The triumphant six-member National Warri Team returned home on Wednesday from England, where they participated in the 4th Mind Sports Olympiad.
The Olympiad, which was held at Alexandra Palace in North London, had in excess of 5,000 competitors in 81 disciplines. Antigua & Barbuda’s participation was limited to Warri (Oware) which was the game most watched and patronized.
The Warri Championship was organized primarily by Glenda Trew and Seth Bonti of The Oware Society in England, and no praise can be enough for the hard work put in by these two dedicated individuals. The visual display was superb, and the games were well organized and played in a friendly (though intense) atmosphere throughout the tournament.
The Antigua & Barbuda contingent was seen as the team to beat by the sixteen other countries, which took part, so all canons were aimed in our direction. Our lone female competitor, Drusilla Johnson of the All Saints Secondary School was unable to participate in the Women’s Open, which was the first championship, because of out late arrival in England.
Our domination started on Monday 21st August when 10-year-old Alex Thomas, dubbed the ‘Young Tiger Woods’ played undefeated in the Under-eleven division, securing the first Gold for Antigua & Barbuda.
The Under-eighteen division was no exception to our domination, as Alric Philip swept all before him without conceding a single game. For this performance, he was awarded a trip to France in March 2001, to attend the Cannes Games Festival. Drusilla also played in the Under-18 division, and although she failed to secure a medal, she put in a sterling performance, which made us all proud.
The Masters division was probably the most intense, as everyone dreamed of becoming a medallist in this division. Those with dreams of glory woke up to the sober reality that the Antiguans are no easy walkover. We must state emphatically, that the level of play by the other competitors have improved immensely, and in a few years if our players tend to take our superiority for granted, we may well see a reversal in fortune. It is with this in mind that the leadership of the National Warri Association has embarked on a schools program to ensure a continuous flow of high-level competitors in the future.
Antigua & Barbuda dominated the Masters division, but this is because of our superiority in the end-game. With a number of computer versions of Warri now on the market, other players are fine-tuning their end-game. This is in addition to the fact that Warri is now being taught in schools in England and Belgium, and regular tournaments are being held in France, Spain and Italy.
Trevor Simon, the 1998 and 1999 Gold Medallist again claimed the top spot, and awarded the title of Mind Sport Olympiad (MSO) Grand Master of Oware. September Christian won Silver, while Pumpkin Lewis secured the Bronze. Another Antiguan, Kamau Lasana, a poet and musician by profession, threw his hat in the ring and secured the sixth position. With this total domination, one player Paul Smith (One of the best UK players) was moved to ask if Antigua & Barbuda manufactured Warri players.
To add further drama to the proceedings, a computer Warri competition took part between the University of Alberta in Canada and Lusan University in Switzerland. Both Universities claim to have the best program. We had a good long look at both, and Antigua’s human computers are still far superior.
The last competition, which was to be against individual nations, was later changed because of the might of the Antigua & Barbuda contingent to be: Antigua & Barbuda vs the Rest of the World. You guessed right, Antigua & Barbuda won the Bonti Trophy, a beautifully carved artwork from Ghana.
The National Warri Association is in the process of organizing an International Warri Tournament in October 2001, to coincide with our 20th Anniversary of Independence. Verbal invitations were extended to all participants and organizers, and the reception was overwhelming. Next year, all international players will have dream of their fulfilled, by offered the opportunity to visit the Antigua & Barbuda Warri University.
In closing, we must say thanks to our sponsors: ANTIGUA COMMERCIAL BANK, BWIA, ANTIGUA LOTTERY and ANTIGUA FREE TRADE & PROCESSING ZONE whose contribution made the trip possible and our dreams a reality. We say thanks also to Hon. Gaston Brown who helped tremendously in securing sponsorship, and to Kentucky Fried Chicken who chipped in with a timely contribution. Last, but not least, to the many fans that gave us encouragement, and to our various places of employment for granting valuable time for us to pursue our dreams.