On the 25th of October 2002, history was made. Grandmaster Oware players separated by over 400 years of history and 6000 miles finally clashed at the 2nd Annual International Warri Festival held in Antigua ST John’s from the 25th of October to the 2nd of November 2002 after a two-year campaign to bring them together.
For the past five years, Antigua and Barbuda’s domination over Oware has mesmerized the Western part of the world. With Sakile Richards winning the first ever International Tournament in 1997, as part of the Mind Sports Olympiad. Since then Trevor Simon, from Antigua dominated the International scene by winning all the International Tournaments held in London from 98 to 2000 thus being accorded the title “Oware Grandmaster” by the Mind Sports Council in 1999. As there was no tangible competition for Trevor Simon on the National and International scene, he decided to bow out of tournaments in 2001 to give other players the chance to come to the fore.
After the MSO International Oware Tournaments in 2000, in which the Antiguan competitors were dominated all three categories (juniors, seniors, and masters.) The Oware society set out to re-dress this in-balance, to get competition for the Antiguans. In 2000, we began fund raising to sponsor Ibrahim Abubakar (aka The Oware Assassin), an Oware Champion from Kumasi in Ghana to take part in the 1st International Warri Tournament 2001 in Antigua. Unfortunately, by October 2001, insufficient funds had been raised for the mission to be accomplished. In 2002, an attempt was again made to send The Assassin to Cannes (South of France) to clash with Trevor Simon, but he was refused entry into the country. Finally, in 2002 he was allowed to transit through the UK to Antigua for the 2nd International Tournament, a first in history.
This Tournament, which incidentally Trevor Simon, did not participate in, saw a clash of two different styles. This in the past had made it difficult to assess which of the two were the best. The Antiguans on the one hand play a more aggressive game where one would be fortunate to capture more than 10 seeds depending on ones level of play, where as the Ghanaian players like to set up the game for the eventual win, not caring how many seeds the opponent captures but who comes out as the eventual winner.
In pre-tournament articles published in Antigua, it was said and I quote from The Outlet 18th October 2002 “A lot is at stake here and at the end of the tournament someone will lift the championship trophy while the others lick their wounds”. Well that surely came to pass as Ibrahim Abubakar (The Oware Assassin), blazed through the tournament winning all his matches. The Antiguans could not believe what had hit them they were mesmerized and flummoxed at the Assassin’s skills and demeanor. Some were even shaking whilst playing him like lambs going to the slaughter. Who would have believed that the mighty Antiguans self proclaimed “The Best in the World” would be the ones licking their wounds on their own home soil. In the end, The Assassin also set a record of being the only player in the history of Grand master Oware tournaments to win all his matches.
To be fair to the Antiguans, it was no walk over as The Assassin was pushed right to the wire with some matches being an extremely close call. But like the true champion that he is, Ibrahim came through the storm to prevail even with matches that he was 2-0 down. Words alone cannot convey the atmosphere of the tournament, there were times of sheer delight, astonishment and controversy, the atmosphere at times was electrically charged.
One match that caused the most controversy was between Pumpkin Lewis The Monk from the West) and The Oware Assassin. Controversy broke out when the International rules which were agreed upon before the start of the tournament was upheld. After the Assassin had cleared seeds from 5 of the Monk’s houses. The Monk had only one move to make, which he thought would have netted him the remainder of the seeds. On remembering the International rules which prevents him from taking any seeds in this situation. All hell broke lose he suddenly broke out with all kinds of expletives flying through the air, which led to utter confusion. After eventually calming down he had to concede defeat.
Unfortunately this was not the end of the matter. As the very next day as The Assassin and Glenda Trew (The Oware Society Secretary) were walking on along an Antiguan street they were accosted by an infuriated Antiguan, who screeched to a halt in his car beside them and told them that the International rules (dubbed the London rules) was killing Warri and that it was a stupid rule that should not be allowed. This was not the only instance in which International rules were lambasted. Sometimes mayhem pursued after a match with shouts of “This rule is killing Warri”.
In the midst of all this drama that was unfolding, The Assassin and Trevor Simon (Mso Oware Grandmaster) began a series of invitation matches, which produced another upset. These games where watched in sheer silence in anticipation of a win by Trevor Simon but it was not to be, rubbing further still salt into the wounds of the Antiguans already shattered pride. A total of 8 matches (68 games) were played between them, on a first to six games basis. It ended with both players winning 4 matches each, but The Assassin in terms of games was in the lead with 35 games to Trevor Simons 28, the last 2 matches, being convincing wins for The Oware Assassin, 6-1 & 6-0. One of their games was recorded and placed on the Internet by Viktor Bautista i Roca from Catalonia, who was documenting these historic events. You can view this game at
After analysis of this game using The Oracle super program it was found to be almost a perfect game, with The Assassin winning 25 to 23. It is hoped that this series of Grand Master matches will continue in Cannes (South of France) next year at the International Games Festival being held from the 12th to the 16th of March 2003.
Ibrahim Abubakar’s celebrity status in Antigua has certainly been sealed. Being interviewed on T.V. and Radio he became a public figure overnight. People stopped him in the street to congratulate him on his achievement everywhere he went he was recognized as The Assassin. The Master players of Antigua fought to play him after the Tournament was complete but it was all to no avail as he further confirmed his superiority as a Grandmaster player. To the delight of the Ghanaian community in Antigua, The Assassin flew the Ghanaian flag high and they showed their appreciation by coming out to support and entertain him in their homes.
At the closing ceremony Trevor Simon mentioned that Ibrahim had certainly wetted their appetite for Oware. A few of the Antiguans expressed their desire to visit Ghana. I assume to learn from the ultimate Grand Masters of Oware.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the sponsors and Glenda Trew who made Ibrahim Abubakar’s (now crowned The Antiguan Warri Slayer) trip to Antigua possible. We cannot thank you enough for your individual contributions and your faith in us. Listed below are the names of the sponsors.
Richard Adu Oliver Oguntunde
Segun Babalola Jeff Owusu
Bonsu Boaten Paul Smith
Patricia Brown David Ntumy
George & Maureen Doughty Ben Dua
Christopher & Sakile Swaby Kofi Sarpong