With the impressive displays they have been putting on over the years, it would not be wrong to say our Nigerian chess masters are not celebrated enough. Nigerian chess has witnessed a slow yet steady rise, producing impressive players who have soared to the pinnacle of the nation’s chess history.
Skabash! pays tribute to the trailblazers, the strategists and the visionaries who have left an indelible mark on the world of chess. From daring encounters with international grandmasters to triumphant victories in prestigious tournaments, these top 10 Nigerian chess masters have pushed the boundaries of excellence and inspired generations to come.
Read through as we dive into the remarkable journeys of these extraordinary minds.
Top 10 Nigerian chess masters
Before we go into the list of the top 10 names, it is only right that we explain the meanings of the acronyms attached to their names. Although Nigeria has no Grand Master (GM) in the game of chess yet, the top 10 chess masters have attained esteemed titles such as IM and FM.
IM stands for “International Master” in chess. It is a title awarded by FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the international chess federation, to players who have achieved a certain level of performance and rating in official FIDE-rated tournaments. The title of International Master is one of the lower-tier titles in the hierarchy of FIDE titles, below the Grandmaster (GM) title but above the FIDE Master (FM) title. Players who hold the IM title are recognised as strong and skilled chess players, and they have demonstrated their abilities to compete at a high level in national and international chess competitions.
The FIDE Master (FM) title is one of the lower-tier titles in the hierarchy of FIDE titles. It is below the International Master (IM) and Grandmaster (GM) titles. Players who hold the FM title have demonstrated strong skills and significant achievements in chess competitions, both at the national and international levels. To earn the FM title, a player must meet specific rating and norm requirements, which typically involve achieving certain performance levels in tournaments.
We now unveil the names of the top 10 Nigerian chess players, according to the International Chess Federation.
1. IM Anwuli Daniel – Peak Rating: 2368
Daniel Anwuli, born on 2nd May 1997, stands as a beacon of chess brilliance in Nigeria. Bestowed with the prestigious title of International Master by FIDE in 2019, Anwuli has etched his name into the annals of Nigerian chess history. Anwuli emerged victorious in the 2019 West Africa Chess Championship, a feat that earned him a coveted spot in the illustrious Chess World Cup 2019. It was on this global stage that he faced the formidable Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a gripping encounter during the first round.
The year 2020 witnessed Anwuli ascending to new heights as he proudly claimed the title of the Nigeria National Chess Champion. All through his career as a chess player, Anwuli has been a stalwart representative of Nigeria on the international chess scene.
Through his initiative, the Dahnypro Chess Limited, he inspires and mentors aspiring chess players, leaving an enduring legacy in the world of Nigerian chess.
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2. FM Adegboyega Joel Adebayo – Peak rating : 2288
Adegboyega Joel Adebayo was born in 1974. He is a FIDE Master (FM) from Nigeria and is ranked 4,546 in the world. He is a former national champion and has represented Nigeria in several World Chess Olympiads. Adebayo is also a lecturer in the Geology department at The Polytechnic, Ibadan.
In 2022, he took part in the 44th Chess Olympiad held in Chennai, India. Adebayo is recognised as one of the highest-rated chess players in Nigeria.
3. FM Abdulraheem Abdulrahman Akintoye – Rating: 2288
Abdulraheem Abdulrahman Akintoye is a Nigerian chess player with the title of FIDE Master (FM). Born in 1993, he has a track record of a 62.5 per cent win rate (5 wins), 12.5 per cent loss rate (1 loss) and 25 per cent draw rate (2 draws) from a total of 8 games played.
In games played as White, Akintoye has a perfect win rate of 100 per cent (4 wins) and no losses or draws. As Black, he has a win rate of 25 per cent (1 win), a loss rate of 25 per cent (1 loss) and a draw rate of 50 per cent (2 draws) from a total of 4 games.
Akintoye has been active in competitive chess since April 21, 2019.
4. FM Bomo Kigigha – Rating: 2238
FM Bomo Kigigha, a prominent figure in the Nigerian and African chess scene, has held the top spot in Nigeria for an extended period. With an impressive Elo rating of 2363, achieved in February 2016, he is one of Nigeria’s highest-rated players.
He has represented Nigeria in international tournaments such as the Olympiads, Abu Dhabi Masters and the Africa Championships. Fond of the English opening for white and the Sicilian Defense for black, FM Kigigha is a dominant force in chess.
5. FM Oluwafemi Daniel Balogun – Rating: 2235
Oluwafemi Daniel Balogun is a talented Nigerian chess player who was born in 1987. He emerged victorious in the Africa Zone 4.4 Individual Championship in 2016, earning the prestigious title of FIDE Master. Displaying his exceptional skills and dedication, Balogun secured another triumph in the same event the following year and this qualified him to compete at the FIDE World Cup held in Batumi, Georgia.
His success at the World Cup garnered him further recognition and he was granted the esteemed title of International Master. During the event, Balogun faced the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, in the first round, thereby becoming the first African to engage in a competitive match against a reigning world champion.
6. IM Olape Bunmi – Rating: 2232
Olape Bunmi earned the prestigious International Master title at the Zone 4.2 Championship in Sudan in 2011. In November 2012, he achieved a personal best Elo rating of 2306, a rare accomplishment in West Africa, surpassing the coveted 2300 milestone.
Throughout his impressive chess career, Bunmi has garnered numerous medals and trophies. As a representative of Nigeria on the international stage, he has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of chess in the country.
Bunmi actively engages in the online chess community, participating in notable tournaments like the Online Malogy Rapid Invitational.
7. IM Aikhoje Odion – Rating: 2219
Nigerian chess International Master, Odion Aikhoje, achieved notable success in Chess Olympiads as he won an individual gold medal at the 1998 event. He also excelled in the African Games, winning individual gold medals in 2003 and 2007. Despite bureaucratic complications preventing the receipt of his 1998 gold medal, he was later honoured with a special prize at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in recognition of his outstanding achievement.
Aikhoje’s legacy as a chess master continues to inspire the Nigerian chess community.
8. IM Ajibola Olanrewaju – Rating: 2210
Ajibola Olanrewaju is a Nigerian chess player who has made significant strides in the chess world. Representing Nigeria in the 39th Chess Olympiad, he showcased his skills on board 2.
His achievements include winning the Zone 4.2 Individual Open Chess Championship in March 2020, triumphing in the blitz, rapid and classical sections. He also qualified for the Chess World Cup 2021,
Besides chess, he pursued higher education and graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
9. FM Abimbola Osunfuyi Ayotomiwa – Rating: 2207
FM Abimbola Osunfuyi Ayotomiwa, also known as Young GM or Mozart_OATS, is a talented Nigerian chess player. He was born on February 3, 1994, in Ikeja, Lagos State, but hails from Ogun State. Abimbola’s passion for chess began unexpectedly during his secondary school days at St. Finbarr’s computer room in September 2004.
Despite having a degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Lagos, Ayotomiwa chose to pursue his love for chess and now works as a chess instructor at the French School in Victoria Island, Lagos. His online username, Mozart_OATS, is inspired by his love for symphonies by Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus.
Ayotomiwa’s journey in chess has been transformative and fulfilling, and he continues to make a positive impact on the chess community and his students with his dedication and passion for the game.
10. Toluwanimi Okemakinde – Rating: 2203
Toluwanimi Okemakinde, a former child prodigy from Nigeria, achieved a significant victory by winning the first edition of the South-South National Chess Championship in 2022. He secured an impressive total of eight points out of a possible 9, defeating Fide Master Kigigha Bomo in the final round.
Okemakinde’s success highlights his promising talent as a chess player.