“Boss give me the point, make we share the prize“
The above phrase or statement may sound strange to you if you are probably reading it for the first time or not fully acquainted with the underground dealings in Nigerian Chess. Nowadays, nobody wants to be burdened with the painstaking stress of sitting in front of a chessboard with the mindset that the game may turn out in a way that is not favorable to oneself.
Also, one might think that I cannot come down to a new place or sometimes a faraway land to play a tournament and go back with nothing to show. Yes, it might sound unprofessional, but how can we blame people who travel a long distance to play a chess tournament and go home empty-handed when there is an open opportunity to make out something for themselves. I would probably say no. With that being said, the chess situation in Nigeria has been in a static position, making it difficult for you to predict the winner or even winners of a tournament because you can’t fathom what happened or what will eventually transpire until the last round has been played.
A typical example to buttress my point is the just concluded Southwest Chess Tournament, where you will realize that the last two rounds, which happened to be around 6 and 7 came after a rest day where there is a huge possibility that a lot of people have already had an under the table discussion on how the result of their games will play out. Before the previous rounds, rounds 1 to 5 where players are intellectually coerced to play good Chess to gain early points before underneath the table discussion begins.
After I conducted an undercover investigation during the tournament, I observed that stronger rated players, I’m talking about players with 2200+ were reluctant to engage in the underneath table discussion because they were at the risk of losing something, which happened to be their precious FIDE Ratings. So I pondered to myself why, and I tell it was a no-brainer. Their reason for rejecting the deal is the upcoming Chess Olympiad which is scheduled to hold sometime this year.
The qualification for Nigerian Chess players to attend such a prestigious chess event is solely based on ratings, which means the highest-rated players get the opportunity to grace this upcoming chess event. So this goes to prove why most 2200+ players at the SouthWest chess tournament were reluctant to deal. In other words, the stronger players could not afford to deal and risk the chance of being topped by other chess players following closely on the FIDE Chess Ranking for Nigerian Chess players, most especially the players in the caliber of the TOP FIVE on the list.
In addition to this, the last round game between a certain master player and his opponent took quite a long time before it ended. This is because the stronger player refused to give his opponent the point, which would have made the opponent the clear winner of the open section in the tournament. So they had to sit down and play Chess by the rules.
This dealing in Nigerian Chess is not gender-sensitive or even sexist. It’s also being deployed in the Nigerian Chess female section. Thereby making it challenging to predict or even fathom who could be the clear winner for the female section. Since there will be some nice cash incentive attached to being the female champion in a given tournament, the men do not find it a big deal to lose some points to a lady as long as they get rewarded for their shocking loss.
In conclusion, with all these permutations regularly present, is dealings in Nigerian Chess possible to stop?
If I’m being honest, since the beginning of this article, I would say I doubt that. With my years of playing Chess in Nigeria, I have concluded that almost every Nigerian Chess player has a strong passion for the game and this goes way beyond just playing Chess, they also have a strong passion for Chess in life thereby making them to device a means to fuse in Chess into their day to day life.
So the best way to curb dealings in Nigerian Chess is by increasing the prizes, creating separate categories, abolish the idea of using FIDE rating for the qualification to play in the Olympiad. This will also be a problem because Player A who happens to be a lady, can come to a tournament and deal all her games and get a rating of 1900+, then top the female chess list and qualify for the Chess Olympiad.
Does that make her the strongest female chess player?
Instead, what will be better is to have a closed tournament for females whereby the winners will get the chance to represent the country. This way, we will also be picking the strongest and the players in form. Also, the same should be applied in the male section. In the end, my opinion and other opinions can be welcomed and debated upon.