Saturday, September 03, 2005

GRANDMASTER ANAND WON THE 1987 WORLD JUNIOR CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP BUT MEL EZEOKOLI OF NIGERIA WON OUR HEARTS


What do you know about the Chess Championship held in Baguio City in Philippines in July-August 1987 in which Anand won the World Junior Championship and automatically became a Grandmaster ? The World Junior Chess Championship is an under-20 event (players must have been under 20 years old on the 1st of January in the year of competition). There is a Nigeria angle to that story. Find out what the late Mel Ezeokoli has to do with that chess event.


I was reminded the anniversary of the late Mel Ezeokoli was Sept 1, 1987 . It's amazing that he was 18 years old when he died and this month it is exactly 18 years ago. So when you add the two 18s together, Mel would have been 36 this year. As per the request of some chess freinds, I decided to present extracts from what I wrote about him above from the interview I conducted with his mother more than a decade ago. We all need inspiration in our lives. I believe Mels story will inspire the young chess players in Nigeria and around the world.


Excerpt from the article above:

"Mel Flashed on to the Nigeria Chess scene like a meteor and disappeared from it just as quickly as he came leaving behind his mark in the brief period of three years (1985-1987) during which time he won many chess tournaments and had become the National Junior Champion.

As an imaginative genius that he was, the clock was always ticking for Mel. During his kindergarten days in the premises of Dartmouth University, Hanover in New Hampshire in the US where his mother, Victoria Ezeokoli, was an Assistant Professor, Mel like ever other prodigy child astounded his teachers with his ability to comprehend faster than the other students that a special education program was designed for him.

Back in Nigeria in the early 70s, at the Corona School, Lagos, he was placed two classes ahead of his classmates to accommodate his intellect but then he surprised everyone by coming second in that class. Consequently, Mel had to be moved forward again to continue his education with his seniors in the school.

Mel continued to move by leaps and bounds even during his college days at the Kings College Lagos where he was among the top scorer during the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam. He scored high marks to secure admission to study Computer Science at the University of Lagos. Before he left Kings College Lagos, Mel had become the champion of Champions in the schools competition in the arrangement of the Rubik cube, the eight faces which Mel usually arrange in 99 seconds. It was at this time that he began to search for a more challenging game that he picked up chess where he later became the junior national Champion.

Mel Ezeokoli the chess player, was a magnificent architect of deep strategic plans and an artist who was utterly in love with the game. He was ever searching for brilliant combinations and fantastic positions. Mel understood chess and had a sound knowledge of opening reperteoirs. His chess, like his life, was characterized by a capacity for hard work and a determination to find solutions to the problem of every difficult position. Mel was a gentle Knight at the board and away from it. He was quiet, reasonable, friendly but never timid.


On one occasion, alone, he challenged the highest echelon of the Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) over the choice of its candidate to represent the country at the world Junior Chess championship of 1987 in the Philippines.

By winning his campaign and through careful play and determination, Mel emerged the winner of several qualifying matches he forced the hands of NCF to arrange for them. He won the right to carry Nigerias flag to the World Junior Chess Championship in the Philippines in 1987.

Mel, the Artist, the fashion designer, a computer wizard and the National Junior Chess Champion at 18, in his final year at the University, departed into glory on the 1st of September, 1987, barely two weeks after his return from the World Junior Chess Championship. Mel had sickle cell Anemia.

Some of Mels legacies are his chess analysis in the national chess bulletin of games complied by Tolani Owosina, a former national Chess champion and the program he designed for the rating of Nigeria's chess players on his personal computer.

With his death, Nigeria has lost a remarkable prodigious chess genius whose like we may never see again. A national honor befiting a national hero, posthumously bestowed, will be a befitting way to remember his contributions to the national chess development ".

Kunle Elegbede.


ADDENDUM

Mel Ezeokoli (and IM Thomas Oparaugo) represented Nigeria at the World Junior Chess Championship held in Baguio City in Philippines in July-August 1987 in which Anand won the World Junior Championship and automatically became a Grandmaster. Grandamaster Vassily Ivanchuk also too part in the 1987 event (his game against Anand is presented here below). If any one can find some of Mels games by some brilliant internet search method or you have it in your archive someplace, please forward it to us so we can post it. We may never know what Mel would have become had he been alive. Aparently, he was not going to stand by and let anyone including the chess establishement stop him from his common destiny with the worlds chess greats. Men of his talent and drive usally rise to the top in whatever they set their mind to do.

World Junior Championships, Baguio 1987
Vishwanathan Anand - Vassily Ivanchuk

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Kf6 5. d3 d6 6. 0-0 Bd7 7. c3 g6 8. Nbd2 Bg7 9. d4 0-0 10. h3 Nh5 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Re1 Qc8 13. Nf1 Rd8 14. Qe2 h6 15. N1h2 b5 16. Bc2 Be6 17. Bb3 Nf4 18. Bxf4 exf4 19. Rad1 Rxd1 20. Qxd1 Na5 21. Nd4 Bxb3 22. Nxb3 Nc4 23. Qc2 Nc4 24. Nd4 c5 25. Ndf3 Nc6 26. Qd2 Qc7 27. e5 Re8 28. Ng4 g5 29. Qd5 Rd8 30. Qe4 Re6 31. Rd1 Rd6 32. h4! h5 33. Ngh2 g4 34. Ng5 Rh6 35.e6 fxe6 36. Nxe6 Qe7 37. Re1 Be5 38. Ng5 Kg7 39. Nf1 Bd6 40. Ne6+ Kf7 41. Qf5+ Kg8 42.Qd5 Ne5 43.Nxf4 Qf7 44. Rxe5 Qxd5 45.Rxd5 Bxf4 46.Rxc5 Re6 47. c4 b4 48. g3 Be5 49 b3 Kf7 50.Rd5 Kf6 51.Kg2 Black resigns. 1.0

The Role of Honor of Winners of World Junior Chess Championship include Kasparov and Karpov:

World Junior Chess Championship
Winner list:

* 2004 Pentala Harikrishna (India)
* 2003 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyaz (Azerbaijan)
* 2002 Aronian, Lev (Armenia)
* 2001 Acs, Peter (Hungary)
* 2000 Bruzón, Lázaro (Cuba)
* 1999 Galkin, Alexander (Russia)
* 1998 Sadvakasov, Darmen (Kazakstan)
* 1997 Shaked, Tal (USA)
* 1996 Sutovskij, Emil (Israel)
* 1995 Slobodjan, Roman (Germany)
* 1994 Gretarsson, Helgi (Iceland)
* 1993 Miladinovic, Igor (Yugoslavia)
* 1992 Zarnicki, Pablo (Argentina)
* 1991 Akopian, Vladimir (Armenia)
* 1990 Gurevich, Ilya (USA)
* 1989 Spasov, Vasil (Bulgaria)
* 1988 Lautier, Joel (France)
* 1987 Anand, Viswanathan (India)
* 1986 Arencibia, Walter (Cuba)
* 1985 Dlugy, Maxim (USA)
* 1984 Hansen, Curt (Denmark)
* 1983 Georgiev, Kiril (Bulgaria)
* 1982 Sokolov, Andrei (USSR)
* 1981 Cvitan, Ognjen (Yugoslavia)
* 1980 Kasparov, Garry (USSR)
* 1979 Seirawan, Yasser (USA)
* 1978 Dolmatov, Sergei (USSR)
* 1977 Yusupov, Artur (USSR)
* 1976 Diesen, Mark (USA)
* 1975 Checkov, Valery (USSR)
* 1974 Miles, Anthony (England)
* 1973 Beliavsky, Alexander (USSR)
* 1971 Hug, Werner (Switzerland)
* 1969 Karpov, Anatoly (USSR)
* 1967 Kaplan, Julio (Puerto Rico)
* 1965 Kurajica, Bojan (Yugoslavia)
* 1963 Gheorghiu, Florin (Romania)
* 1961 Parma, Bruno (Yugoslavia)
* 1959 Bielicki, Carlos (Argentina)
* 1957 Lombardy, William (USA)
* 1955 Spassky, Boris (USSR)
* 1953 Panno, Oscar (Argentina)
* 1951 Ivkov, Borislav (Yugoslavia)












3 comments:

Okechukwu Iwu said...

Hi,

You can find Mr Ezeokoli's games from the 1987 World Under 21 championship in the online database at www.chessbase.com.

I think I had first heard of him in 1986/87, probably from a newspaper report. I was coming to the end of my high school "career", and already had dreams of coming to the University of Lagos, where besides making my parents happy by going to school, I would finally get the chance to play against strong chess players. Reading about how good he was gave me something to shoot for (he was 4 years older than me). The next time I heard his name, it was part of the title for a tournament, the Mel Ezeokoli Memorial :-(

fraternally,
Okechukwu Iwu

Nigeria chess player said...

I searched the www.chessbase.com. earleir and it doesnt seem to have Mels games. Its funny how the chess world splash the games of winners all over the place but seems to forget others who competed alongside them. Another reason we have to look out for our own. Tolani owosina and others should have some game analysis of Mel. Can anyone help us contact Tolani and others who might have it to forward them to us. And if anyone has a better picture of Mel we would love to post it.

K Elegbede

Okechukwu Iwu said...

It does have his games. Go to the site, and click on "Player Database" on the left hand side; type in "Ezeokoli" in the "Last Name" box and click "Search". By clicking on either "Load games played with White" or "Load games played with Black" you will get the respective games. Actually the games from that tournment are his only games there.

Hope that helps.

Oh, by the way, in case you are curious, and decide to type in "Iwu", the games from 1994 were not by me. It's a long story, but someone played at the Moscow Olympiad that year under my name. The games from 2001 were by me, but games I would rather forget ;-)
O Iwu