Honoring the Legacy of the Unexpected Loss of a Nigerian Chess Titan: Dr. Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei


On November 3, 2023, The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide shared the sad news of the passing of Dr. Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei, DDP, FMCGDP, PhD, MON.

Dr. Ebigwei was a remarkable individual—a humanist, a scholar of immense knowledge, and a shining example of virtue. He was globally recognized as an outstanding dentist and made significant contributions to his field. In addition to his professional achievements, he was a respected community leader, a published author of “History of Okpanam People and Culture,” a former President of the African Chess Federation, and the Former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. He also held the esteemed position of Iyase of Okpanam. The news of his sudden bereavement marked yet another loss of a Nigerian Titan, The sudden passing of Dr. Ebigwei has deeply saddened the African chess community and chess enthusiasts worldwide.

Dr. Ebigwei played a significant role within the chess community.

Dr. Sylvanus Ebigwei Olisanye, one of the founding fathers of organized chess in Africa, founded Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) in 1975. His influence has led to a broad spectrum of individuals engaging in chess in Nigeria, fostering both the development and a deep passion for enhancing their abilities and strategic thinking in the game.

Dr. Ebigwei was a founding member of the African Chess Federation and was later elected as the President for African Chess Federation in 1986-1996 and was also appointed an Executive Director of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) which he held till 2003. His book on The History of Okpanam People and Culture, and other contributions he gave earned him a place in the Encyclopedia of Chess by Bats Ford Publishers, London that enabled him to to bring the Nigerian Chess Federation into the World Chess Federation.

In Dr. Sylvanus Ebigwei’s words, he quoted that “I founded and brought chess to Nigeria and posterity is there to tell the story”. He lived a life full of impact and inspiration to the people and community he served.

Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei was born on January 8, 1943. He attended St Patrick’s College Asaba and graduated as the top student in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) class of 1966. He went on to pursue dentistry at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, and later completed a specialist program at the Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria. Additionally, he pursued further studies at the University of Florida in Gainsville, among other institutions.

Throughout his career, Ebigwei held various leadership positions. He served as the Chairman of the Governing Council for the Nnamdi Azikiwe University University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi. He also held the positions of Chairman for the College of Dental Technology & Therapy in Enugu, Chairman of the Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria, and Chairman of the African Chess Federation, among others.

He owned one of Nigeria’s biggest private dental hospitals in the early eighties, the Belmont Specialist Hospital and Dental Clinics before he rested and joined his ancestors at age 80.


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