Of Words and Games
I saw The Queens Gambit on
Netflix yesterday and fell in love
with the show immediately
It is about a female chess prodigy
and her rise (struggles too)
The show reminds me of
Mr Anthony Olumeko, our neighbor
when we were living at Alagbayun
(Ashi) area, Ibadan.
When we moved into
That flat in 1988, I had never heard
of Chess before.
My parents were consummate Scrabble
players and I practically grew up
learning my alphabets on the scrabble
Mr Anthony had traveled the world
(sponsored by the Catholic Church)
He had planned to be a priest but
His mind for a reason he never told
Two weeks after we moved into the
new apartment, he saw me in the
compound and invited me into his flat.
I went in and he showed me a lot of
gadgets and pictures of his sojourn.
Then I saw a chess-board and asked
him what that was and he
Told me to sit down and taught me
how to play immediately
He showed me the pieces and how
they moved and we played I won
our first game
He laughed and called it beginners
I won the second game and he gave
me the chess board
That was how I started playing
I love playing chess but scrabble
was the game I truly excelled in.
I discovered the scrabble dictionary
at The Polythecnic Ibadan, Eruwa
Campus in 1999.
Before then I played with a regular
One look at the scrabble dictionary
and I realized I hadn’t even been
playing “scrabble” all my life.
The players were preparing for NIPOGA
games and I was able to watch them
train Eventually I got to play and I
picked up fast
When I got to Bowen University I heard
an announcement one day at the chapel
that there was a scrabble club for
I ignored it!
When I got to 200 level, there was
an announcement that Bowen University’s
sport team will be going to Covenant
University to play friendlies.
The school announced that each player
will get a daily allowance and all.
I met the coach at the library.
He was reading a newspaper, I
asked him about the games and he
said they had filled up the slot for
I told him to arrange a game between
me and the best players he had selected.
He asked me if I was joking.
I said no.
He called them.
I won. I got to go to Covenant university!
And subsequently I got to play at
Igbinedion University and Leeds City University.
It was fun.
I won medals and got to make many friends
but that was it for me.
I used to have dreams of “going pro” but
I had to face reality when I met some of
my brothers from Calabar who played the
game constantly and excellently
Nigerians are gifted at everything.
I still have my boards at home.
The one my father sent to me in 2005 and
the one I bought when I was teaching
people to play at Roseway guest house,
Mile 12, Lagos but I have no one to play
with at the moment
My children are just learning and all
the adults around me are busy doing life!
So I play with the Holy Spirit the way
chess players play the game in their heads
and I am yet to beat him even once!
His win is my win, so I don’t mind