2021 Nigeria Chess Champion—IM Balogun Oluwafemi gives his thoughts about the ongoing World Chess Championship

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Photo by Orchid Lekki Chess Club| Ogunsiku Babatunde

The ongoing world chess championship entered the fourth game today with the expected draw result as Magnus Carlsen played with the white pieces against the Challenger Gm Ian Nepomniatchchi.

However, the Current Nigeria National Champion, International Master Balogun Oluwafemi, who had the privilege of being the only Nigerian to have played against a reigning world champion, has this to say concerning the world championship ongoing at Dubai in an interview with our correspondent, Emmanuel Awoyode.

BruvsChesscongratulations on your latest feat as the National champion. How does that feel?

IM Balogun: well, being a national champion feels excellent. I feel really good. I never envisaged this though, I was anticipating becoming the champion, but I never imagined it could be now. So, I am pleased about it.

2021 Nigeria Chess Champion Photo by Orchid Lekki Chess Club| Ogunsiku Babatunde

BruvsChesswhat is your possibility of becoming a GM soon 

IM Balogun: Becoming a GM takes time and many experiences. I believe it is a possibility but in a distant time.

BruvsChesswhat could hinder your progress, and what are the possible solution you are considering.

IM Balogun: life as a whole could hinder becoming a grandmaster soon or much earlier, but I feel if I can combine work with my time for chess, I think it will be a good solution.

BruvsChessHow far do you think Nigeria chess federation should go concerning packaging chess players in Nigerian, especially top players 

IM Balogun: the federation feels they are more of a regulation body than a body that could package chess to the world. If they could love chess even at the grassroots and make things possible, there would be no limit to what they can achieve. So, packaging Top players is a priority, but packaging chess should be a greater goal for them and not just focusing on one aspect.

BruvsChessYou are the only Nigerian that has played any reigning world champion. What does it feel like to play a world champion?

IM Balogun Olufemi playing the reigning world Champion GM Magnus Carlsen at the Chess World Cup 2017 Photo: FIDE

IM Balogun: playing against world champion Magnus Carlsen was not so easy a task, just like the present challenger is facing now, that is Ian, but it was a real Great experience and a morale booster, it makes me see chess in different ways than I use to see it before. It was an experience I took home and improved on, and I believe it is payoff right now. It was a blessing playing the world champion.

BruvsChess: Do you think that has improved your game significantly?

IM Balogun: of course, yes. My play has improved, it changed the way I see chess, and since then, I have been able to overhaul my whole lines and pick up new lines and work on improving daily, weekly, and monthly as time permits. Playing the world champion changed my perspective and the way I view chess.

BruvsChesswho do you favor to win the ongoing world championship challenge?

IM Balogun: well, I have always been a fan of Magnus Carlsen against Ian, so I believe Magnus will carry the day because true world champions last longer, so I do not think this is the time for him to lose the crown. It is not even up to a decade yet, and most world champions actively rule over a decade and more. So, he still has what it takes to keep and retain his world championship. 

BruvsChess: what is your opinion on Ian’s style of play?

So far, so good the challenger has been playing cautiously and carefully. He hasn’t been taking much risk, although he doesn’t like that there is little spark on the board. Still, he can keep his head straight from his second, who keep advising him, and he has also reduced his tendencies to always play fast even in a difficult situation, and so far, that has been helping him.

BruvsChessdo you see Ian Nepominatchchi win some games decisively in the 14 classical games?

Photo by: Eric Rosen|FIDE

IM Balogun: I do not see Ian win much games or some games throughout these classical rounds. Everything Magnus had been doing so far is that he had been calling the shot as both white and black and all Ian did was sit back and relax to weather off the storm. So, if Ian has a plan, it has not shown yet, but as time goes on, we might finally see what he is made of. Maybe he is hoping for a final steal where Carlsen will not recover or would not have enough games to recover. Let us wait and see what the strategy is.

BruvsChessdo you see the challenge continue to a faster time control? 

IM Balogun: well, I see the game getting to faster time control if, at the first half of the 14 games, there is no clear winner, and I believe there Magnus will edge him out, but for now, it will be engaging the game goes on.

BruvsChesswho do you think will win the shorter time control if the game gets there?

IM Balogun: Magnus has a very high percentage of winning the shorter time control by a good margin, after all. Although Ian is not without his counter chance, I feel Magnus will retain the title eventually.

BruvsChesswhat is your scoreline prediction?

IM Balogun: I will predict 7.5 – 6.5 in favor of Magnus Carlsen. 

BruvsChess: Thanks for your time.

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