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I could have titled today’s article “What This Column Will Discuss”. In fact I did, I just decided to change it to a more catchy title. Chessheights.com as a whole has been topsy-turvy over the years in terms of activity. It has even been abandoned for a few years. The challenge we face is funding but we are back now and better.
This brings me to the first and the most conscious problem of chess in Nigeria which is all chess professionals make puny money from the game. When I say chess professionals, I include not just players but chess entrepreneurs, administrators, coaches and other sundry roles. As CM Yika Adeshina will put it, there is poverty in the game.
I have a solution, however. The reason why we don’t have multi million naira prizes in chess tournaments in Nigeria, why chess in school practitioners are scraping by, why coaches and administrators continue to fight over the small piece of chess cake is that the chess market is very small. We are simply short of numbers who patronize chess in Nigeria. This led Chess Heights to set the goal of raising five million Nigerian chess players in five years. The thrust of that push is to make Nigeria a nation of thinkers, people who think even as a hobby. This will have the attendant blessing of eliminating chess poverty amongst the top professional. It will also make chess more exciting in Nigeria. In the coming weeks, on this column, I will discuss steps we are taking to achieve this.
Also important to chess development is the play of Nigerian players. Whilst there is improvement in this regard, it still falls below international standard. Many countries are dreaming of producing the world champion, Nigerians are still dreaming of producing a grandmaster. To countries that are producing 14 years old grandmasters, the Nigeria situation is embarrassing.
My solution to this is to expose large segments of Nigerian chess players to top foreign competition on a frequent basis, no less than six times a year. Lagos Classics and NBL try to fill this gap but they need to stop focusing on inviting African players and look for players based on rating. They should seek players rated 2500 Elo above and make sure there is at least five of them for a nine round tourney.
The last point in chess development I want to point out at this time is the need to reform the Nigeria chess culture. The predilection for arranging results needs to be looked into. This needs to stop if chess players want to be looked on as role models in society. Chess players should use their intellect and initiative to come up with ways they can profit from their games rather than give in to the easy money of arranged result.
In the future, this column will discuss these and other issues of chess development in details every Wednesday.
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