We bring you part 2 of an exclusive interview with Kenya’s most famous chess players. CM Benjamin Magana affectionately called “Big Ben” spoke to our correspondent Anoushka Bhari.
What was the most recent African country you visited for chess?
Uganda, which happens to be my other home.
What was the last overseas event you played in?
I played in Kireka Open in late 2016. See story on 2017 Kireka Open.
Can you tell us a little about it.
The level of competition was naturally very high, and I actually won the brilliancy prize of the best game for the event. I uncorked some imaginative, bold moves out of the blue, shattering my opponent’s position and forcing him to resign in ignominy.
I was actually the one on the receiving end of these bold, imaginative moves from a veteran 1700 Elo player, Joseph Kaamu. I resigned, and lost a ton of Elo points.
How does it feel to have achieved the title of 2017 Kenya National Champions?
I am humbled. I thank God for the grace to win the event yet again, ahead of probably many players who put more effort and were more prepared than I was for the Nationals.
How much training did you have to put in before the Kenyan Championships?
Honestly, I trained about 2 hours for the event. 2 hours TOTAL, not 2 hours per day. I had not played in any event in 2017, and I knew I was off form. But I knew equally well that “form is transient, class is permanent”. Hence, I mainly looked at very few GM games of artists like Aronian and Kramnik. This was to build confidence ahead of Nationals. Then I wrapped it off with a victory prayer from my mum the day before the tournament started. As you can see, training was quite rigorous!
What are your other interests outside of chess?
God, reading history, traveling, scrabble. Scrabble is fun because the skill-set to be good at both scrabble and chess are similar.
What would your advice be to other kids out there who are chess players?
Embrace the game of chess, as it will make you cleverer in school. However, balance chess and studies – do not overdo chess to the detriment of books. And apply other chess lessons like discipline and patience in other areas of your life.
Part 1 of the interview can be found here – Part 1 – Interview CM Ben Magana.
Part 3 – coming up soon!