Former National Champion, Labake Coker, Bags FIDE International Master Status

Femi Solaja

The Nigerian chess family recently added another player into their list of FIDE International Master rank when the world chess body conferred former National Female champion, Labake Coker with her deserved title.

The chess star, by this honour becomes the highest ranked Nigerian female player at the moment.

The two-time national female champion had attained the rank years ago but the award was delayed in coming until this month because the record of the attainment was not reflected in the records of the international body bestowed with the responsibility to award the title.

However, the intervention of the President of Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) Mr. Lekan Adeyemi who also doubles as Vice-President of FIDE, facilitated the conferment on Coker at the last FIDE meeting.

The Nigerian player attained the status way back in 2015 after she won the Zone 4.4 Individual Championship in Lome, Togo. Coker finished top in the category with a perfect score of nine points in nine rounds.

“I am delighted to have gotten my deserved award after a long wait but what is important is that all my efforts and aspiration to be at the top of my game is now a dream come true,” Coker remarked in a telephone interview last night.

She said the award will encourage the rest in the pool to reach the top of their game aside the monetary rewards that followed every tournament they attend.

The woman international title was not initially approved due to the political problem associated with the battle for the soul of African chess office which Nigerian Adeyemi wanted to occupy at 2014 election held in Tromso, Norway during the Olympiad.

Till date, only Nigeria has produced seven active International Masters namely; Fola Akintola, Thomas Oparaugo, Odion Aikhoje, Dapo Adu, Bunmi Olape, Femi Balogun and Daniel Anwuli in the continent.

The country has produced several male and female players who have attained the Candidate and FIDE Master titles but Nigeria is yet to produce any Grand Master holder which is the highest title that can be bestowed on individual players.

However, several Nigerian players who are on self sponsorship programmes to international tournaments are currently looking up to their respective state governments, corporate bodies and well meaning individuals to come to their aid to attend prominent events for them to reach the highest level in chess.

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