Dear Drum Community!

I am back from a month-long hiatus from writing and news coverage.

Toni and Abraham Bolden, Jr. on their honeymoon in Dunn River Falls (Ocho Rios, Jamaica) in 1989.

I would like to extend my thanks to those of you who extended well-wishes to me after the loss of my older brother (Abraham Bolden, Jr.) on August 22nd. While not a chess player, he was a big supporter of chess and visited tournaments with his son, Ismail. My brother had a keen mind and was a generous soul. It was no accident that he (along with my sister Ahvia) taught me to read around age three. That life lesson gave me the passion for words and the art of writing. Thus, I owe a debt of gratitude for my brother for this gift. He was very proud of The Chess Drum and was often seen wearing the shirts. 🙂

Again… thanks to everyone who sent well-wishes and to those of you who have supported The Chess Drum. We will celebrate 20 years in February 2021!

Keep the Beat Going!!!

Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Adisa Banjoko of Bishop Chronicles

Adisa Banjoko has blazed the trails since launching the Hip Hop Chess Federation since 2006. He continues the tout the mission of merging artforms of hip-hop, chess and martial arts into a interesting philosophy and has now hosting webcasts. He gave a recent interview on his vision and philosophy.

In his 127th edition of Bishop Chronicles, Adisa invited Daaim Shabazz of The Chess Drum to his show to discuss a variety of issues. One of the most prevalent themes in the interview was the impact of chess and how it applies to the discussion of social justice. There was a recurring theme of chess as vehicle for social activism and mobilization.

Video by Adisa Banjoko (HHCF)

Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Many webcasting shows have emerged during the coronavirus outbreak. It has provided a suitable resource for of Chess has been enriched by a number of informative and entertaining programs on various platforms.

FM Jim Eade has been involved in chess for decades in the Bay area of California and has been known as an organizer and writer. While his books have been well-received, he is now entering into webcasting platform and has hosted “Chess Without Borders” on IBM.TV.

Recently, Eade invited Daaim Shabazz of The Chess Drum on for an interesting interview (July 28, 2020). Some of the subjects were chess beginnings, The Chess Drum’s evolution, the book Triple Exclam, the challenges of chess journalism and other topics.

The Chess Drum thanks Jim Eade for the opportunity!

Video by Jim Eade (IBM.TV)

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

In this age of the coronavirus, activity has migrated online as thousands of players have set up YouTube channels and registered for online accounts on various chess servers. One of the major contributors to the boom in online chess has been the streaming platform of Twitch.

Pitterson Chess

This revolution has made it difficult to distinguish one’s brand from long-time streamers. American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura has led the online revolution, but the trend has spread to diverse places. Jamaican International Master Jomo Pitterson has started a new channel aptly called “Pitterson Chess” and has started with interviews of Jamaican personalities in a long format.

The interview segment called “Coffee and Blitz” and has featured luminaries such as International Master Shane Matthews, Candidate Master Duane Rowe, and FIDE Master Damion Davy. The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz was also a guest on the program and the audience got a rare chance to see the webmaster play a few games of blitz. There were also four games reviewed: Byfield-Shabazz, Tate-Yudasin, Tate-Gustafsson, and Simutowe-Crouch. There were questions throughout and a “Game of the Week” segment. Enjoy!


Video by Pitterson Chess (Twitch, Instagram)

Remembering late Jamaican chess legend Robert Wheeler
by Bertram Scott

Robert Wheeler, one of Jamaica’s legendary chess players and administrators, was one of the founding members of the Jamaica Chess Federation.

Jamaica chess legend Robert Wheeler passed away on Tuesday, June 30, at the Kingston Public Hospital at age 70, and leaves behind great memories of the board sport.

He is survived by wife Hope, his daughter Kathryn, and other relatives.

Wheeler became ill and was in and out of the University Hospital of the West Indies for the past two years “with heart-related issues” and later with “brain cancer”.

Funeral service will be held on Sunday, July 26 at 10:00 am at Roman’s Funeral Home on Dunrobin Avenue in Kingston.

Looking back on a wonderful career, Wheeler arrived in Jamaica from England in late 1973, and immediately won the first chess tournament he played in the December Open.

Administratively, Wheeler caught the eye of the founder and president of the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF), Enos Grant, and was drafted as a member of the 1974 JCF executive committee.

He dominated the chess scene in 1974, or as the late Thomas Figueroa stated: “Bob won almost every tournament he played in,” or as National Master Neil Fairclough put it “he was a big fish in a small pond”.

Jamaica national chess team to the Central American & Caribbean Chess Championship in El Salvador 1974. From Left are – NM Robert Wheeler, 1975 joint-Jamaica champion, NM Thomas Figueroa (deceased), the President of El Salvador, NM Neil Fairclough (Caribbean chess champion in 1993-94), John Powell (Bd. 4 Silver Medalist at the 1984 Olympiad in Greece, deceased), and Attorney-at-Law, Dr. Enos Grant, the 1st President of the JCF (deceased). Picture submitted by Rennie Phillips.

Wheeler made a winning international debut for Jamaica in April 1974 against a visiting Dominican Republic national team when he defeated National Master Luis Bellaird on Board 2. He won his first of five Jamaica Open Chess Championships in 1974, with the others coming in 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1986. Wheeler tied for first with Dr. Harold Chan in the 1974 Jamaica Chess Championship, but lost to Dr Chan in a play-off, and shared the Jamaica Chess Championship title in 1975 and 1979 with Thomas Figueroa and Dr Chan, respectively, and went on to win four National Championship titles in 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1988.

In 1975 he toured with a Jamaica chess team for the first time to the 13th Central American and Caribbean Chess Championship in San Salvador, El Salvador, and was a part of the Jamaica team at the 1975 Caribbean Chess Championship in Georgetown, Guyana.

Jamaica’s team at the opening ceremony of the 23rd World Students’ Chess Olympiad in Caracas, Venezuela, 7-22 August, 1976. From left: Bob Wheeler, John Powell (deceased), Peter Mundell, David Hunt (deceased), Enos Grant (Captain/delegate, deceased), Orrin Tonsingh (deceased), and Sheldon Wong. Photo from Jamaica Ambassadors Chess Academy.

In 1976 at the World Student Chess Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, he became the first Jamaican player to earn a draw with a grand master (GM) when he battled Cuban GM Guillermo Garcia to a tie.

Wheeler represented Jamaica at six World Chess Federation (FIDE) Open Olympiads, beginning in La Valletta, Malta (1980), Lucerne, Switzerland (1982), Thessaloniki, Greece (1988), Elista, Russia (1998), Istanbul, Turkey (2000), and Bled, Slovenia in 2002.

Jamaican Federation President Ian Wilkinson with NM Robert Wheeler at the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia. Copyright © 2002, Jerry Bibuld.

Jamaican Federation President Ian Wilkinson with Robert Wheeler at the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia. Copyright © 2002, Jerry Bibuld.

Allen Herbert of Barbados conferring with Wheeler at the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Allen Herbert of Barbados conferring with Wheeler at the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

He earned the title of Chess Master (CM) in 2011, and was a FIDE IA Arbiter, and officiated at four Open Olympiads. As a Jamaican international chess player and the longest-serving executive member of the JCF, Wheeler made a tremendous contribution to the development of chess in Jamaica.

— Bertram Scott
Sunday, July 19, 2020 (Jamaica Observer)


Funeral service of Robert Wheeler
Sunday, July 26 at 10:00 am
Roman’s Funeral Home
Dunrobin Avenue, Kingston, Jamaica


Arkady Dvorkovich

Dear chess friend,

Very soon, on July 20th, we will celebrate International Chess Day. As you probably know, this also marks FIDE’s 96th anniversary.

This is a day to celebrate chess, and from the International Chess Federation, we would like to reinforce this tradition.

Last year many of you joined us in this celebration, and thanks to that we achieved resounding success: many people and institutions from “outside” the chess world echoed our campaign, and we managed to attract more people to our sport.

This year we will also count on the invaluable support of the United Nations and UNESCO.

We would like to invite you to take part in this celebration again. Our plan for the International Chess Day 2020 is simple but ambitious: we want to make an appeal to the members of our chess community and ask you to teach someone how to play chess to mark this day.

You will find detailed instructions below. I would kindly ask you to distribute this information among your friends, members of your chess club or federation, associates and sponsors, and representatives of the media in your respective countries.

Arkady Dvorkovich
FIDE President


Arkady Dvorkovich

WHO?

Preferably a kid (it would be easier, and more rewarding for you both!), but it can also be a grown-up. Learning chess has beneficial effects, at any age!

Choose someone close to you. You can change somebody’s life by teaching him/her a beautiful game, but you will also be spending some quality time and creating or reinforcing a special bond with that person. If your children already play, maybe you can invite your nephew, or your son’s best friend. Maybe you can finally teach your boyfriend how to play, or your high-school best mate. Or you could propose this as an after-work activity with your colleagues at the office.

WHEN?

July 20th falls on a Monday, so the plan is that we devote to this action the weekend, from Friday to Sunday (July 17-19).

Then, on Monday, we share our experience on social media. Can we start the week with one million new chess players? We believe so.

HOW?

Some of you might be seasoned chess teachers, but many others have never taught the basics chess to absolute beginners. During the days leading to the weekend, try to gather some materials, watch some tutorials, and do some reading. From FIDE, we will stimulate the exchange of information and will share the most interesting ones, in different languages. Let’s help each other with the preparations.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Last year, on the International Chess Day, 3,842 tweets from 2,342 different contributors used the hashtag #Internationalchessday. That means we reached an audience of more than 18 million people and 47 million potential impacts – and that’s on Twitter alone! The campaign was also massively followed across other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and International Chess Day became a trending topic in several countries. The trend was so strong that many global brands, institutions, and celebrities, joined the initiative.

Let’s try to reach even higher numbers this year! You can start using the hashtag #Internationalchessday in your social media posts during the weekend leading to July 20th. But the very important day is Monday: please make sure to make at least one or two posts with the official hashtag, if possible early in the morning. That will ensure that other users will follow.

If you have any doubts or suggestions, or you think you can contribute to this campaign in some other way, please don’t hesitate to contact us:

David Llada
david.llada@fide.com
+ 34 623 021 120

International Chess Day


Chess Day 2020 (sponsors)

Chess Day 2020 (social media)

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Copyright © 2020 International Chess Federation, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email because you are a member of the FIDE Directory. The use of personal data such as your email address is made in compliance with FIDE data protection policy which you can find here: https://www.fide.com/privacy. Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences. In case you wish your email to be deleted from our archives, follow the “unsubscribe” procedure.

Our mailing address is:
office@fide.com

Before the rule of white moving first, each color had an equal chance at the first move. In the late 1800s, the rule changed from which color had the right to move first to which player would get white and the first move.

In the midst of the protests worldwide, many are discussing various questions of how racism is present on many levels of society… police brutality, unequal justice, immigration and religious intolerance. One of the most intriguing questions of late pertains to the chess rule of white moving first. Is chess racist? With the introduction of this convention in the mid-1800s, was there some type of insidious plot to reinforce white’s superiority and black’s inferiority?Most likely it was a mixture of reasons, but whether there a reason to revisit the practice is the question being raised.

History in Black and White

The export of modern-day chess goes back to the 15th century. King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella (Isabel da CatĂłlica) of Castile funded the voyages of the Spanish explorers, such as Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), to seek treasurers and discover the “New World.”

Wilhelm Steinitz

Chess would be one of Spain’s exports and it would touch the distant shores of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the West Indies. Despite European chess being relatively new, chess sets became highly-sought after in the realm of international trade. Chess sets were handcrafted from various materials and of different color tones making them complete works of art. Some were more suited for display than for playing.

One can say that during its evolution, chess was considered a game of the elite. It was a game of the “civilized” and was touted as a pastime of the well-heeled intelligentsia. This is indicated in the report of the Sixth American Chess Congress in New York in 1889, edited by then-World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz.

For centuries the games of Chess has stood preeminent among the intellectual pastimes of civilized nations. It has been cultivated and extolled by the wise and great of all ages, and notably in recent times by such exponents of modern progress as Leibnitz, Voltaire, Franklin, Diderot, Lessing, Boethe, Buckle, etc., as affording an admirable training for the highest faculties of the human mind.

It is well-known that Africans had their own levels of erudition as fair as science, medicine and the arts. If we draw on history, we remember the University of Timbuktu, and the civilization of ancient Egypt. We also remember the Moors taking science, architecture, medicine and cultural pastimes such as shatranj into Spain. Shatranj blindfold exhibitions and tournaments were commonplace.

Moors of Spain playing a casual game of Shatranj
Castile, 1283 AD

In contrast to the current version of chess, shatranj did not originally have colored squares. Also, a coin was tossed to see who moved first. When the Spanish drove the Moors out of the Iberian peninsula in 1492, shatranj was “Europeanized,” and the black/white chess dichotomy took on a greater symbolism.

Proposals & Rule Change

At the First American Chess Congress in 1857, England’s Johann Lowenthal recommended that white have the obligatory first move. The book commemorating the congress, sets the tone:

Mr. Perrin, the Secretary of the New York Club, informed the Congress that he had received two communications from Mr. Lowenthal, of London; the first relating to the advisableness of always giving the first move, in published games, to the player of the white pieces, and the second containing an new analysis of the Pawn and Move opening. Both of these he was requested by their distinguished author to present to the Congress. A vote of thanks was given to Mr. Lowenthal for his valuable communications.

This was a proposal, but there was no accompanying explanation of this rationale and why it would be white as opposed to black moving first. This rule was not immediately adopted and tournament organizers maintained flexibility on the first move. However, in the Fifth American Congress in 1880, the rules read (page 126), “The one having the move, in every case, is to play the white pieces.”

In the same document, it was written under “Code of Chess Laws” (page 164), “The right of first move must be determined by lot. The player must always play with the white men.” Apparently, a consensus was being formed as some tournaments had already made it part of their rules. Perhaps the most definitive statement made appeared on page xii in a book titled, The Modern Chess Instructor (1889) where Steinitz (the sitting World Champion) stated,

“The players draw by lot for move and choice of color. In all international and public Chess matches and tournaments, however, it is the rule for the first player to have the white men.”

The Color Confrontation

While I could not find any references to using the social hierarchy of race as a rationale for the move order, we should notice the language of Steinitz. His emphasis on the word “civilized” and “modern progress” in his writings was mostly used when referring to the western world. Such thoughts were commonplace and is still the worldview of many.

Taytu Betul
Empress of Ethiopia

In this worldview, there were two major events that shaped the relationship between Europeans and Africans. Besides the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 laid the economic foundation for the industrialized world. At the conference, 14 nations (13 European nations and the United States) met in Germany to discuss the partition of the vast African continent. The subsequent colonization was justified as a “civilizing mission,” but destroyed local traditions and customs, divided ethnic groups, and forced adversaries in closer proximity. The effects were devastating.

Before colonialization, chess had already visited Africa, including entry on the east coast of Zanzibar. There were also other entry points. Dr. Ned Munger wrote a series of books on chess set collections, called Cultures, Chess, Art.

In Munger’s volume on Sub-Saharan Africa, he mentions British chess historian H.J.R. Murray who told the story of fellow Britisher Henry Salt. Salt traveled to Ethiopia 1802-1806 and stated that while Ethiopian commoners gave advice during games, the “ras” or king always won. Salt was able to bring back to England the Wellad Selasse chess set. Emperor Haile Selassie mentioned to a British scholar that under the reign of Menelik (1844-1923), Empress Tatyu was devoted to an Ethiopian version of chess, “senterej.”

As mentioned earlier, Europe had met at the Berlin Conference to divide the spoils of the “Black Continent” in what is historically called “The Scramble for Africa.” While the scramble had begun decades before, this initiated the system of colonialism where Africans were seen as inferior subjects under the governance of Europeans. Incidentally, chess-playing Ethiopia was the only African nation never submitting to colonial authority.

The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885

The conference reinforced the notion that western nations were the standard of “civility” to which other countries would aspire. The colonization of Africa cast the view that Europe and Africa were diametrically opposed in terms of intellect, culture, and social mores. This notion was inferred on many levels, including the way African religions and societal customs were attacked and denigrated.

Chess enthusiasts were well aware that western culture did not depict Africans as among the “civilized,” and denigration of the inhabitants perhaps had an influence. There may have been another influence due to ideas of the color spectrum. A fascinating 2006 study using the Implicit Association Test (IAT) may shed light on this issue. In the study, “Black and White: The Role of Color Bias in Implicit Race Bias,” an excerpt from the abstract reads,

Scholars in many domains have also documented that people generally have more positive associations with the color white and more negative associations with the color black. The present research, consisting of three studies, examined the potential contribution of general implicit evaluative associations with the colors white and black to implicit race preferences as measured by the IAT.

Drawing on multiple studies, and confirmed by popular culture, we see examples of positive associations with “white” and negative associations with “black.” In fact, the move-rule is that the lighter color would always move first. This is also affirmed by Dr. John E. Williams, who examined the relation between color preferences and racial biases in a series of studies in the 1960s.

There is no definitive conclusion on whether white was awarded the first-move as a sense of racial privilege, but there was a definitive decision made to choose white over black. Given the 19th century era, there was a prevailing notion that white may have been the preferred color, literally and figuratively.

Is the First Move an Advantage?

Even if we agree that there were social influences in awarding white the first move, does it yield an inherent advantage? My views are more consistent with GM Andras Adorjan who asserts that such advantages are more psychological. For example, many of the early romantic opening books focused on crude attacking systems for white. The puzzle books tended to be exclusively “white to play.”

Theophilus Thompson's book,

It is ironic that Black chess problemist Theophilus Thompson (1855-1881) had already made his mark by the time this move rule was established. In fact, he produced a problem book in 1873 where all of the problems were “white to play and mate.” We have been conditioned to believe that white should prove the initiative. Such conventions were commonly presented in chess literature.

Does white have the initiative after the first move? If so, we would be playing an unfair contest. We know that chess is an unfolding theater play and the first move is simply the opening line uttered on the stage. What matters is the sequence that follows, the ebb and flow of the game with its meandering plots, its skirmishes and long-range play. Tempos are won, lost and traded.

The duality makes chess is an equal game. In fact, the person moving first does not necessarily have the advantage unless you want to discount thousands of years of martial arts and science. Attempting the first blow or punch does not always constitute an advantage. It depends on the resources the second player has.

Video by XS Sports

In this video, 10th-degree black belt Anthony Muhammad had adequate measures despite his “uke” having the first move in every situation. In chess, a difference in the Elo rating would negate any first move advantage. Why? Because the second player has equal or better countermeasures. In the endgame, a “tempo” can decide the game by the smallest of margins. However, after white’s first move, there is a growing body of literature where black fights on equal terms, and even for the initiative.

We remember Evgeny Sveshnikov saying in 1994, “win with white” and “draw with black.” Why saddle yourself with a psychological disadvantage from the outset? Bobby Fischer never had such thoughts and played to win with both colors. What is the objective of playing a game of chess? Is it to draw? No, it’s to win regardless of the color. Otherwise, it’s a handicap game. It seems ironic that a Sicilian variation bearing Sveshnikov’s name is one of the most dynamic and complicated systems used to play for a win with black.

Black is OK!

Years ago, I wrote an article titled, “The Socio-Politics of the First Move in Chess.” In it I state,

We often hear that a player must win with white and be happy to draw with black. Is this based on the sample of games that have been played thus far? Is this a concrete truism or a mere perception shaped by how the game has been presented to the chess-playing public? Saying that white has the advantage is easy, but can we truly deduce that it is due to the first move?

Weaver Adams

In other words can we deduce that a player won a chess game because they played 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3? Weaver Adams tried to claim white was winning after 1.e4, but lost a match to I.A. Horowitz who insisted on playing black every game. Adams was also ridiculed in a 1962 Chess Life magazine by then-U.S. Champion, Larry Evans for “demonstrating forced wins against second-rate defenses.”

The crude taste for brilliancies and admiration for the spectacular is juvenile hero-worship. To those of you who lament the passing of Morphy and the so-called “golden age” of chess, I can only say – grow up! Don’t retreat from reality with elaborate systems that work only on paper.

Black is OK!

While Evans punched holes in Adams’ crude analysis, statistics show that white holds a sizable edge of 52-55% win rate over black. What explains this? Objectively, more effort has been invested to show that white has the advantage. It is the same spirit in which Adams pronounced white to be winning after 1.e4. It makes sense that chess players are more motivated to prove an advantage. There is another psychological angle.

If we look at the books (even today), almost all are presented from white’s perspective. This is even true for books focusing on black openings. This practice has gone unchallenged until recently. In Emory Tate’s biography Triple Exclam, the book is written from his perspective, black or white. GM Andras Adorjan has take steps in undoing this bias with his series of books on black resources. In his books, all diagrams are from black’s perspective. In his Black is Back! he even cites the aforementioned article from The Chess Drum,

Many boil the first move advantage down to notions such as tempos and white’s aforementioned percentage of victory. However, chess games are not linear and do not follow a uniform pace throughout the game. There are many tempos lost and gained by both sides in the course of a game. The pace ebbs and flows; the advantage swings back and forth. … As the game changes its character, the importance of the first move may have long lost much its relevance to the position. In fact, black has as much right to determine the character of the game.

Chess has the same rules for both, and thus the objective is the same for both. Black should be no more willing to make a half-point its ceiling than white. As we discover more systems and resources for black, we will soon find the win gap narrowing. Chess becomes more equalized as the gap between the skill of players closes. It was also Steinitz who stated in Modern Chess Instructor (page xxxii) that “by best play on both sides, a draw ought to be the legitimate result.”

The Final Verdict: Guilty or Not Guilty?

Not guilty.

Chess is fair and balanced, like many of the laws of the universe. It has two opposing forces that can work to neutralize one another. As we have stated, social influences have become part of the game since the Spanish made radical changes in the rules in the 15th century. While the Spanish had palpable hostility toward the Moors, they appreciated the game of shatranj and decided to make it in their own image. Most notable was the inclusion of the queen in honor of Queen Isabella.

Africans indeed were involved in games and many were adept at strategy games like shatranj, warri, kharabaga, and draughts (10×10 checkers). Today Africans boast some of the strongest draughts players in the world. Unfortunately, Africans had lost their connection with the glorious history of shatranj, but in this year of 2020, their descendants continue to appreciate the equal opportunity of chess.

One could look at the humanoid pieces as symbolic of a racial battle between black and white forces. Again, if you change the color of the pieces to green and orange, would we have the same question? It’s doubtful, but let’s be clear. In chess, the color of the pieces is less relevant than the essence of the battle. In the current world of George Floyd protests, color (ethnicity) seems to be the essence of the battle. Chess is not the same as social justice because when we fight against racism, it is not a game.

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Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria

IM Oladapo Adu at the Liberian border, the day before a torturous journey across two countries by bus, by foot, by motorbike, and canoe. As they crossed the border of Ghana, they were met with armed patrol with guns drawn! Photo by Oladapo Adu.

Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu competed in the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championship in Freetown, Sierra Leone ending prematurely on March 20th. Authorities wanted to make sure the players could return safely to their respective homes before West African borders begin closing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

After placing second in the tournament, the Nigerian International Master attempted to make his way back into Lagos, Nigeria, but Air CĂ´te d’Ivoire canceled his March 22nd flight. So Adu, Mario Kpan (CĂ´te d’Ivoire), and John Solarays (Ghana) took the grueling trip by road on March 21st. Adu would attempt a trip starting in Sierra Leone and then cutting through Liberia, CĂ´te d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and ending Nigeria. An Indiana Jones in Africa adventure was ahead.

Liberian Meal

Food makes everything better!

After a tiresome bus trip from Freetown, they arrive in Monrovia, Liberia. While Kpan remained in Liberia, Adu and Solarays spent the night, had a nice meal, got a good night’s rest, and resumed via motorbike. They walked through the bush to arrive at the bike station. According to Adu,

There were about 2 bike rides. One from Liberia to the border of CĂ´te d’Ivoire and the other from the border to Danani.

Adu describes this leg of the journey as “torture.” The motorbike ride turned out to be a 4-hour journey through the thick Liberian forests to the eastern border. The country is known for its high-quality redwood trees as well as rubber trees, one of the main exports. As fate would have it, the bike got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.


“The roads are narrow in some places, some places are just like dirt roads some very high and winding roads it’s just like an adventure trail.”


Bus Station

Breakdown in the middle of nowhere!

How do you manage such a situation? The driver managed to fix the tire, and they were on their way. They finished the day’s journey on the other side of the CĂ´te d’Ivoire border with a 3-hour bike ride to the small town of DananĂ©.

Bus Station

SDS Bus Station from Danane to Abidjan… 12 hours ahead!

Bus Station

It’s been a loooong trip!

After spending a night in DananĂ©, Ivory Coast, they rode a coach bus 12 hours the country’s width through Abidjan. Then they headed toward the Ghanaian border. They crossed the border into Ghana by canoe (!), but were stopped by Border Patrol, who had drawn their guns!

Ghana had closed its borders due to the coronavirus outbreak. They allowed Solarays to proceed since he was a Ghanaian national, but police officials sent Adu was sent back to the Ivory Coast-Ghana border. There he spent the night, minus his luggage. His bag was on another vehicle when the authorities interrogated him and Solarays.

In happier times, Adu winning Lomé Chess Challenge. Commissioner Abalou Bodjona (left) and Togolese Vice President Abby Edah Ndjelle flank the Nigerian Eagle. Photo by Simeon Egbade.

In happier times, Adu winning Lomé Chess Challenge in March 2019. Togolese Chess Federation Commissioner Abalou Bodjona (left) and Togolese Chess Federation Vice President Abby Edah Ndjelle flank Adu. Photo by Simeon Egbade

The next day he rode four hours back into Abidjan on March 24th, where he was in contact with the chess community. A Togolese chess player Abalou Bodjona paid for accommodations and expenses for Adu the first ten days in Abidjan. Adu’s luggage was still missing, and he only had the clothes on his back. Adu was grateful for Bodjona’s help.


“I heard ECOWAS borders open July 15th 2020.
That’s good news for me!”


Members of the Ivorian chess community had been able to help secure accommodation in Abidjan. Dr. Essoh Essis and Simplice DeGondo coordinated to assist Adu, but not under the auspices of the Ivorian Chess Federation.

For a week, he was sharing a room with two others. Not a good situation given the threat of viral infection. In the meantime, Adu has tried to contact the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan and Nigerian Sports Ministry without much success. He has also conducted a couple of interviews about his harrowing plight.

Video by The Avalon Daily

Adu told The Chess Drum that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would reopen on July 15th. “That’s good news for me,” said Adu. At this point, he will be able to return back to Lagos. There was a story run in the BBC news about Adu’s plight and his disappointments. Adu also told The Chess Drum that he expected more from his own Nigerian Chess Federation, where he serves on the board.

Currently, Adu’s situation is unstable as he is now sharing a place with two others, whom he describes as being “kind” and “helpful.” He will soon have to vacate this location and is uncertain on his next stop. There is presently flooding taking place, which makes mobility difficult. Adu requires financial assistance for his next 17 days in Abidjan plus expenses to get back to Nigeria. Below is a GoFundMe page if you would like to donate.

All photos and videos courtesy of Oladapo Adu
(except where indicated otherwise)

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

The History of Chess in Jamaica (1835-1978)

Bert Scott may be known to some from running the Jamaica Chess Ambassadors website for several years in the 2000s. He took up the game during the “Fischer Boom,” and like many, got the book, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. He has been an active chess player since the 70s and has recently released a long-awaited work on the history of Jamaican chess.

In the book he details the island’s first exposure to chess in the 1800s history of Jamaican chess and those instrumental in the building of the federation. Scott covers the evolution of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), along with Jamaica’s membership in 1972 and the island’s participation in Olympiad events. He recounts many chess personalities and their games including Sheldon Wong’s brilliancy against Nir Grinberg at the 1977 World Junior in Groningen, Holland.

Jamaica’s team at the opening ceremony of the 23rd World Students’ Chess Olympiad in Caracas, Venezuela, 7-22 August, 1976. From left: Bob Wheeler, John Powell (deceased), Peter Mundell, David Hunt (deceased), Enos Grant (Captain/delegate, deceased), Orrin Tonsingh (deceased), and Sheldon Wong. Photo from Jamaica Ambassadors Chess Academy.

When The Chess Drum asked him what motivated him to write this book, he stated,

When I wen back to Jamaica to care for mom, I was surprised to see that she had kept all my chess stuff I left when I came to NY in 1977.

And among them were chess pictures given to me by John Powell.
And with a lot of time on my hand I got the idea to write a chess book about Jamaica.

Bert Scott (right) playing Duane Rowe
at the 2012 Jamaican National Championships
Photo courtesy of Bert Scott

The wisdom of Scott’s mother saved a large cache of vintage pictures from John Powell’s archives. Powell had begun taking photos when Dr. Anthony Saidy came to Jamaica in 1964 as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.

The book ends in 1978, the year of the Chess Olympiad held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This will prove to be important documentation for Jamaica, the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. Scott has already begun Volume II of the series.

The History of Chess in Jamaica (1835-1978)

Now available on:

BookBaby $37.99
Bookshop $34.99
Amazon $37.99
Barnes and Nobles $37.99

Lewis Ncube, Continental President for Africa, has made the following announcement on behalf of the African Chess Confederation:

During the last few days, the Board of the African Chess Confederation has learnt of the death of Michel Nguélé Viang with profound shock and deep regret.

Michel, who was President of the Cameroonian Chess Federation and Acting President of Zone 4.3 of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), died last Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at the age of 71 from cancer.

Michel was a valuable member of the Board of the African Chess Confederation and he will be greatly missed by the Cameroonian and African chess communities.

The Board of the African Chess Confederation is in contact with the Cameroonian Chess Federation and the family of the late Michel Nguélé Viang to put together an appropriate tribute to our late colleague.

Further announcements will be made in the coming few days.

~Lewis Ncube, President, African Chess Confederation

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