Interview with Jean-Marc Ndjofang

Grandmaster Darya Tkachenko, 4 times World Champion.



Jean Mark Ndjofang talks about his upcoming match.

The International Grandmaster from Cameroon, actually the challenger for the draughts World Title Jean Mark Ndjofang shared his expectations regarding the upcoming match with the current world champion Alexandr Georgiev from Russia. Moreover we’ve talked about the origin of his draughts career.

Jean-Marc, what are your feelings before the upcoming match?

– This is my first match for the World Title, so I feel like a little kid who received a gift for the first time. For that reason this is a very exciting and intriguing moment for me, but at the same time it’s an honor to have such an opportunity to fight for the title. I’m delighted to take part in this historical event, not only for me and Cameroon, but also for the African continent as a whole. Only once a Senegalese draughts player Baba Sy had the same right to play match, but he never managed to realize it. Now I have the opportunity to exceed this threshold. And I know that many players would like to be at my place.

How many World Championships have you played before?

– My first World Championship was in Moscow in 2001, when i’ve been qualified as a contintnal champion. Totaly I played about 7 World Championships.

– Now you play in the international tournament Bacoli Open but it seems that mentally you are somewhere else: already have one loss and other games seem to be quite calm.

– Indeed, in this tournament I play only becouse my participation was confirmed beforehand and I didn’t intend to deceive organizers. But in my mind I’m in Turkey now, all the time thinking about the match, don’t sleep well, I look at the board and see nothing. I’m thinking about what to wear, what will be the hotel… the first time it is a bit difficult. But I want to make a pleasure for myself and to live this moment.

– When and how the game of draughts appeared in your life?

– In Cameroon people play draughts anywhere they like: on the streets, at the entrance of hairdressing salons… – it’s a part of our culture. I became interested in draughts maybe because my father played draughts. But what is the most important, he didn’t support me in my desire to practice draughts. My father thought that draughts could hurt my studies in school. Once he even broke my draughts board. I was beaten at home when I was playing draughts. But more he forbade and punished me, more I wanted to play and learn draughts. Also I used to play football when I was a child.

Tell us a little about your education, I know you are fluent in French and English. What is your native language?

– Cameroon is a bilingual country. English and French are taught at school as the basic subjects. I would say that my native language is Cameroonian, or rather one of its dialects – Bamiléké (there are over 200 dialects in Cameroon). In addition I’ve been studying Spanish for five years. Also I studied International Low at the University of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon.

– At the recent Ceneral Assembly of the FMJD in Izmir you were the representative of Cameroon. Do you occupy any position in your Federation?

– As an active draughts player I am an Advisor to the President of the Cameroonian Draughts Federation and an Assistant Secretary-General for the African Draughts Confederation responsible for international relations.

– Even though you are a professional player, you work a lot on the promotion of draughts: play simuls, take part in press conferences, recently I saw your performance on one of the African channels.

WC Moscow 2001

– Yes, the TV in Africa knows me. People recognize me on the streets, they are really proud of my success in the sport. For example, after my successful World Championship in Ufa in 2013 I was invited to record a program on national television in Cameroon. It was broadcasted on Sunday evening, so that hundreds of thousands of spectators certainly looked it. Likewise I’m always open and available for communication. This is my position, and I think that’s what the top players should do. It seems evident that the world champions are considered to awaken peopel.

– Being a professional athlete is quite difficult. Every competition, every game is a challange. Surely there is someone who supports you in this fight.

Yes, such a person exists. He is Pieter Jan Hildering, who in 2001 invited me to play for the Amsterdam club and suggested me to become a professional draughts player. Largely thanks to him I decided to be a professional athlete.

– I have heard that the famous Dutch player Roel Boomstra very soon realized he would become a world champion. And now he is too close to his target, has already won the European Championship. How do you see draughts in your life?

– Well, the game of draughts was appeared in my life accidently and I’ve never thought to play at such a high level. But life has given me this opportunity, and I accepted it; let’s see what will happen next. Now I get step by step to move forward and I’m happy about that. I don’t want to predict when and how it will be ended. The only rule I follow is that whatever you do you should always go to the end. Of course it would be great if I got better results but on the other hand I will not get upset if not. At least I’ve already achieved a lot in draughts.

– Could you tell us about your leisure? What is your favorite book?

– I read a lot, but not books, rather informative magazines, newspapers. Even when I come to the hotel, firstly I turn on the TV and watch the news. Similarly, I listen to a lot of music, like to dance, to learn new things. Finally I like the life not only at the draughts board.