contenders were Mustapha Othman and Lucky Keyi Musa, the highest-rated players in the event. In the first round, the results were predictable as the Swiss pairing system pitted lower-rated players against higher-rated ones, showcasing that ratings indeed matter. The clash of minds and the convergence of diverse chess styles made every match a spectacle, sparking the imaginations of both players and spectators.

Midway Point and Raffle Draw

As the tournament reached its halfway point, participants were granted a break from their mental exertions. During the intermission, they were treated to a delectable feast of Jollof rice. Amidst the joyful camaraderie, the celebrant Chief Toke dazzled the crowd with a raffle where players won a DGT 2500 clock and six chess boards, one donated by Tunde Oduwole and five by the Gift of Chess through their ambassador, Ivie Kristen Urieto. Participants were delighted by the gesture, and the players were very pleased.

Winners of the Event

As the Chief Toke’s Abuja Open Chess Classics concluded on the third day, one player’s dominance stood out. Mustapha Othman, the winner of the first Chess Height Abuja Monthly in 2024, showcased his exceptional skills and unyielding determination, finishing with a phenomenal score of 7 out of 8 and winning the event! With each move, Mustapha Othman exhibited an unwavering commitment to excellence, earning the admiration and respect of his peers.

A close second was Lucky Keyi Musa, who displayed unwavering resolve and strategic brilliance throughout the tournament. With an impressive score of 6.5 out of 8, Lucky emerged as a formidable contender, firmly establishing his place among the tournament’s top performers.

Basil Ilenikhena, a new face on the podium, secured third place with a score of 6 out of 8, leaving a lasting impression on the tournament’s landscape. Their unwavering focus and competitive spirit propelled them to extraordinary heights, culminating in their commendable performance and deserved placement.

In addition, Favour Celestine, a talented chess player, shone brightly in the tournament, capturing the coveted title of Best Female. With her captivating performance, she came tantalisingly close to clinching the overall victory, only to be hindered by the formidable challenges she encountered. Nonetheless, she concluded the tournament with an impressive score of 4 out of 8, leaving an indelible mark on the event. The best under-14 player in the event was Iwuagwu Ifesinachi, with a score of 4 out of 8, signalling that he’s a rising star to watch.

 Final Ranking

Conclusion

The Chief Toke’s Abuja Open Chess Classics concluded with an atmosphere of celebration, camaraderie, and deep appreciation for the intricate battles that unfolded on the chessboard. The event encapsulated the timeless beauty of chess, where intellectual brilliance melds with strategic finesse, offering participants and spectators a glimpse into the captivating world of the royal game.

The tournament’s success is a testament to the dedication and passion of the organisers, sponsors, and participants. It highlighted the vibrant chess culture in Nigeria and underscored the potential for the game to flourish in the region. The thrilling battles, dramatic upsets, and moments of brilliance that defined this event will be remembered and celebrated for years to come.

As we look forward to future editions of the Chief Toke’s Abuja Open Chess Classics, there is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation. The tournament not only crowned champions but also fostered a spirit of unity and friendship among the chess community. It reminded us that chess is more than just a game; it is a bridge that connects people, transcending boundaries and bringing together minds in a shared pursuit of excellence.

The final ranking of the tournament after Round 8 can be found here. This event has set a high standard for future tournaments, and we eagerly await the next gathering of brilliant minds and strategic battles in the heart of Nigeria.

GALLERY

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