Maduka Millicent, a 600 level medical student and not-your-usual chess prodigy in Alexander Brown Hall (ABH), University College Hospital (UCH) tells the University of Ibadan Medical Student’s Association (UIMSA) Sports Publication team about her journey as a medical student, head of DOKITA board and chess player amongst others.
Whilst giving no obvious gender advantages but still dominated by male players, chess has met its contender with a ‘decent’ talent in Millicent. Find out her struggles, accomplishments, dreams and goals.
Interviewer: Good evening Millicent.
Welcome to the Publication room of UIMSA Sports Committee.
I want to say a big thank you on behalf of everyone for accepting our invitation.
Millicent: Hi. Good evening everyone.
Can we meet you?
Sure. My name is Millicent Maduka, a final year medical student of the University of Ibadan who is also a decent chess player.
Nice to meet you.
It should feel great knowing very soon you’ll bid UIMSA goodbye but how has life been as a medical student?
It feels awesome. I do believe it’s time to move onto another phase in my life. Life as a medical student has its fair share of challenges but overall it has been fun and engaging.
Can you tell us your major highlights and achievement in sports in the past till now?
This would be a bit difficult but I’ll try not to skip on any major ones.
– Christopher Osunbote Gold medalist for the three editions. The second edition was particularly important to me because I also won a Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set.
– Gold medalist in the inter faculty and inter hall games.
– My team and I winning 2 Gold and 2 bronze medals at the just concluded NUGA 2022.
– Amongst a host of other personal achievements.
This is amazing! Our hearty congratulations on winning the only gold for University of Ibadan (UI) in the just concluded NUGA games. That’s terrific we must say.
How did you feel receiving this?
Thank you. I can’t speak for my teammates, but initially I felt nothing because I was tired. I had been playing games daily for over a week. All I wanted to do was sleep. After a while, it dawned on me what we had accomplished and then the euphoria kicked in. It felt amazing. I get so happy I think I can dance every time I think about it (P. S. I can’t dance to save my life).
I also can’t dance. At least you can checkmate to save your life.
Definitely in more ways than one.
Other than not attempt to dance, what do you do after a good performance?
I don’t like praises and congratulatory wishes so I tend to just hide away after a good performance and mostly move on like nothing happened.
Do you remember your first success? How did it feel?
I don’t actually remember the first time I won a game but if I’m to guess from my usual reaction. I’ll probably not have cared initially and then later, I would have been grinning from ear to ear when I remembered it.
What are your best and worst moments of being a chess player?
Hard to answer. My best would be getting to play and win against strong opponents while my worst would be a game I lost during the Ibadan Chess League. I lost to a 14year old and I cried after that game.
I’m pretty sure you’ve made a lot of opponents cry too.
I guess so. The aim is to not always be on the losing end.
Earlier on, you called yourself a decent player despite all this feats. Why?
Because I am.
In spite all these seemingly many achievements, my chess skills are just decent. I still have a lot to improve on if I want to fully go pro.
I want to be a titled player at some point in my life and to get that, I still need an intense amount of training to be able to even compete on that playing field.
What strength do you believe makes you a remarkable player?
I guess my fighting spirit. I never resign during a game even if I’m losing. Some people might think it is plain stubbornness, others might think it’s a fool’s errand, but I choose to think of it as fighting till the end. Anyone can make mistakes so why not keep on fighting till they do (if they do).
This is admirable. It’s not over till it’s over.
Perhaps, I’ll get to interview you when you’re a titled player. The world is your oyster.
Exactly. I hope you don’t have to wait too long to have that interview.
How do you prepare for a match with an opponent?
Preparation would involve trainings, then maybe studying your opponent’s style of playing if they have an online chess account that you can watch their game on. The true test of your training though isn’t manifest until you’re sitting across them and they make the first move.
How do you cope with the mental pressure during a tournament?
I try not to place too much expectations on myself during tournaments and try to just play for fun. Since chess has a psychological component to it, when I sit across my opponent, I try to appear as relaxed and nonchalant as I can be to help hide the tension within me while humming tunes in my head to try and keep calm.
From what I heard, you are the head of the Dokita board. How do combine this with chess and medical school?
You heard right. I’m involved in so many other things asides chess, it could take an hour to run through them.
Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve survived combining everything. But I do know that having supportive friends and a doubly amazing rock star roommate really helped to take the edge off the stress that comes with merging so many things.
I’m curious to know some of the other associations you’re involved in. Can you list a few for me?
I can list 10 off the top of my head right now.
1. Federation of Catholic Medical and Dental Students
2. Red Cross
4. Book Club
6. UI Chess Club
9. Gracit Technological Foundation
In a place where things work, if you had to make a choice between chess and medical school, which would it be?
If you had asked me this question a few months back, I probably would have picked chess but now, I would pick medical school over and over again.
As much as I love chess, not many people can make a steady living off it. I don’t think up to 10% of players make a steady income from it. However, medicine is more stable. It’s easier to make a living off of it. But then again, why choose when you can have both? I mean the only Grandmaster Africa has produced is a medical doctor from Egypt.
For those of us like me, Grandmaster is a chess player of the highest class, especially one who has won an international tournament.
On average, in a week, how much time do you spend playing chess?
Probably too much. Cumulatively, I spend about 2 hours playing daily so that should translate to about 14 hours a week.
That translates to one movie per day. I think it’s healthy.
Have you watched Queen’s Gambit? Was it a source of inspiration? Did you learn any lessons?
I haven’t watched Queen’s Gambit because I don’t like series. I do know the movie is based off the life of an actual chess player.
Trivia: Queen’s Gambit is an actual opening line in chess.
Who would you say is the toughest opponent you’ve ever faced and why?
I don’t know who my toughest opponent is because I’ve faced my fair share of strong opponents.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt as a chess player?
Do you no matter the consequences. Just make a choice and be ready to live by it.
Do you have a favorite chess player, piece or opening style?
Favorite chess player globally would probably be GM Fabiano Caruana. I admire his style of play plus he’s quite cute. In Nigeria, my favourite chess player would have to be IM Odion. He is a freaking legend.
I don’t have a favourite chess piece because I think the moment you do, you start holding sentiments for that piece during a game and would be scared to lose it even at the cost of losing the game.
I don’t have a favourite opening and I’m currently trying to learn a few but what I mostly play is the Philidor defense as Black and the Kings Pawn: Leonardis variation as white. (Apologies if they seem too far off to the general reader).
GM Fabiano Caruana is both cute and young. I don’t know why I imagined an old, wobbly man.
Most professional players are young. They mostly start out as children so you see I’m quite a late bloomer in this game.
I’m hoping kids in Nigeria get an opportunity to find out their passion in chess early. Is this an area you’d like to look into? Perhaps, setting up a chess foundation?
There are so many chess foundations out there already. Staying in the chess circle has made me familiar with some of them. I think what I would rather do is help grow an already existing foundation instead of trying to set up a new one.
Describe Millicent Maduka and what’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Millicent Maduka is someone who is still trying to find her way in life while trying to have fun and make the best of her journey towards achieving this.
One thing very few people know about me is that I hate social interactions and I have once stayed a month indoors without stepping out.
Tell me about your hobbies, likes and dislikes.
Hobbies would be chess, watching animes, reading books and listening to music. For my likes, it’s hard to pick one but I enjoy a warm cup of coffee on a cold rainy morning where I don’t have to go anywhere. I dislike moving, packing and unpacking.
Describe yourself with a word or phrase.
A decent person. And that’s all I look out for in people.
Do you have any thoughts or advice for UIMSA Sports and UIMSAites that are sports enthusiasts?
I wish UIMSA Sports the very best. It might be hard to get a lot of people to get involved in sports especially the more reserved aspects of sports but I believe you will do fine.
And to UIMSAites that are sports enthusiasts, I would say maximize the opportunity. Sports isn’t always just about the game, but also about the people you meet. Try to go out of your comfort zone to know those people and you would be surprised how beautiful and helpful people can be.
In a bid to make chess a hot sport, how do you think UIMSA Chess team can be better?
A lot of structures need to be put in place for this but UIMSA has the potential to have the best chess team in the UI. Look not just to the clinical arm but the preclinical arm as well. Currently, some of the strongest chess players in UI are from UIMSA. Also, you’ll have to find a way to work with UI’s Chess team to help with getting more players and aid player’s participation.
Chess is mostly a mind game which can appear boring to the general populace but there are ways to make it fun. You could try a simultaneous exhibition match. That would definitely pull a crowd for starters.
What are some of the structures you have in mind?
You need an actual team/club. The Chess team that represents UIMSA during competitions usually forms a few days to the event when one chess player talks to people to see if they would be interested in playing. This way you leave out a lot of players because you only go with popular people and not necessarily the best people.
There is also no regular training except what they do individually. As much as chess is an individual sport, it’s also a team sport and a team that doesn’t play together is a very dangerous and unpredictable team.
You can start by having a club with members who play and train regularly. When you train regularly, particularly in an open place like the chess area, it would invite other players and you can grow the numbers and strength of your players.
This makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure having to interview you today. My team and I have learnt a lot this evening. I believe UIMSAites will be excited to learn about the only NUGA gold medalist.
On behalf of the Sports Committee, I say a big thank you. I wish you good success in your MB IV. God bless you. Have a good night rest.
You’re welcome, and thank you.
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