CH: Can you introduce yourself?
JA: My name is John Abionon.
CH: What project are you doing with Chess Heights?
JA: I’m partnering with Chess Heights to promote chess in Osun State here, especially Osogbo and its environ. I stay in Oshogbo. I work with the sport council as the chess coach. And I’ve been seeing what Chess Heights has been doing, so I want them to work with us here as well so that we can replicate what they have been doing in Lagos here as well. We want to develop chess.
CH: What is the name of the competition that you are organizing with Chess Heights in Osun State?
JA: This will be the median edition, which of course is still Chess Heights Monthly. We want to find a way to sustain that monthly tournament in Osun. The event is named Chess Heights Osun Monthly.
CH: What value will the tournament be to chess in Osun State?
JA: If the monthly event of Chess Heights is sustained, it will actually go a long way to develop talent around here. First, we don’t have tournaments like that in Osun. Most times we see tournaments just once in a while. There are other tournaments like the Olojo games. They do play chess as well, which comes up every August. Yeah, we don’t have a particular one that comes up very often. So I want to try to promote that here so that at least the chess players can come from various parts of the country, too, and showcase their talent here and that will help players around here when they see players coming from other places. It will now be competitive. They will now have to sit up and improve on their games. And this will also help us when we are going out for the youth festival and the main festival. We will now have a lot of choices when trying to look for players. So we will have our team here. We can just pick from them since they will also have been active. They will have been involved in the game and they will have known the rudiments of the game through tournaments.
CH: Are you ready to host the event?
JA: Yes, we are ready to have Chess Heights Osun Monthly. Most of the things that we need are already on ground. We have spoken to those who will be giving us the venue and I think the location is a very good place for chess players to have an interesting session of chess. And we are also trying to get a star prize. By God grace, sponsors will give us a good response. So we are working towards that as well, getting sponsorship from Glo so that this tournaments can be sustained. But I can tell you now that every other thing we need for this first edition is already on ground. We are ready to hold this first station. We are working towards sustaining and continuing.
CH: Where is the venue and how can chess players within and outside of Osun State locate the venue?
JA: For everyone coming, the venue is Fingerlicking Reataurant and Sports Bar in Ogo Oluwa area. It is a very popular area. Fingerlicking is close to Adolak. If they are coming from, let’s assume someone coming from Ibadan with public transport. They will stop them at Ogo Oluwa. From that place, they pass you to the last bus stop, which is the garage. Before you get to the garage, you will stop at Ogo Oluwa. You can tell them to stop.
CH: What about other details like starting time and chess equipment?
JA: Starting in the morning, we expect players to be around by nine, but game starts ten. We hope the players will have been on ground by nine so that they can make all the necessary arrangement. Then game starts ten and we hope to have six rounds. Also, players are expected to come with their playing materials, chessboard and chess clock.
CH: Will there be good prizes?
JA: We are working towards having a star prize but for now what we have on ground now is to pay prizes with registration fees but we are still working towards getting Glo. I don’t want to mention any particular amount of money now for prizes but for now where we are to get money to give to athletes coming for the event is registration.
CH: So you are improving on the method that is used in Lagos by getting a star prize.
JA: Yes, that’s what we hope to do.
CH: What is necessary to develop chess in Osun state?
JA: For now, we need support in the areas of chessboards and chess materials. The books will go a long way. Most of the kids here, they don’t have access to digital technology. So the books will go a long way. Then chessboards. We need chess clocks as well. Majorly chessboards. Chessboards and books. Thank you.
CH: What would you like to see in chess development in Nigeria as a whole?
JA: For a couple of years now, the atmosphere in Nigeria has been up to a big standard. At least we have moved from that bad place. Now you have the chess played everywhere around Nigeria, most of the corners in the city are playing chess. Now people are playing chess more. And that helps the sport itself to develop, because the more people play, the better. Like I was trying to tell them here, but most of them felt that chess is only for those who have gone to school. But it doesn’t really matter. Even if you are able to just go to primary school, you can play chess. That’s what we are trying to pass across. Let kids be all around. And that’s the only way we can now discover talent. You can see what happened in Lagos where we have chess in slums. When one of our players introduced the chess event at the bridge, he was able to train those there. In the town, with area boys around. So that’s what we are hoping, that if this kind of thing is being done everywhere around Nigeria, strong players will come up, and before you know it… Thank you.
CH: What is the name of your chess academy?
JA: Mind Game Academy.
CH: What is your academy’s target market?
JA: Yeah, we are actually targeting the younger ones so that we can train the young ones. They can, of course, rise to that height. They can be superstar chess players.
CH: Any last words for our readers?
JA: I want to encourage everyone to please see chess as a friendly game. Everyone can play chess. Doesn’t matter your level of education. It is good for the mind. It helps you to think better. Thank you.