The Nigerian Angle to the Baku Chess Olympiad
Preparing for the Baku Chess Olympiad, the top five Nigerian chess players had to train on their own, as the country was unable to fund camping and special trainings. This evolved into the uncertainty of even participating at the Baku Chess Olympiad this year. But owing to the passion of a single man (the president of the Nigerian Chess Federation), 4 of the 5 registered open players were provided flight tickets, which was booked on the day of departure (1st of September). The 5th player was crowdfunded to the tournament, and arrived about 2 days after the start of the event.
After arriving in Baku, Nigeria was to face Russia, the highest rated team of the tournament (what a fate), and even though they were fatigued from arriving on the same day, they chose to play the Russians, rather than forfeit the match. Russia defeated Nigeria 4-0, but a game of note from the match was FM Anwuli Daniel’s game against GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, which he lost because he was trying to keep his kingside pawns connected (which in the position, should have been allowed to part ways and work its own destiny, according to chess24’s stockfish). He fought till move 36, when it was obvious that the game was over.
Picture from Anwuli Daniel's Facebook page
Round 2 was fairly easy for the team, as they stormed to a 4-0 victory over Mauritania, and the game of the round was CM Adesina Adeyinka’s win over the 2ndhighest rated player of the team, CM Hemam Moulaye, where the Nigerian refused to castle, in other to start up a serious early attack on the opponent’s kingside with an early 6. g4 in a queens gambit opening formation. Unfortunately for his opponent, who wanted to fight attack with attack, not realizing that his Nigerian opponent was not planning to castle on either side of the board, and was just waiting for the right time to strike! After black’s kingside castling, the attack started with a knight sacrifice for 2 pawns on move 17 (made possible through consistent bad moves by black), black would have just given back the officers and hope to get the pawns later, but instead, tried to get a pawn back, and inadvertently lost his queen in the process, leading to a winning advantage for the Nigerian.
The team then went on a 4 match losing streak against the Philippines, Jamaica, Andorra, and Angola, with CM Adesina Adeyinka picking up ¾ wins from the team losses, and the Bermuda party plus the break could not have come at a better time for the Nigerians.
Picture from Anwuli Daniel's Facebook page
Seeing the results of the team against seemingly lower rated teams, which saw them move to number 158 on the Olympiad ranking after matchday 6, the president of the Nigerian Chess Federation had to travel to Baku to give some much needed support to the team, which paid off as the team came off to a good start after the break and a winning streak too, which saw some interesting games played by the Nigerians.
Pictures courtesy of Ochuko Emuakpeje's Facebook account.
The round 7 win over Macau saw CM Adeyinka looking into the future of Mak, Kei Keng on board 4, and picking up a free officer, which eventually led his opponent to sacrifice his queen (unnecessarily, if I might add), and eventually losing the game and the match, as Nigeria went on to win the match, with only the IM Adu Oladapo losing his game to a brilliant Leong, Seak Hin, who opened with precision, had a flawed middlegame, but an impeccable endgame to defeat the IM Adu.
Round 8 saw the rejuvenated Nigeria play a very close match against the team from the island of Jersey (situated between England and France), with the match looking like it was tending towards a 2-2 draw, with 2 wins already in the bag, the #MadRook showed its face, as IM Oladapo Adu was determined not to lose another one, and kept at it, in a losing endgame, until his opponent allowed the MadRook to rear its face at The #BakuChessOlympiad, giving the IM an all important draw and a matchpoint win for Nigeria.
The win in round 8 gave the team the believe they needed to surge ahead greatly and believe that they can finish strongly, which they carried into the round 9, where they defeated a sturdy Madagascar side 4-0, to push them further up the ranking ladder, and who other than the highest rated Nigerian chess player to lead them to the solid victory, as he made means meat of his higher rated opponent FM Rakotomaharo Fy, after just a single error in placement.
Round 10 saw Nigeria face off against Surinam, an early leader that Nigeria had to catch up with. Although it was no easy battle, the Nigerian team ensured that no board was lost, as they had 2wins and 2draws, to move a point ahead of the starting rank of 87, at 86, with CM Adeyinka Adesina being conferred the title of Fide Master after meeting the criteria 6 wins at the Olympiad.
The final round presented an interesting test in El Salvador, and the upbeat Nigerians were up to the task, as they picked up a vital 3-1 win that saw them earn same points as the top African chess playing countries at the Olympiad, but 4th, behind Egypt, Zambia and Sudan only via the tie break.