Nigeria’s “The Battle of the Ages” fought to exciting draw!

The Battle of the Ages” kicked off on June 11th, pitting global ambassador Tunde Onakoya against Nigerian phenom Deborah Quickpen. The atmosphere was electric, and the venue was splendid, with many dignitaries attending the intergenerational match. The Daniel Ford Foundation sponsored the match, which took place in Lagos.

The Initiatives

Four years ago, social media buzzed about a Nigerian initiative to produce the first Grandmaster. The Nigerian Chess Federation has always had the talent to see a breakthrough, but perhaps the support was not there. Now, the idea of the first Grandmaster has been revisited with the rise of Quickpen. Let it be known that we are referring to the International Grandmaster title, not the Women’s Grandmaster.

One has to credit the Nigerian community for putting into motion a support system that will hopefully reap benefits not only for Onakoya and Quickpen but also for future generations of chess players in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation is known more for football, and the Super Eagles have won the hearts of the nation. However, the talented and charismatic Deborah Quickpen may have just stolen the hearts of the Nigerians.

Photos by Babatunde Ogunsiku/OTHIMS Photography

Tunde Onakoya has been in the media since beginning the “Chess in Slums” initiative in 2018. He is a master-level player known more for his community work, which has gradually taken on global significance. While many pay attention to top players playing each other hundreds of times, other stories are touching and have a social impact. This match is poised to put into motion a breakthrough on the African continent at a time when the World Championship crown has been devalued.

Photos by Babatunde Ogunsiku/OTHIMS Photography

The Backstory

The event’s backstory began in March when Orchid Lekki Chess Club President Kunle Kasumu introduced Deborah Quickpen to Daniel Ford’s CEO, Yemi Edun. Impressed by her talent, Edun sponsored her trip to the 2024 African Individual Chess Championship in Ghana, where she finished fourth with 6 points out of 9 and gained a remarkable 38-point Elo rating.

The CEO of Daniel Ford then decided to take the support for the prodigy further by putting up the exhibition match to announce her endorsement as the company’s ambassador. But this is just the beginning of a great journey for Deborah Quickpen.

~Yemi Edun’s Instagram

The Match


The match was four games of rapid and four games of blitz. Tunde seemed to get the better of Deborah in the longer format. The young prodigy often had problems establishing her rhythm in the opening. In the first game was an English opening that resulted in Deborah winning a clear pawn in the opening. However, she made a gross oversight that caused her to lose a rook and, eventually, the game. The second game was a mainline Caro Kann that saw Tunde get an overwhelming advantage with the white pieces. While going for checkmate, he gave up an “own-goal” and got checkmated himself. It was a thrilling comeback!

After the first two games, there was an intermission and address by Yemi Edun, Managing Director of Daniel Ford International. He pledged a five-year commitment to sponsorship for Deborah and announced others who will join in. He mentioned the budget to be around 80-100 million naira per year ($50,000-$70,000) for her training and travel expenses.

This investment in developing this talent is a wonderful start in providing a path for her success. With her talent and charisma, “Debby Quick” will certainly become a player whose progress we should follow. He also mentioned the importance of Tunde’s mission, which has taken on global significance.

Yemi Edun, Managing Director of Daniel Ford International
Photo by Babatunde Ogunsiku/OTHIMS Photography

“I am confident that this event will be a resounding success and contribute significantly to the growth of Chess in Nigeria and the support of Chess in Slums.”

~Mr. Yemi Edun, CEO, Daniel Ford International UK

The atmosphere was brimming with so much excitement that the result of the match would appear as less of a focus. The world was watching with intrigue. Of course, with the match tied 1-1, everyone in attendance wanted to see what was to come.

In the third game was another English, and Tunde essayed what appeared to be a London System setup with black. This gave white no problems with maintaining an edge in the middlegame. However, Deborah started to stray with a strange maneuver of 18.Rf1-h1 and 19.Kh2-g1. Tunde played dynamically, sacrificing an exchange for a pawn. After securing the two bishops, he then mobilized in the center with 31…d4! and now the strange maneuver would haunt the young talent. Tunde would get a devastating attack after 34…e3! and brutally checkmated Deborah.

In the last rapid game, it was an interesting Advanced French. Tunde sacrificed a pawn early and seemed to get some compensation in terms of space. The pressure mounted after 21.Rc7 as Deborah tried to hold everything together. However, in this position, black is positionally busted (Rb7 and Rb8 looming). After 21…h5?, Tunde missed a nice win.

Can you find the best move for white?

After 21.Rc7 b5 22.g3 h5, Tunde immediately played 23.Qe2, but could’ve ended the game right away with 23.Qxg6! Tunde seemed to be expecting h5 and may have thought that black had 23…Qxc7. However, white responds with 24.Qg5! (holding c1) would force black to defend mate on e7 with the 24…Qd8 and allow 25.Qxg7 netting a piece. It may be hard to work this out under time pressure. Nevertheless, the battle continued and black seemed to have weathered the storm with three extra pawns. Unfortunately, an oversight after 33…Qc7?? gave white a fierce attack after 34.Ra8+ Deborah was unable to withstand the onslaught and had to resign.

Rapid: Onakoya 3-1 Quickpen


After a brief break, the two players settled in their chairs. Now, these games will be 3+2 and would favor the faster player. In general, younger players tend to have better reflexes and nerves for blitz. So, the audience was anticipating that Deborah would close the gap.

In the first blitz game, Deborah trotted out another English, but Tunde got a comfortable position out of the opening. He even won a pawn, but white gained some time by harassing the black queen. By the middlegame, white had achieved a dominating position. However, as we would often have blunders in blitz, Deborah played Re1?? Tunde missed taking the free rook with mate to follow. Nevertheless, Tunde had earlier won a piece and would win the game.

In game two, Tunde trotted out the Smith-Morra Gambit. Deborah accepted the gambit and played Ne8. The knight retreat is seen for black in some SMG lines. This game totally exploded, and in a winning ending, Tunde lost on time. The third game was a Grunfeld in which black did not get the dynamic queenside play. In fact, black was never able to equalize, and Deborah bore into the black camp. Tunde had to resign without his pieces fully developed, and the rook stayed on a8 the entire game.

Looks like an unstoppable mate on g7

The last game was a Caro Kann mainline. In the heat of the battle and needing only a draw to win the match, Tunde may have overpressed. In the early middlegame, he ended up losing a piece. After that mistake, Deborah was ruthless and developed a blistering attack on the queenside.

In this winning position, Deborah finished off neatly with 1…Qxa2+! Tunde resigned since 2.Kxa2 Ra6+ and mate next move.

Blitz: Quickpen 3-1 Onakoya
Match Score: Quickpen 4-4 Onakoya


It was a wonderful event… professional, well-organized and great atmosphere. One could feel the excitement and positivity in the air.

In the match, there were a couple things to note. Tunde seemed to have a better feeling for his openings. Perhaps it was his record-breaking 60-hour session gave him lots of practice. However, he was slower and less decisive in the blitz portion. Both suffered glaring tactical oversights and you can expect to have some in quicker formats. Both also had trouble finding the strongest resistance in bad positions and collapsed when under pressure.

Perhaps one of the things that sticks out is Deborah’s penchant for playing English. Given how she played, it seems to contrast with her more aggressive style. In her English games, she struggled to get a lasting advantage as the opening is more positional in nature. She allowed easy equality in these openings and seemed to get lost sometimes, like in the third rapid game, where she played Rf1-h1 and Kh2-g1 on consecutive moves. She was brutally punished.

In her black games, she played the Sicilian, the French, and the Caro Kann. All are very different openings. Is it more of a trend for young players to be universal and play every opening? Magnus Carlsen has reignited this trend of universal chess, and the age of computers discourages one from being too predictable.

The English is a good opening to “get a game” without having to memorize a lot of theory, but as she plays stronger competition, she cannot allow black such easy equality. Hopefully, her coaches will assess which openings suit her style of play before she travels to Batumi, the Republic of Georgia for the FIDE World Cup. She is a fine talent and hopefully can soon vie for the full FIDE titles in open events.

It is difficult to gauge Deborah’s talents in this short format, but in the African Individuals, she certainly showed she was a force to be reckoned with. She beat the eventual champion Jesse February (in an English), and may very well be the player to beat in next year’s competition.

Job well done Nigeria!
Photo by Babatunde Ogunsiku/OTHIMS Photography

Full Broadcast

Video by OVTV Online

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