Interview with Bunmi Olape

IM Bunmi Olape won the Nigerian National Championships in November 2011. The tournament was sponsored by Nigerian Breweries PLC and the top section featured a 9-round swiss. Olape won with a tremendous score of 8/9 in a field that included the famous IM Oladapo Adu. He is a regular member of the Nigerian Olympiad Team and has represented Nigeria in various international team competitions.

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Femi Adebajo – A few biographical details- where were you born and where did you have your early education?
Bunmi Olape – I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and had my primary education at the Government Demonstration Primary School, Surulere, Lagos. My secondary school education was at Onitolo High School, Surulere,Lagos and Lagos City College at Yaba. I obtained a B.Sc from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State.

Adebajo – When did you learn to play chess? Who taught you to play chess?
Olape-I learnt chess in 1991 and was attracted by the shape of the chess pieces and fascinated by the peculiar movement of each piece on the chess board. My older brother brought chess to the family but did not formally teach me how to play. I learned by watching him because I am very inquisitive person and will go to any length to seek knowledge in any field I am passionate about.

Adebajo – Who are your favourite chess figures from the 20th century? Why?
Olape-Paul Morphy. He was highly creative and you see a lot of original ideas in his games.

Adebajo – Who are your favourite contemporary chess masters? And why?

Olape-Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Alexey Shirov of Spain stand out as my favourites. I like Topalov because of his style of play and personality, and Shirov’s wild style is a great fascination for me.

The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Nigeria's Bunmi Olape. Copyright © 2006, Daaim Shabazz.

The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Nigeria’s Bunmi Olape
in Turin, Italy at 2006 Chess Olympiad.

Adebajo – What are your three favourite chess books?

Olape-1. Informator, 2. Chess University and 3. A book on the life and games of Tal.

Adebajo – What is the most instructive chess game you have ever studied?
Olape-A game between Kasparov and Topalov at Linares, I can’t remember year! Ed. note: G Kasparov- V Topalov, Wijk aan Zee, 1999.

Adebajo – Which is the most remarkable game you have ever played?

Olape-It was a game against Roselli Malihe of Uruquay at the 2002 Chess Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia. It was quite a tactical and instructive game.

Adebajo – What are your main interests outside chess?

Olape-Watching football, traveling and reading journals on current affairs

Adebajo – How would you describe your chess style?

Olape-Tactical !!

Adebajo – Who is your most difficult/awkward opponent and why?
Olape-I don’t have any in mind at the moment!

Adebajo – What are three favourite books not related to chess?

Olape-Guinness Book of World Records, Windmills of the Gods (Sydney Sheldon) and Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

Adebajo – What are your three favourite movies?
Olape-“Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), “Tarzan” (Animation- Walt Disney) and “Problem Child” (Macauley Culkin)

Adebajo – Any tips for youngsters starting out in chess?
Olape-They need to be steadfast because there are lots of challenges that come with the development of chess skill.

Adebajo – What are your ambitions in chess over the medium term?
Olape-Am hoping to strive hard and get the necessary number of GM norms and also improve on my FIDE Elo that will get me closer to the coveted GM title.

Adebajo – What do you think of the role of computers in chess training?
Olape-With the inception of the computers into chess, it as greatly improve the knowledge in opening repertoires and also made analysis of games a lot easier but playing against some engines can be quite frustrating because computers don’t show emotions !!

Adebajo – How well does Nigerian chess stand in comparison to other African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Angola and South Africa? What can we do to catch up with them?

Olape-To me the country that is clearly ahead in the continent is Egypt, other above mentioned countries are about equal or slightly better based on my own assessment. In Nigeria, we need to do a lot in the following areas: administratively(management), sponsorship and publicity and welfare packages for chess players.

Adebajo – Which Nigerian player(s) inspired you in your chess ‘youth’?
Olape-Unarguably IM Fola Akintola (Folly doodle dee)

Adebajo – Who is the world’s current strongest chess player?
Olape-From my point of view, Magnus Carlsen stands out!!

Adebajo – What are your thoughts on blitz/lightning chess? A useful tool for developing quick reflexes, intuition and familiarity with opening tabiyas or a harmful habit that encourages sloppiness and superficiality?
Olape-Blitz is a good testing ground for analysed positions, opening lines and variations. It also helps to improve mental alertness when in time trouble during classical time control games. It has a lot more benefit than the disadvantages.

Adebajo – What is your preferred time control for long play games?
Olape: I don’t have any preference.

Adebajo – Any thoughts on the future of Nigerian chess?
Olape-I am very optimistic that Nigerian chess will get better and this has started already. Awareness is increasing, more tournaments are springing up all over the federation and a lot of chess players are exploiting other aspects of chess activity e.g. organisation, coaching, ‘arbitrating’ etc. We will get to the ‘promised land’ in no time!!

Adebajo – Do you think professional chess is a viable career option for a Nigerian?
Olape-Professionalism in chess in Nigeria is becoming more viable in comparison with what we have had in the recent past. Nowadays you can find chess players getting involved in more chess activities like organisation, coaching, arbitration etc. Other chess-related activities are being created apart from playing at chess tournaments.

Board Five medallists at 10th All-Africa Games (2011)

Kgaugelo Mosetlhe (South Africa), Bunmi Olape (Nigeria),
IM Khaled Abdel-Razik (Egypt)

Adebajo – Name three favourite Nigerian chess players from the older generation- over 40’s?
Olape-Owosina Tolani, Fola Akintola and Thomas Oparaugo.

Adebajo – How about three promising young Nigerian players?
Olape-1. Abiola Akinseye, 2. Nonso Oragwu and 3. Femi Balogun

Adebajo – In the absence of a national rating list, your top 10 active Nigerian chess players, home and abroad?
Olape- Olape Bunmi, Adebayo Adegboyega, Adu Dapo, Odion Aikhoje, Kigigha Bomo, Omorere Benjamin, Olamide Ajibowo, Charles Campbell, Olanrewaju Ajibola, Bayo Babalola

Interview by: Femi Adebajo


  1. Hello Daaim, I am not about tooting my own horn, but it is amazing to me how I was the first Chess Coach in the U.S. to be awarded the Life title of Certified Professional Chess Coach by the USCF and there has been no mention of it ever! They have since awarded the title to two other coaches. Over a year ago, I asked the editors and president of the USCF of why there has been no mention of it and I was told there was no room given all the other more important accomplishments. Given the strict and extensive requirements for this status makes me wonder about that excuse. Certainly though the accomplishment should be noteworthy of mention on the Drum.

    1. I didn’t remember anything about it or may have missed it. The USCF should have mentioned it if they felt it warranted that. In the future, send an e-mail to me instead of posting on a thread unrelated to this.

  2. I knew Bunmi Olape through a friend ( Rasaq AKA TERROR) while I was in the University. I attended ABU Zaria but frequent UNILORIN as at that time (1994 – 1997). I could not believe that this guy is still at 2200 FIDE ratings with the kind of intelligence and chess prowess he possessed as at that time.
    I looked up the top 100 FIDE rated Grandmasters and I was shocked that only Egypt appear on the list. This is what brought me here and I found it disheartening that my country (Nigeria) has refused to develop in most area of endeavors including chess. Bunmi probably has to struggle to make ends meet and this may have affected his ability to develop his chess to a GM level that I though he should be by now. Big Shame, my country is not moving forward in the 21st century.
    Suleiman Oloriegbe.

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