Cyril “September” Christian, one of world’s most heralded warri players, died Friday, November 15th after a battle with cancer. Christian was one of a line of strong warri players hailing from the small twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda. The game came to the West Indies along with African slaves who were brought to work on sugar plantations. “Oware” or “Warri” is an African game of strategy played with a 2×6 tray with 48 pebbles (24 per side). The objective is to capture as many of your opponent’s bead in a counter clockwise fashion.
It is from the family of mancala games originating from Egypt 7,000 years ago spreading through the rest of Africa, then to Asia and as mentioned, arriving in the Caribbean with the slaves. The slaves played the game secretively, but now has become one of the many board games enjoyed on the islands.
Christian with young enthusiasts in Antigua…
…and in a casual game with a Ghanaian master
in La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland (2005)
Along with Trevor Simon, Christian served as ambassadors for the game and was responsible for developing the popularity of the game throughout the African Diaspora. The game is played on the sides of roads, but on an organized level, it is a game of cunning and strategic guile. It is called “Manacala,” “Oware,” “Ayo,” “Mbau,” “Awale,” “Omweso” among other names.
When I was living in France I was surprised one day to come across groups of Africans playing this game that I knew so well from my youth in Antigua. Later I came to understand that to them, it was much more than a game but also an expression of liberation and cultural pride in a foreign locale.
~ Trevor Simon
Many in chess would quickly try to claim the erudition of chess over other mind games like draughts and warri. Each of these games has their own unique character, but like chess, the mastery of the ancient game warri requires a level of dedication and passion. To his credit, Christian was a towering figure in warri and often spoke of keeping the tradition. It was with some irony that he thought the game’s popularization may mean that Caribbean and African nations may lose their dominant standing.
- 2000 Silver Medallist UK Open Oware Tournament / Mind Sports Olympiad (London)
- 2002 6th Place Antiguan Open International Tournament St. Johns
- 2005 Silver Medallist 1ière Tournoi International d’Awélé (La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland)
- 2006 Gold Medallist 2ième Tournoi International d’Awélé (La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland)
- 2007 Silver Medallist 3ième Tournoi International d’Awélé (La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland)
- 2008 Silver Medallist 4ième Tournoi International d’Awélé (La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland)
September 14, 2008
(La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland)
6-5-3-2-2-4-1(+2)-1-5-6-4-6-3-5(+2)-5-3-1-1-1-6-1-2-3-2-5-1-1-5-1-3-1-5-6(+2)-3-5-5-3-2-6-3-1-6-6(+4)- 4-4(+5)-2-2(+2)-3-1-1-5(+3)-1-4-4(+2)-3(+3)-6(+3)-2-1-1-2-1-6-1-5-1-4-5-1-4-5-5-3-3-1-5-5-4-4-2-1-5-2- 6(+8)-6(+10)-5-4-6-6-1-1-2-5(+2)-1. September wins 29:19