UI Chess Team Wins Big in Lagos

On the 26th of May, 2024, the National Schools Team Chess Championship- Tertiary Institutions was held at the Ecobank Building, Victoria Island, Lagos. The first of its kind, this event brought together chess teams from Nigerian universities,  polytechnics, colleges of education, and other higher institutions. 38 institutions competed in the six-round Rapid Swiss tournament. Representing the University of Ibadan were Captain, Oguntona Abraham of the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Akporherhe Blessing, flying the Mavericks banner, Oziegbe Promise, erstwhile captain, Akinyemi David of the graduating Physiology class, and Ojo Blessing, a BDS Clinical Student. The team was accompanied by Mr Emeka Madueke, Coordinator of the UI Chess Team.

Team UI started in the best possible manner, flooring Auchi Polytechnic with a 4:0 scoreline. Olabisi Onabanjo University as well was no match for Team UI, losing on all but one board. Up next was the 2024 NUGA host, the University of Jos who suffered a ½:3½ loss to the Brown Roof City contingent. The University of Ibadan’s next opponent, Niger Delta University were no pushovers, with a 2022-rated Alagoa on board 3 one of the highest-rated in the competition. And while Alagoa won his game versus Akinyemi, the rest of his team was felled in brutal fashion, culminating in a 3:1 win for Team UI. UI at this point was in sole first, with favourites UNILAG and UNIBEN having drawn their match in Round 4, and up next were the Lagos juggernauts. While Promise won his game, Akporherhe and Oguntona were outclassed by Nigerian chess scene high-fliers: Okemakinde Toluwanimi and Nigeria’s youngest-ever International Master, Okeke Isaac. The UI team rallied strongly to secure a draw against a UNIBEN team that included FM Eyetonghan Callistus in the final round.

Speaking to the Press afterwards, Mr Emeka Madueke, UI Chess Team Coordinator said, ‘It was a novel competition, well organised and a big improvement from previous tournaments. Though the number of rounds didn’t do us justice as we played all top contenders while some high finishers didn’t even play against the top contenders.’ He also had appreciation for those who sponsored Team UI to the event: Prince Adewole Adeyinka, NCF Vice-president, IM Odion Aikhoje, UI Alumnus and first African Chess Olympiad Gold Medalist, Mr Iredele Ogunbayo, Oyo State Chess Association Chairman, Dr Ariyo Oluwaseun, UI Honourary Chess Coach, and Mr Olabode Sofoluwe, Oyo Chess Vice-president.

Abraham Oguntona, UI Chess Captain was sombre, ‘It was a great event, and I’d like to appreciate Ecobank, the Nigerian Chess Federation and all organisers for hosting such a prestigious competition. I’m disappointed we came fifth though, considering we could have easily been second— a 7th round which the organisers thoughtfully suggested at some point would have eventually revealed team strength more accurately, as some schools on the podium did not play any top seed while we played all strongest possible opposition. All in all, our performance was a clear indication of a great improvement in UI Chess.’ Speaking to UIMSAites, the captain said, ‘I’ve always been very proud of UIMSA Chess and COMUI at large, which everyone knows. In fact, the NSTCC team had two UIMSAites and two others from COMUI (Physiology and BDS), which is a testament to UIMSA and COMUI chess dominance in UI, with Clinical Sciences being the defending champion at Inter-Faculty level. The only challenge right now is almost zero participation among female UIMSAites in chess, and I’d like to encourage more female participation in coming times.’

Two individual bronze medals were secured on Boards 2 and 3 respectively by Oziegbe Promise and Akporherhe Blessing, the UIMSA phenom. The National University Games are coming up at the University of Jos in November, and the University can be hopeful of a strong showing from her representatives going on this performance.

Okojie Osakwe Simeon


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