The tense muscles on Enoch Nwali’s face began to relax as they stretched into a smile, revealing a sigh of relief for the African champion as he confirmed his first place position at the 2023 Lekki Scrabble Classics after a rigorous 18 rounds of games over two days.
Playing in the Nigerian circuit by any crowned champion in this game has shown that nothing is guaranteed as every player is capable of creating a devastating upset- the signature of the finicky game in Nigeria.
For Nwali who is the current African champion, the journey to the top was interestingly arduous despite having a dominating run, starting from the first day when he recorded a draw in round three against former African champion Moses Peter after 11 rounds.
His winning streak appeared to have ingnited some flames as other top players took turns to challenge him on Table 1.
Former World Champion and two-time winner on the continent Wellington Jighere, Sunday Oshodi and Timi Doko all tried to remove him by out-pointing him as games were running out but failed.
Only Olatunde Adigun on 13 wins, who has found a good ground in Lekki in the past succeeded twice but faltered on his third attempt in the crucial 18th round for Nwali to win the covet title and a prize of 500,000 naira with an unassailable result of 14 wins, one draw and two defeats.
His impressive stats showed he played a total of 43 Bingos with an average of 2.4 per game while his opponents played 27 bingos.
“I really don’t know what made me stand out but I was very calm even when l was losing a few at the closing stages, I wasn’t scared. I just didn’t allow the loss to get to me. What I just did was to focus on the next game, remain calm. Even when I knew I could have won the game against Adigun” he revealed.
Jighere came second with 13 wins same as Adigun, James Ewruje, Dayo Tayo and Oshodi following suit but with different cumulative points.
Unexpectedly, the LSC2023 organisers would surprise all by awarding spot prizes to top three players in other categories.
In the intermediate, Dayo Tayo, Adowei Ebikeme, Akpojotor Ochuko and Curtis John all got rewarded as well as Priscilla Akhabue who got 100,000 naira as the Best Female.
Dickson Iyelih, Kuye Ademola, James Eteng and Eniola Ashaolu were also rewarded as top Open players.
Adowei who was the immediate past President of Lekki Scrabble Club Adowei showed he was truly at home as he shocked bookmakers to claim the Most Valuable Player.
Players were also presented with opportunities to win with monetary rewards in every round once they could meet different criteria set during the tournament.
LSC President Engr. Samuel Anikoh commended all participants as he extolled members for the success of the Classics.
“I feel honoured to be honest as the President of the club.its quite interesting that joining the club, I just felt I would play based on my childhood passion but things just evolved and I took up the mantle as the president. Under the leadership of Adowei Ebikeme, the former president he helped established our tournament as a mainstay in Nigeria. “
“Its been an exciting two-days. Lots of players, lots of fun and I think worthy winners have emerged as well. Scrabble is an intellectual game and it’s also an interesting sport good for our youths especially children in schools.”
“We hope one day, players will be able to win as much as 10 million naira as prize-money because it’s such a game that offers so much for development. We want support.”he said.
He thanked the management of Ikoyi Club 1938 where the LSC was held for its support in making the second edition more memorable.
Over 90 players from Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Osun and Kwara states featured at the Classics.
Nigeria remains one of the strongest base of Scrabble in the world and the best in Africa.