The Tuesday Interview – Karebo Okubuarere – I Almost Lost Hope

December 27, 2022

This interview took place on Christmas day. It is the first of our new offering for the public, The Tuesday Interview. Please enjoy it. CH stands for Chess Heights interviewer and KO stands for our guest. Do not forget to drop a comment.

CH: Good afternoon Karebo.

KO: Good afternoon Mr Tolu.

CH: Can you introduce yourself?

KO: My name is Karebo Okubuarere. I am a chess player. I think I played for Delta state… I represented Delta state at EKO 2012.

CH: Ok…Ok… don’t worry, you are Karebo Okubuarere, right?

KO: Yes.

CH: Where are you from and what do your names mean? What part of Nigeria are you from?

KO: I am from Delta State of Nigeria, Bomadi local government of Nigeria

CH: What did you call it, What LGA?

KO: Bomadi local government, Delta State.

CH: Okay, continue……What do your names mean?

KO: It means service to God.

CH: What do you call it?

KO: It means service to God.

CH: Is it Karebo that means service to God or Okubuarere?

KO: It’s Karebo. Okubuarere means the gain of money.

CH: The what?

KO: The gain of money

CH: The gain of money or morning?

KO: The gain of

CH: That’s morning, afternoon, night?

KO: No,, as in cash.

CH: Cash, the gain of money?

KO: Yes

CH: Okay, we are interviewing you today because of your success in this month’s Chess Heights Lagos Monthly. How did that victory make you feel?

KO: I was so excited because that was my wish, I planned for it, I saw that it is a very good opportunity… Though we were not given a trophy, the win to me is a trophy. I went for it and I was able to get it, so I was so happy and super excited.

CH: Considering that the field had such brilliant players as Joseph Omojuwa, legendary FM Olamide Ajibowo and the highly experienced master Obioma Onuoha amongst other talents both young and old. What principle, deed or reason do you ascribe to your making a difference from the pack?

KO: Actually, I expected the strongest players to be in the National Sports Festival. I myself should be in the National Sports Festival but I was not able to make it for some reasons so I thought that anybody that will play in the Chess Heights December edition will likely be weak to some extent, let me use the word rusty will likely be a rusty player at that point in time that is why he was not in the National Sports Festival, so I went for it and to God be the glory I was able to win it.

CH: Okay, so you are saying that the reason why you won was that you were better prepared than the other players.

KO: Yes partly. Most of the players that were likely to give problems were in the National Sports Festival. Okay?

CH: Yes…. When you lost in round five to FM Ajibowo, did you think in your mind that there was still hope?

KO: Actually I thought that my glory was almost gone but when I saw FM Ajibowo and Obioma Onuoha pairing, I was so happy and I just had the faith Obioma was going to get the win and I was going to get the trophy, because I won Obioma, I think in the round before then.

CH: How were you feeling before you saw that pairing?

KO: I almost lost hope.

CH: You almost lost hope. Has this victory inspired any chess competing plans for you?

KO: Yes it did and does. It goes a long way because I almost quitted chess. I am sorry I almost quitted playing professional chess though I am a chess coach. I really wanted to put all my energies into coaching chess and playing scrabble. I was looking at playing professional scrabble that is what I was looking at….but that victory just changed everything, telling me that, I have it, I can still do it and win, so I think I will continue in this new year.

CH: Okay, what kind of support do you want from any well-meaning person to become a consistent champion?

KO: I don’t think I really need support from people.  What I want is for them to pray for me, to be able to put in the time, the energy, to be able to work because without work you can not become a champion in chess, chess is not a game of luck, it is the work you put in that decides. You must put in the hard work. You must train. I remember, I met GM Hesham, he told me I had to put in 9 hours a day training for me to become a grandmaster at my age. So it is all about hard work, you put in the work.

CH: What is your perception of the chess landscape in Nigeria and its opportunities?

KO: Yes!! I see a bright future for chess in Nigeria, because now we are beginning to go into the root. To catch them young, many of us are already into chess in  school. From ten, fifteen years from now we would be out of the game. I mean our generation. It is the younger ones that will project to us. So many of us, like the likes of Abdulrahman, Bomo and myself, we are doing a great work to put in what we have already have into this kids, to be able to carry us to the level we really want especially having a chess grandmaster here in Nigeria, so I see a bright future for chess in Nigeria.

CH: What can a chess champion do for Nigeria as a nation and for the citizens of Nigeria?

KO: Actually, chess is an intellectual game, so the more people that play chess… we are going to have many more intellectuals and if we have many more intellectuals, it means our country will move in the right way and not the other way. Now we are suffering because we have people not intelligent enough to lead us in the right direction. I think chess will be able to fill that gap, will produce people that will do and think right, and I think overall Nigeria will become a better place for us.

CH: What does it takes to be a champion?

KO: Yes to be a champion, you have to complete, you have to be hardworking, you have to be rugged, you have to think, you just have to be complete, you do everything the right way, that is what it takes to become a champion.

CH: What is the role of grace or good fortune in becoming a champion?

KO: Yes!! You know, you need grace in becoming a successful person. In everything you are doing. In anything you are doing without grace things will be difficult for you, but with grace just little effort and you see yourself at the top, that is what grace does. It magnifies your effort.

CH: Will you say you had some good fortune at the last Chess Heights?

KO: I did, I did.

CH: So, you carried grace to the tournament.

KO: Exactly.

CH:Who is your main chess hero in the history of the game?

KO: In Nigeria?

CH: In the history of the game…

KO: I don’t think I have…but Vishy Anand has always been my role model, the Indian world champion, he has always been my role model.

CH: Who amongst the active chess players do you admire and what about the person do you admire?

KO: I think I admire Alireza Firouzja, he has always been an inspiration for me, the way he manages to deal with Magnus Carlsen. Even if he is not winning he is always giving Carlsen big problems to solve. I think I admire him so much, he has always been my mentor, I love him and I like to play like him., he is my mentor.

CH: What of amongst Nigerians?

KO: Well none really. Nobody in Nigeria. Nobody.

CH: What is your chess prayer or hope for Nigeria in 2023?

KO: For us to produce even one grandmaster in this country. Nigeria is a chess playing nation. That is my hope for this country and I am not expecting it in 2023, maybe 2025, 2026, 2027.

CH: What about at 2023?

KO: I don’t think we can get the grandmaster in 2023.

CH: So what is your prayer for this 2023?

KO: My prayer for 2023 is for us to get good quality chess tournaments, that will motivate people especially prize, money, that is what I am hoping, cus that is what people will see too. There are so many players and talents that are not playing chess today in Nigeria because they believe you are wasting your time, the money you are making from chess you can make it elsewhere, most of them they have to shift there attention to where they will make good money to be able to cater for their families and loved ones, that is what I believe.

CH: Okay any last words for our readers?

KO: For the chess players, I will just advise that if you are a chess player, just keep on putting the work, it will pay ..okay? For the chess player about to leave the scene, you know in the next ten years, fifteen years , many of us will leave the chess scene, what I mean is we will not be playing professional chess anymore,  I think it is wiser for us to go into mentoring and coaching so that we can be able to put everything we have into the little ones we are coaching, they will be the ones that will now carry the flag, represent us, and represent the country, that is my advice.

CH: Okay those are your last words for our readers?

KO: Yes.

CH: Okay….alright thank you very much.

KO: You are welcome.

CH: Okay.

KO: Have a nice Christmas.

The champ anoints the future.