Chess and fun in the African sun

12/20/2004 – The Abraka Turf Club is a beautiful sporting resort in the Delta State of Nigeria. Its owner, Albert Esiri, recently hosted and sponsored the First Ashton Wells Invitational tournament. We have received a beautiful photo report from Nigeria by the country's strongest player, Bunmi Olape.

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Chess in Nigeria

By Bunmi Olape

Officially the country of Nigeria is called the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The population of this country is about 135 million people. As a matter of fact one out of every five Africans is Nigerian. It has been predicted that by 2025, the population of Nigeria will triple.

There are about 250 different ethnic groups in Nigeria, and it is estimated that there are at least 250 different languages in the country (the official language is English). There are four ethnic groups that make up 65% of Nigeria's population. Those ethnic groups are the Fulani, Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba.

The three main types of vegetation found in Nigeria are swamp forests, tropical rainforest, and savanna. The swamp forests are in the delta and coastal zone. The tropical rainforests are in the south, which is very humid. The savanna is in the middle belt and in the north, which is drier. In the forests there are monkeys, snakes, and small antelope, while in the savanna area there are larger hoofed animals. Some of these animals are kob, waterbuck, and reedbuck.

The Nigerian economy today is the biggest and fastest growing in Africa. Nigeria is part of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and it is the largest producer of petroleum in Africa. Obviously, Nigeria's principle industry is oil. As a matter of fact, it ranks sixth in the world for its production of crude oil, but its GDP per capita is only $250!

The Ashton Wells Invitational

Welcoming players, officials and spectators at the entrance to the Abraka Turf Club house is a dummy horse labelled "Ashton Wells". That is a bottled water company owned by the owner of the Abraka Turf itself, and also the sponsor of the First Ashton Wells Invitational Chess Tournament. The sponsor's name is Albert Esiri. He is the owner of one of the biggest golf courses in Nigeria, which also serves as a polo ground and for other recreational activities.

The beautiful chalet at the Abraka Turf Club in a natural setting. The place is a tourist delight.

The swimming pool of the Abraka Turf Club

A tourist having a nice time at the Abraka complex in Oria, Abraka, Delta State of Nigeria. The tourists are mainly of European descent and are here to work for the oil companies in the southeastern part of Nigeria, which is rich in petroleum.

The kitchen staff at the Abraka Turf preparing lunch for the chess players and officials. The dishes are both continental and local. Abraka Turf also serves as a holiday resort for tourists, with superb accommodation for vacationers and sportspeople alike.

Yours truly (Bunmi Olape) starting his round seven game against International Master Afolabi Akintola (2287), who doubles as the national coach. In this picture Afolabi thought for 12 minutes before finding a reply to the novelty 1.e4!

Chess players during leisure time, shooting pool in the clubhouse. On the right is Bomo Kigigha, Nigerian national champion, one of the players invited for the ten-man round robin.

The winner of the tournament, IM Odion Aikhoje (2253) playing a demonstration blitz game on a decorative board and pieces with the first runner-up Benjamin Omorere.

The sponsor of the First Ashton Wells Invitational Tournament, Mr Albert Esiri, addressing the players, officials and spectators.

The first church in Oria, Abraka, Delta State, built in 1859 during the colonial era by missionaries of the Baptist church. It is in fact one of the oldest in the country.

A typical village house at the edge of the forest

A village woman and a peeping tom from the Turf wondering about the level of civilisation in the village. This particular village house is almost directly opposite the Abraka Turf complex, the venue of the chess tournament.

The first two-storey building in the area, built by colonial masters (the British) and also occupied by them way back in the pre-colonial era.

The market square, but unfortunately empty. Market is once a week.

Bunmi Olape

I started playing chess in 1991 and unbelievably won my first tournament the same year at the secondary school games.

I have represented Nigeria in several international tournaments notable among them are the Chess Olympiads in Elista (1998), Bled (2002), Calvia (2004). Last year I played for Nigeria at the All African Games on board three and was able to win a Gold Medal. I also participated in the African Individual Chess Championship in which I had an FM title performance (yet to be confirmed). I am presently the highest rated Nigerian on the FIDE rating list, with a rating of 2304.

I am a graduate of university of Ilorin, Kwara state of Nigeria with B.Sc in Geography.

Photo of Bunmi by Fred Lucas

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