Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria

Photo reflections from the match between Nigerian Champion Chikwere Onyekwere and Nigeria's IM Oladapo Adu. The match was organized by Kunle Elegbede. Photos courtesy of Nigerian Blog Spot.

After a short opening ceremony, the inaugural Nigerian Chess Clash between Nigerian Champion Chikwere Onyekwere and International Master Oladapo Adu begun amidst great fanfare and anticipation. Players traveled from afar to witness the spectacle and the match began! The ensuing games turned the match into a  Sicilian theme tournament as every game featured the popular defence. 

In the first game, Adu trotted out 4.Qxd4, an opening he has used with good effect. Onyekwere made a tactical error allowing Adu to break in the center. With the king still in the center,  Adu uncorked a stock sacrifice with
15.Rxe7+! and black's dark-squares took on the appearance of Swiss chess. Onyekwere's king came under vicious assault and black king was mated as his court looked on helplessly. (see game)

In the second game, Onyekwere decided to sidestep the more popular lines of the Sicilian and started out with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.f4. This sequence could lead to the Grand Prix Attack, but after 3a6, Onyekwere went 4.g3!? In this line, the Nigerian Champion gradually positioned his forces for a typical kingside onslaught.

Onyekwere waited too long to play a central break and Adu gathered momentum with his own central break in 18d5! White's kingside became overextended and Adu pounced with a speculative sacrifice
30Nxe5! (diagram) After a series of exchanges, white's position was in shambles and Adu was up 2-0. (see game)

Whites kingside became overextended and Adu pounced with a speculative sacrifice 30Nxe5!?

In this pivotal third game, Onyekwere was in a "must-win" situation and played the "Poisoned Pawn" Sicilian. Adu declined to go into "Chi-Chi's" preparation and played the solid, but less ambitious 8.Nb3. The game appeared to transpose into the main line 6.Bg5 with one important difference white's knight was on b3 instead of d4 making the typical sacrificial attacks ineffectual. Adu continued to put his pieces on weird squares and tried to drum up an attack. Onyekwere broke the spine of the white center and in a desperate attempt Adu sacrificed a piece with 23.Nf5. The attempt fizzled miserably and the Nigerian Champion closed the gap to 2-1. (see game)

Perhaps the best game of the match, game four was an exciting affair out of yet another Sicilian. An offbeat line occurred after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6!? However, the game transposed into yet another Najdorf with a few wrinkles. Adu played actively and seemingly developed a strong initiative, but gave away his decisive advantage with 25 Nf3. The game remained tense, but Adu maintained a slight edge and pawn plus in a minor piece ending. The key point was after 47.b5. Adu sacrificed his bishop with 47 Bxb5!? in order to push his connected kingside pawns. After white played 48.Bxb5, the race was on!

After 48.Bxb5 (diagram), can black win? Adu played 48g4 here. What about 48.h5!? After 54.Nc4, white is poised to front the menacing pawns. Are there any chances here? No. White played 61.Nxg3 and arrived at a stalemate after 61Kxf3 62.Kh1 h2.

After 48.Bxb5 (diagram), can black win? Adu played 48g4 here. What about 48.h5!?

After 54.Nc4, white is poised to front the menacing pawns. Are there any chances here?

No. White played 61.Nxg3 and arrived at a stalemate after 61Kxg3 62.Kh1 h2.

A well-fought game with many twists and turns! This game had it all opening theory, opposite wing attacks, tactical nuances and endgame problems. This would be the only game that was not decided by move 40.  The next game would be crucial but Adu maintained the psychological advantage since Onywkwere had to fight for the draw in the end. (see game)

Game five was another theoretical battle in the Sicilian. We went back to the Poisoned Pawn, but the game veered from game three where Onyekwere scored his only victory.  It appeared as if Onyekwere was doing well after
15d5! 16.exd5 Bxa3, but apparently miscaluculated with 20Qb4 (instead of 20Qc7) leaving a piece enprise. Adu accepted the piece, blasted through to batter the black king. Onyekwere tried fleeing, but only found himself into a mating net in the middle of the board. Thus, the match would end on an inauspicious note for the young master. With the match numerically decided, the two players agreed to forgo the 6th game.  (see game)

While the match had its share of tension and off-the-board drama between the two players, this match was of historic significance to Nigeria and the entire African Diaspora around the world. The vision by
Kunle Elegbede to bring two titans together to sharpen their chess acumen is both a novel idea as it is necessary. Let us hope that there will be more in the future! Congratulations to Nigerian sons Adu and Onyekwere!

More pictures! (Picasa Web Album) Nigerian Chess Blog here!
PGN games here!

Posted by The Chess Drum: 1 April 2007