The “Jollof Chess Tournament-June Edition” was a vibrant display of strategic prowess and intellectual battles, hosted by the esteemed Zalika Chess Club, a prominent chess association in Nigeria. Under the guidance of the tournament director, Pureheart Irikefe, and the astute leadership of Chief Arbiter IA Eugene Ehidiamhen Akhiwu, the event ran smoothly, ensuring fair play and adherence to regulations. Assisting them in maintaining order and facilitating a seamless tournament experience were Deputy Chief Arbiter Babajide Tinubu and Arbiter Skiddy Clement. The tournament followed a Swiss-System format, guaranteeing each participant an equal opportunity to compete against opponents of similar skill levels. With a time-control of 15 minutes plus a 3-second increment, the players were compelled to strategize and execute their moves swiftly, intensifying the excitement and pressure. Set in the serene and intellectually charged ambiance of Zalika Garden, located in the heart of Abuja, Nigeria, this tournament captured the hearts and minds of chess enthusiasts on July 1, 2023.
CHESS TOURNAMENT NOTABLE INFORMATION
Sponsored by the Jollof Chess Foundation, the tournament attested to the growing popularity and influence of chess in Nigeria. The generous sponsorship of the foundation allowed for a substantial prize fund of ₦115,000 to be distributed among 11 deserving participants. The enticing Star Prize of ₦40,000 added to the grandeur of this event, enticing participants to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of victory. Furthermore, the Best Lady prize of ₦10,000 was a commendable gesture to empower and recognise the talents of female chess players.
The tournament garnered substantial attention due to it being FIDE-rated, infusing the event with a touch of prestige and attracting talented chess players from across the country. With approximately 40 participants, including several fresh faces in the chess scene, the air buzzed with anticipation and excitement as the first round commenced. The stage was set for astonishing upsets and the rise of dark horses, ready to challenge the established favourites.
Participants with a strong focus on their games
FAVOURITES TO WIN THE EVENT AND ROUND ONE UPSETS
Among the favourites to clinch the title were CM Job Atabor, the lone titled player in the event, whose formidable skills commanded respect. Michael Christopher Cole, the reigning 2023 Abuja Rapid Chess Champion, showcased his brilliance and strategic acumen, leaving spectators in awe. Joshua Adejoh, the 2022 Abuja Rapid Chess Champion, carried the weight of expectation on his shoulders, while Femi Iyanda, affectionately known as gm-Femix, radiated confidence and determination. Another notable contender was Sasha Winston-Onyiah, renowned for his amber (blindfold) chess skills and his remarkable feat of defeating a grandmaster.
However, the opening round shattered expectations as the unpredictable nature of chess came to the fore. Surprises awaited the unsuspecting favourites, with Mr. Cole tasting defeat at the hands of the composed and enigmatic Lucky Ikuku. Meanwhile, Mr. Winston-Onyiah, widely regarded as a formidable opponent, suffered an unexpected setback, succumbing to the tactical fury of Chamatam Musa. The clash of minds and the convergence of diverse chess styles made every match a spectacle, igniting the imaginations of both players and onlookers alike.
MIDWAY POINT AND SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
As the tournament reached its midway point, participants were granted a respite from their mental exertions. During the break, they were treated to a delectable feast of Jollof rice, the renowned culinary delight that served as a befitting tribute to the tournament’s name. Amidst the joyful camaraderie, Mr. Sasha Winston-Onyiah, the representative of the Jollof Chess Foundation, took centre stage and shared a heartfelt announcement. He revealed that this event merely served as a tantalising preview of the over-the-board (OTB) version of the Jollof Chess Monthly tournament.
Mr. Sasha Winston-Onyiah, the Representative of the Jollof Chess Foundation addressing the Participants
With the Jollof Chess Monthly Tournament gaining immense popularity online on lichess.org and attracting over 250 participants from all corners of Nigeria each month in 2023, the Jollof Chess Foundation sought to elevate the chess experience to new heights. To this end, Mr. Winston-Onyiah unveiled plans for the grand “Jollof Chess Festival,” scheduled for December 2023. This upcoming festival would encompass various chess formats, including Bullet, Blitz, Rapid, and Classical chess, catering to the diverse tastes and preferences of chess aficionados. Notably, the Classical chess segment would exclusively welcome Nigeria’s top 120 FIDE-rated players as of November 2023, ensuring a highly competitive and captivating spectacle. Mr. Winston-Onyiah expressed his sincere belief that the Jollof Chess Festival would emerge as one of the most significant chess events in Nigeria, solidifying the country’s standing in the global chess community. He added that the Jollof Chess Festival is proposed to have a star prize of ₦1,000,000 and an all-paid trip to the 2024 African Individual Chess Champion for the winner.
WINNERS OF THE EVENT
As the Jollof Chess Tournament-June Edition drew to a close, one player’s mastery of the board stood head and shoulders above the rest. Joshua Adejoh, the 2022 Abuja Rapid Chess Champion, showcased his exceptional skills and unyielding determination, culminating in a phenomenal score of 6.5 out of 7; winning the event! With each move, Adejoh exhibited an unwavering commitment to excellence, earning the admiration and respect of his peers.
From L-R: Sasha Winston-Onyiah (Jollof Chess Foundation Rep.), Joshua Adejoh (Winner), Onche Ikwue (Zalika Chess Club Secretary)
A close second was Michael Ikechukwu Osadebe, a former U16 African Chess Champion who displayed unwavering resolve and strategic brilliance throughout the tournament. With an impressive score of 6 out of 7, Osadebe emerged as a formidable contender, leaving no room for defeat and firmly establishing his place among the tournament’s top performers.
From L-R: Sasha Winston-Onyiah, Michael Ikechukwu Osadebe (2nd Place), Onche Ikwue
Nwizu Afamefuna Marcus and Mustapha Othman, both tenacious and skilled players, tied for the third position, each leaving an indelible mark on the tournament’s landscape. Their unwavering focus and competitive spirit propelled them to extraordinary heights, culminating in their commendable performance and deserved placement.
From L-R: Nwizu Afamefuna Marcus, Onche Ikwue, Mustapha Othman
In addition, Millicent Aigbogho, a talented chess player, shone brightly in the tournament, capturing the coveted title of Best Lady. With her captivating performance, she came tantalisingly close to clinching the overall victory, only to be hindered by the formidable challenges she encountered along the way. Nonetheless, she concluded the tournament with an impressive score of 4 out of 7, leaving an indelible mark on the event.
From L-R: Pureheart Irikefe, Millicent Aigbogho (Best Lady)
The Jollof Chess Tournament-June Edition concluded with an atmosphere of celebration, camaraderie, and deep appreciation for the intricate dance of minds that unfolded on the chessboard. The Final Ranking of the tournament after Round 7 can be found here. 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. As the sun set on the tournament, it left an indelible mark on the chess community, paving the way for future triumphs and heralding the arrival of the eagerly anticipated Jollof Chess Festival in December 2023.