Dr. Nsisong Bassey Asanga went to Istanbul unsure of what her travels would bring. With a very busy schedule as a medical doctor, a wife and mother, she has little time for intense training, but went with an abundance of optimism.
Not knowing what to expect, it was a celebration of joy after she met the requirements of the WFM title. She told me that “she was the first WFM in West Africa”. While this is not confirmed it is safe to say that she was the only West African player to get 66% in first nine games (7/11 overall).
Asanga was featured in a recent Nigerian Tribune article by Udeme Utip discussing her feat and her journey to the latest accomplishment. She laments regrettably that there has not been the support needed to pursue loftier goals in chess. Of course, with her busy schedule, it would take a gargantuan effort and additional travels.
When asked how she plans to pursue this passion, she reflects,
Well, it is by the grace of God and also planning. I have been able to cut out excesses; I don’t have time for anything that is not important. I spend my time on things that are important to me. It is either I am at the hospital, with my children, reading or I am training. I don’t have time for television, sitting down to chat or talk about who is up or down, I focus on things that are rewarding to me.
While Nigerian women (and men) earned category prizes in Istanbul, there is very little activity among women players in West Africa outside of Nigeria. In fact, no other West African team was present in Istanbul.
Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Togo were in Istanbul, all relatively new members of FIDE. However, none of them fielded women’s teams. West Africa’s game still remain draughts, but hopefully there is room for two board sports.
Nsisong describes her future as being “bright” in chess and sees Grandmasters coming to Nigeria. Perhaps Nigeria, a nation of 160 million, can serve as an inspiration for West Africa.