Sunday, May 07, 2006


by Kunle Elegbede
International Chess Coordinator.

The World Chess Olympiad began officially in 1927 when the World Chess Federation (FIDE) took over its organization under the banner of Gens una sumus - its motto, meaning "We are one people". Since then, Chess Olympiad has become the "Mecca of chess" or the "Super bowl of chess" or you can call it a "mega academy award celebration” with a slight difference.

Unlike the academy award where you are rewarded for your past achievements, at the Olympiad, you will have to prove yourself for two solid weeks of chess struggles to earn an “Oscar” for yourself and for your country. It is chess pageantry at its best. The who is who of the chess world is present at the Olympiad. It is the grandfather of all chess events and the mother of all chess wars among countries. Chess players worldwide look up to this biannual event as the groom awaits his bride at the alter. The Chess Olympiad is a convenient marriage of brilliance with elegance. Many of the worlds chess stars of today were born at past chess Olympiads. As one can then imagine, it is a great honor for chess players to carry their countries flag to this epic international chess event of such a huge proportion.

This year, about one hundred and sixty countries of the world including Nigeria will come with their talented chess players to Turin, Italy (May 20 - June 4) for this chess battle of supremacy. A lot of activities are therefore underway in Nigeria for the final selection of the Nigerian team to the Olympiad but that is just part of the good news. The Nigerian delegation to the 2006 Olympiad will also include eminent members of the newly formed Nigeria Chess Foundation (details to be made public soon). This would be one of the highlights of this years Olympiad which is shaping up to be one of the best Olympiad delegation Nigeria has ever assembly together in a long time and deservly so. Nigeria has made its mark in the world of chess especially at the Olympiad and so deserves to be represented well.

Not long ago, in 1998, at the Elista Olympiad, the chess world woke up to the realization that Nigeria’s International Chess master, Odion Aikhoje had emerged first on board two ahead of great Grandmasters such as Vassily Ivanchuk, Smbat Lputian, and Kiril Georgiev among many other top players. The Former world champion, Garry Kasparov also commented on this remarkable achievement which he featured on his website with an article on Aikhoje for a very long time.

Unknown to many observers, years earlier, Ime Etokowo (A Mechanical Engineer), another Nigerian, in the female category had also won a brozen medal for Nigeria at the 1988 chess Olympiad in Greece but did not receive the attention equal to that of Odions Gold medal wining feat. This may be due in part to the fact that chess commentators often rate the level of play in the male section much higher than in the female category. It is thought to be more difficult to come out ahead in the male category than in the female category.

Tell that to Grandmaster Judith Polgar of Hungary who now plays in the male category as her chess prowess had surpassed that of the topmost male grandmasters of the world and tower far above her female counterparts. If you ask me, I will say gender cannot determine ones mastery of chess. It is just one of the many misconceptions of our world. In my view, to win a medal in a chess Olympiad (in the male or female category) is not an easy thing as Grandmaster Gary Kasparov noted while commenting on Odions archivement.

So therefore, to date, Nigeria has
two medals to show for their effort at chess Olympiads. The level of play among Nigerian chess players now rivals that of the best chess masters of any country. What worries me is the level of support our chess players are receiving from their government. The level of achievements of our chess players is not proportional to the level of support needed (support being giving to them) to maintain their level of achievements. Our chess players have given much more (performed well) than they have received support - finacially or otherwise.

We believe with the formation of the Nigeria Chess Foundation (which is being entrusted into the hands of noble Nigerians of charatcter and great vision world wide), things will change for the better. We cannot afford to ignore Nigerian chess players who have made us proud and are still working hard, doing positive things for their country, despite the many odds against them. If anything, they deserve our support whichever way we can offer it to them.

Its time once again to rise up in support of our chess players. The 2006 Olympiad is just around the corner.

Upcoming Chess Olympiad Preparation events:

1. Nigeria Chess Federation activities taking place in Nigeria to be announced soon.

2. Round Robin Chess training Match in Houston, Texas for two possible members of the Nigeria Chess Olympiad team and others to include:
International Chess master Dapo Adu, National master Chikwere Onyekwere and Wole Awoyemi, Veteran Chess masters Kenneth Odeh, Okechukwu Iwu and 4 top American Chess players added for tougher tournament .

Date and Venue to be announced soon.


The Olympiad story above was updated on March 16 2005. Some corrections were made about the medals at the Olympiad which is 1 bronze and 1 gold medals and not two gold medals as Originally written.