Nigerian-born Gregory Acholonu was finally awarded the FM title after being qualified for over 20 years. The long-time chess coach has worked with the DC Chess Center for 12 years before starting his own GCA Chess Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Acholonu has spent the better part of his life serving as an inspiration to scholastic players and has also worked with King’s Indian Chess.
Gregory Acholonu giving instruction at the U.S. Chess Center
Born in 1959, Acholonu earned his National Master title in 1982, and later achieved the Senior Master title (2400 USCF). He also earned the U.S. Life Master (300 games as National Master) and will add the FIDE Master title to his resume along with 1992 Maryland Closed Champion. Here is one of his favorite games played at the 1989 World Open against National Master Filipp Frenkel.
The DMV area has been a hotbed of chess for decades and a number of influential players of African descent including three of the first four Black National Masters (Walter Harris-1st, Frank Street-2nd, and Kenneth Clayton-4th). Acholonu mentions his influences in a 2008 Chess Life article written by Gregory Kearse.
“There was Ken Clayton and Frank Street [America’s second and third black chess masters]. I hung around very strong and up-and-coming players like Vince Moore (who is black), Stan Fink, Salvador Rosario, Richard Terry.” When you have players like “Steve Odendahl, Richard Delaune, Eugene and John Meyer and Mark Ginsburg,” Greg says, “it rubs off on you.” He concludes, “Emory Tate was … an influence tactically.”~Gregory Acholonu from “Black Chess in America“
The delayed awarding of a FIDE title has also occurred in the case of Norman “Pete” Rogers and James Canty who were both awarded the FM title long after they had eclipsed 2300 FIDE. There needs to be a better system to avoid these oversights. It is uncertain whether the onus is on the player, the federation or FIDE to keep track of these issues, but of course, the FM title does have a lot more prestige if one is seeking norm opportunities and coaching positions.