By Femi Solaja
As expected, Nigeria’s International Master elect, Oluwafemi Balogun, proved chess pundits right as he fell to superior knowledge of chess to the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the opening round of the FIDE World chess championship in Tbilisi, Georgia.
It was a rear honour for the Nigerian star who goes into the record book as the first blackman to go headlong against any world champion of the game.
“No doubt he is a superior player and I’ve learnt a lot from this match. It’s a great privileged to come up against a player of that statue and if not for this pairing at this championship, I would not have gotten this opportunity,” Balogun reacted last night.
In the match monitored by former National Master, Oyeyemi Fawole, the Norwegian Grandmaster, playing in white side of transposed King Indian defense saw the Nigerian made some early resistance before a global audience monitoring proceedings online.
After early exchange of materials, the 2010 World chess Olympiad debutant was equally adventurous by developing all pieces except the Queen on the seventh rank and establish minimal hope of biggest upset at that cadre.
The World Champion showed shade of his genius in middle game with a complete control of the proceedings from move 20 onward.
When the smoke was cleared in the tail end of the exchanges, the Nigerian was a piece down and with three pawns as against connected five pawns of the highest rated FIDE player. Balogun in a bit to avert early mate threat had to give a rook before the champion brought the tie to a ruthless conclusion on move 39.
The world event will end on the 27 of this month. The 128-player knockout tournament features notable players including the winner of the event last year ChampSergey Karjakin and almost all of the world’s best players.
The total prize fund is $1.6 million, with $120,000 for the winner and $6,000 for first round losers. The finalists will qualify for the 2018 Candidates Tournament.
The event has a total of 120 Grandmasters, six International Masters, one FIDE master. Interestingly, while Carlsen is the highest rated player with an elo rating of 2822, his Nigerian opponent is the least rated with 2255 but qualify to participate at the event after wining the Africa Zone 4.4 Individual championship in Liberia early this year.