Nigerian chess players
By Femi Solaja
International Master, Bunmi Olape will have to be at his best if he hopes to successfully defend his title at the 35th edition of the Nigerian Breweries Chess Championship which begins at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium in Lagos Monday.
For six days, chess prodigies in all the categories will display their skills to determine who will unseat the current national champion and win the star prize of N250, 000.
Olape, one of the Masters of English opening and veteran of several international competitions, will have to contend with rigorous opposition from top players like Adebayo Adegboyega, Charles Campbell, Odion Aikhoje, Oluwaseun Bisiriyu and Olumide Ajibowo.
“I am still the man to beat, and my performance at recent African Individual Championship held in Abuja is an indication I won’t let go easily knowing very well that stiff opposition awaits me from the round of the tournament,” Olape disclosed last week during a press conference that ushered in this edition of the championship.
The competition is expected to have in attendance over 500 chess players drawn from all the 36 states and Abuja as well as registered clubs which will participate in all the seven categories with an increased N1,500,000 cash prizes to be won.
The categories to be competed for are the FIDE section that involves top players in the country, Opens one and two, the Ladies section, Under 14 Boys and Girls, the Sports Writers and the Veteran.
In the female section, Nsiong Bassey Asanga, who had a perfect score in winning the event last year, will have the likes of Oluwatobi Olatunji, Funmi Akinola and Vivian Dzaayem to contend with.
Last week, the CSR/Sustainability Manager of NP Plc, Mr Vivian Nkem, who represented the Public Relations Adviser, had said that in line with the corporate social responsibility thrust of always winning with Nigeria, the company had in the last 34 years kept faith with the championship with the objective of encouraging the growth and development of the game of Chess in Nigeria.
“We believe that we have largely succeeded in this noble objective given the high quality of participation and winners of this tournament over the years. We are indeed proud to be part of the success story of Nigerian Chess which has produced winners who have gone ahead to represent our country at international competitions.
“The sterling performances of our past winners in these international competitions have convinced us that the Nigerian Breweries International Open Chess Competition is a worthy venture,” he explained.
In a related development, the President of Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF), DCP Sani Mohammed, commended the sponsor for the unflinching support it had being given the game of chess for the past 34 years.
He noted that the sponsorship over the years had produced numerous chess prodigies that had won laurels for the country at several international competitions including the prestigious World Chess Olympiad.
“In the last three decades of chess in the country, NBL has been a role model of sports sponsorship to us because we have had supports from many quarters that did not pass the test on time because at the time the raw talents are being annexed they withdraw their support but for NBL, they have stood solidly by us for unbroken 34 years and have produced several talents of note who are role models in public life today.
“I am a leaving witness because as a student many years ago, I has cause to come to Lagos and participate just like some of our former chairmen like Rear Admiral Jubril Ayinla (rtd), Arch. Theophilus Caiafias and Mr. Emmanuel Omuku, just to mention a few,” the chess boss commented.
The winner of the tournament automatically becomes the national champion for the year.