Nigerian chess is believed to have been founded in 1975, and since then, the rise of chess has been slow but steady. Quite some impressive players have emerged through the ranks to rise to the very top in the nation’s history, and we’re going to be honoring a part of their achievement in this post. The players with the top 10 highest-ever rating in Nigeria’s history are as follows;
10. IM Akintola Fola
Known to have played a major role in the development of chess in Nigeria, IM Akintola Fola charged to an impressive personal best rating of 2287 in October 2004. He is currently inactive in the country, because he has not played in a FIDE-rated competition since July 2006. Nevertheless, he remains one of the top players Nigeria has ever produced.
9. FM Oragwu Chukwunonso
Over the past decade, this Master has been a driving force in the Nigerian chess community. Subsequently, he has represented Nigeria in tournaments, and a notable mention is his achievements in the maiden African Amateur Individual Championships hosted by Sierra Leone that took place in the year 2019 where he dominated and went home with a Gold trophy, the star prize among other things. Reaching a peak rating of 2288 in June 2013, he has been an ever-present figure in Nigerian chess, putting up stellar performances both online and offline. His Lichess ID is Nonsopolo.
8. IM Balogun Oluwafemi
Increasingly popular in Nigeria as a frontrunner in the nation’s chess development, he has been one waving the Nigerian flag sky-high across borders. His contributions are so glaring that one cannot overlook them. In August 2019, he reached a personal all-time high rating of 2292 which ranks him 8th on our list of highest-rated Nigerian players in history. One very notable feat of this prominent IM is the record he holds as being the only African to face off against a current World Champion in a competitive game when he faced GM Magnus Carlsen in the 2017 FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia. His Lichess ID is stuffings.
7. IM Olape Bunmi
Gaining his International Master title at the Zone 4.2 Championship Sudan 2011, this strong master kept up the momentum and in November 2012, he notably reached a personal best Elo rating of 2306, making him one of the very few players in West Africa to surpass the 2300 milestone. A very commendable achievement to boost his brilliant shelf of medals and trophies indicating great tournament performances and appearances. He has represented Nigeria internationally and has continued to pave the way for more development in the country’s chess culture. Similarly, his activeness does not end on the board(OTB), as he also participates in online tournaments, notably reaching the final of the first Online Malogy Rapid Invitational, where he marginally lost to FM Adebayo Adegboyega dabee in 2020. His Lichess ID is micfel.
6. FM Unwana Eugene
FM Eugene is another master that propels chess development in the country. He hails from Akwa-Ibom state in the South-South region of Nigeria. FM Eugene Unwana was a player for the state in the 2021 National Sports Festival Edo. He remains an active chess player with a FIDE rating of 2072 as 0f time of writing. His best rating on record came in April 2015 when he reached 2321 to rank as one of the top 5 best players in Nigeria at the time. Sometimes, he joins in the fun of playing chess online when a tournament surfaces. His Lichess ID is talk2uee.
5. IM Adu Oladapo
In 1995, he became champion of Nigeria and is still an active player under the Nigeria Chess Federation. IM Adu has also been a prominent figure waving the Nigerian flag overseas, one of which he represented Nigeria in the 31st Chess Olympiad. Most recently, he played board 1 in the first edition of the FIDE Online Olympiad. His relentless sacrifice and drive for the love of the game led him to achieve a peak rating of 2334 in August 2016, which is not too far from being the highest rating ever achieved in Nigeria’s history. His Lichess ID is dapsay.
4. IM-elect Ajibola Olanrewaju
Having been at the very apex of the charts for most of 2020, Papa, as he is popularly referred to, ranks number 4 on our list with an eye-opening rating of 2337, which is his all-time best and he achieved this at the start of the second quarter of the year 2020. In 2021, he represented Nigeria in the FIDE World Cup. Always training to improve further, this skillful master inspires the succeeding generation to work hard to achieve greatness in the world of chess. In short, he’s also a great coach to developing players. His Lichess ID is papajio1.
3. IM Aikhoje Odion
Achieving a FIDE peak rating of 2341 in January 1999, Master Odirov, as he is popularly called is inarguably one of the strongest players Nigeria has ever produced. He’s also certainly one of the most decorated Nigerian player of all time. This is due to his participation and performances for his nation in international tournaments. Due to his fiery passion, IM Aikhoje is still active among Nigeria’s players, and he is not showing signs of slowing down. In September 2021, he became the Players’ Representative on the Nigeria Chess Federation(NCF) board.
He’s also one of very few players to have surpassed the 2300 Elo rating milestone in Nigeria. His excellence does not end on the physical board, because he’s also a force to be reckoned with online, having peaked 2600+ on his Lichess ratings. To back up this dominance, he was recognized as the Most Consistent Online Player at the John Fawole Awards. His Lichess ID is Odirovski.
2. FM Bomo Kigigha
Commanding top spot in Nigeria for quite some time with a notably high rating difference between himself and the second-placed player, FIDE Master Bomo has certainly been a force to be reckoned with, not just in Nigerian chess but African chess in its entirety. He acquired a blistering Elo rating of 2363 in February 2016 which is breathtakingly impressive and just a few short of the highest in Nigeria’s history. However, he has represented Nigeria in international tournaments like Olympiads severally, Abu Dhabi Masters, and the Africa Championships. FM Bomo likes to play the English opening for white and Sicilian Defense for black. He strikes a dominant figure in the virtual chess world, as he has pulled impressive performances in the past years. His Lichess ID is grandmasterbomo.
1. IM Anwuli Daniel
Landing with an impact that created a mushroom cloud that hovered over Nigerian chess, this ambitious superstar International Master blasted further into the spotlight with a jaw-dropping Elo rating of 2368 while being only a teenager in May 2016. He’s currently ranked at first place in the country. Likewise, he’s the current Champion of Nigeria, and that is one of many trophies and medals in his cabinet. Winning the West Africa Chess Championships, he qualified to represent the Nigerian flag in the FIDE World Cup in Russia 2019, where he squared up against the then fifth-seeded player in the world, GM Maxime Vashier-Lagrave.
Dahny, which is his unique nickname, isn’t just striving to improve himself. In the same vein, he also strives to improve the growth of chess in Nigeria and West Africa. He is a pioneer of many projects including his very own Dahnypro Chess Limited, where he has been paying a lot of attention to the succeeding generation of talents being bred in Nigeria. In conclusion, this Master is bound to rewrite the history of African chess forever. His Lichess ID is Daniel_Anwuli.
These Masters have played a huge role in the growth of chess in Nigeria, and they’ve all performed exceptionally in their unique way. They steadily inspire the succeeding generation to put in work and there’s no doubt that their hard work will yield fruits in the nearest future.