Nigerians Put Chess Into Good Use in Slum Area

Published September 7th, 2019 - 06:58 GMT

Crowds of children bustle around chessboards in Nigeria's Lagos, figuring out their next moves as part of a project aimed at bringing hope in one of the city's impoverished slums.

Dozens of matches are played simultaneously as participants as young as three master a game often considered out of reach for the masses in Africa's most populous country.

Seasoned player Onakoya started the Chess in Slums project last September in the sprawling neighbourhood of Ikorodu, a place where residents often feel cut off from the bustle and business of the vibrant megacity around it.

The goal of the club is to provide a space to play and learn the game for the young inhabitants of the slum, many of whom are not in school and work to support their families.

Held beneath a makeshift tent in the courtyard of a local bar, in less than a year the programme has already drawn an enthusiastic following.

As elderly men sip beer and watch football nearby, a dozen volunteers divide the pupils into groups.

While some turn their figures into battling action heroes, most are focused and intent on winning.

The youngest children sing rhymes about chess to help them master the rules, as the older ones settle down into intense games.

They use mobile phone apps to time their moves and record the matches in notepads to review their mistakes and successes later.

The West African nation ranks 88th out of 186 countries, according to the FIDE World Chess Federation's rating of top players across the globe, but still does not have any Grandmasters.

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Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Chess teacher Omiwale Mistura (L) conducts a tutorial during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Chess teacher Omiwale Mistura (L) conducts a tutorial during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Young saxophonist Temilayo Abodurin (L) and pianist Joshua Akinotan play to motivate fellow children during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Young saxophonist Temilayo Abodurin (L) and pianist Joshua Akinotan play to motivate fellow children during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Chess teacher Omiwale Mistura (L) conducts a tutorial during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Young saxophonist Temilayo Abodurin (L) and pianist Joshua Akinotan play to motivate fellow children during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Fourteen-year-old mechanic Jamiu Ninilowo holds a medal he won following a chess tournament at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Chess teacher Omiwale Mistura (L) conducts a tutorial during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Chess teacher Omiwale Mistura (L) conducts a tutorial during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos on August 17, 2019. In front of chess boards in Lagos, children are busy, concentrating. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Young saxophonist Temilayo Abodurin (L) and pianist Joshua Akinotan play to motivate fellow children during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Young saxophonist Temilayo Abodurin (L) and pianist Joshua Akinotan play to motivate fellow children during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos, on August 17, 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Children sit under a canopy as they play during a chess class at Ogolonto in Ikorodu district of Lagos PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. While dozens of matches are played simultaneously, participants, some as young as three years old, practice this brain game often considered out of reach for the poor populations of Africa's most populous country. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
They are thinking about the next move they will make, as part of a project that is supposed to bring hope to a slum in Nigeria's megapolis. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP