Team Nigeria captain, Lekan Adeyemi, (with trophy) celebrating with other players on the podium during the closing ceremony Monday
By Femi Solaja
It was celebration moment in Nigerian camp Monday in Istanbul, Turkey following the confirmation by FIDE that the country’s male team displace other contenders to win the Category E of the 40th World Chess Olympiad rounded up Monday night.
Monday's feat was the best performance of the country at the biennial event since 1998 when International Master, Odion Aikhoje won gold medal on board two.
Significantly, this is the first time Nigeria will come top at any team event in chess.
When Team Captain, Lekan Adeyemi, led the team to mount the podium at the closing ceremony, it was a loud ovation to worthy champions of the category who came into the tournament as underdogs!
It worthy to note here that the male team had to wait for the official confirmation after a not too impressive draw it secured in the final game.
And when the smoke cleared, the Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) President, DCP Sani Mohammed, commended the players for a battle well fought in the last 11 days of mind games.
"Many pundits did not give this team a chance because most of the payers were attending the competition for the first time but I had fate in them and the technical crew and the result here has shown that we have abundant talents in the country," Mohammed remarked Monday night.
However, while the male team were able to sustain their lead in the category till the end of the competition, the female slipped into the second position after a disappointing 1.5-2.5 lost to South Africa and it was Chinese Taipei that emerged top with 10 points as against Nigeria’s nine (same as Thailand but the country's representatives won on a tie break
En-route achieving this feat, International Master, Dapo Adu, led the team to secure a 2-2 score line with the Physically Disable Chess Association (PDCA). The US-based Nigerian star drew the first blood with a King's Indian attack against Vit Yarmonov (2333) after 35 moves.
The Nigerian knew nothing short of a win will turn the tide against Nigeria. He thus put his opponent under pressure for the greater part of the game.
However, Bomo Kigigha lost to Vit Valenta (2162) who took advantage of active Bishops in the middle play and sacrificed his Queen for a Rook on move 22 but reclaimed a Knight and a better positional place and the Nigerian fighter had no option than to resign.
On board three, Nonso Orawgu lost to International Master, Ruben Bernarch, (2121) but Adeyinka Adesina restored Nigeria's hope with another mastery win against Bernard Valenta.
Aside the teams' effort, Nsisong Asanga also bagged FIDE Candidate Master title following her six points out of nine games she played in the tournament.
At the last edition of the Olympiad in Russia, the male team placed second while their female compatriots finished third with Charles Campbell and Olamide Ajibowo bagging Candidate and FIDE Master titles respectively. This edition was a rapid improvement of the country's participation at the elite chess event.
However on top board, Armenia edged out perennial rivals, Russia on tie break after both nations finished with 19 points.