An Interview With AGM Chinedu Enemchukwu: The First National Chess Champion Of St. Vincent And The Grenadines

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The 17th of December, 2021 came along with an exciting atmosphere in the small and quiet country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Image: istock.com

Arena Grandmaster(AGM) Chinedu Benjamin Enemchukwu just emerged as the winner of the Tyrone Jack Memorial Open National Chess Championships becoming the first national chess champion in the country.

This championship was a dream-come-through moment for chess enthusiasts in the country. It’s the first of its kind sponsored by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Chess Federation (SVG) which was founded on March 4, 2019. Already, SVG has been approved by FIDE, along with three other new Federations, the likes of Dominica, Niger, and Belize. FIDE has planned on hosting these new member federations in the world chess Olympiad in Moscow this year and also provide them with development funding and capacity building support. 

Winning the national championship title was no small feat for the Nigerian-born AGM as he had to face five other tough competitors in a round robin format. Enemchukwu came in first, ahead of Glendon Swift, with Michael Stephens in third. He also defeated Oris Robinson, Israel Bruce, and Vanburn Harry to grab the coveted title.

From left to right: Glendon Swift, Chinedu Benjamin Enemchukwu (winner), Michael Stephens.

The championship which was directed by Brian Cottle was supposed to be a two-day event but was eventually shortened to a day due to low turnout at the event. Each match lasted 30 minutes as participants had 30 minutes to execute all of their moves.

According to Israel Bruce, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines chess federation, holding this championship was a significant milestone as this was one of the ways of keeping their mandate to the International Chess Federation, FIDE and also promote the game to the public. 

“We decided to name the championships after Tyrone Jack… If he were around he would have played and we thought it was a fitting way to say thank you for what he had done for the sport,” Bruce explained. Tyrone was a big dedicated player of the game who passed on in July 2020.

Our correspondent who is also the founder of ChessForSharks, John Iwuozor hooked up with the winner of this championship, AGM Enemchukwu to know more about his chess career and how he was able to surmount all challenges and secure this notable win.

When did you first get introduced to chess and how did you start playing competitively?

I was first introduced to the game of chess in 1995. I was about 13 at that time and it was on one of my birthdays. A friend of mine, Rumaiz Jiffry from Sri Lanka back then in secondary school bought me a magnetic chess board as a birthday gift and that was the first time I ever came across chess. Subsequently, I joined the secondary school chess team, learnt how to properly play the game and started participating in competitions.

What are your FIDE and FOA (FIDE Online Arena) ratings?

It’s been over five years since I played FIDE rated games over the board but the last time I played, I had a decent rating of 1800+. For FOA ratings, I’ve been fluctuating between 2200+ and 2300+ but I currently have the title of AGM.

Do you study and train regularly? What’s your training schedule like?

Yes, I do study and train regularly and my training schedules usually fall on days when I’m less busy or just weekends, primarily because I have to balance other activities (like business) I’m engaged in. 

We see that you’ve already achieved the Arena Grandmaster Title, do you mind telling us how you achieved this feat?

Some time ago, FIDE organised an online tournament in the FIDE online arena which I was able to participate in. During the course of this tournament, I achieved a 2000+ rating and maintained it over a period of 100 official rated games. This was how FIDE eventually awarded me the AGM title.

We believe you are a strong proponent of online chess. Did this play a role in your chess development?

Of course! Online chess proved to be of significant help in my chess development. One thing that contributed to my overall chess strength was constant practice online.

How does it feel like to be the first national champion of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a new FIDE-approved federation?

Well, I’m still trying to get used to being called the national champion in this new FIDE approved federation but it feels really good to be the champion 🙂

We also see that Nigeria is your home country. Can you tell us how this influenced your chess?

My chess career started in Nigeria and from my experience, chess in Nigeria is tough. Nigerians play a ‘hard nut to crack’ type of chess and this kind of influenced my chess positively as it made me play tough and develop an eye for watching out for tricks. There’s no show of mercy in the game of chess and Nigerians treat this as such.

What are your chess goals and how do you plan on achieving them?

I’ll like to be a chess grandmaster, a super one at that, and start playing in top tournaments. Being the world champion is not something I’ve dreamt of though this will be a very interesting thing to achieve. But for now, becoming a chess grandmaster is my top-priority and that may mean becoming Nigeria’s first chess grandmaster.

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What is it about chess that you find interesting?

What I find interesting about the game of chess is the unlimited possibilities of the game. I get bored when things are all normal but in chess, there’s no normal. It affords you the opportunity to create and play your own game the way no one has ever played before.

Any advice for those struggling with their chess improvement?

My advice is very simple. Hook up with anybody who you know is doing better than you, find out how they are training and learn from them. That way, you can hold onto their shoulders and climb higher.

With the availability of chess software, books and online chess programs nowadays, one shouldn’t be struggling to develop in chess. it’s nothing like the days of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov where chess materials for training were scarce. Your level of interest in chess will determine the rate of development.  Also learning from higher rated players will work out for you.

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