Bassem, tell us about your connection with Sweden?
I started playing for Wasa SK in January 2017, after the team captain Birger Wenzel (who has been a friend of mine since 2008 ) contacted me to play for the team and I happily accepted and have been playing for the team since then and always feel happy when am going to play in Sweden feels like a second home to me :)
We are glad to hear that Stockholm is like a second home for you. What do you enjoy in Stockholm that you don’t have back home in Cairo?
The first couple of times I visited Stockholm I was lucky to have some free time to actually go sightseeing the the fantastic city of Stockholm. Besides memorable long walks with the great Swedish chess legend Tom Wedberg that I enjoyed so much, also crossing the 2700 rating barrier for the first time in Stockholm 2017 left me with great memories of the city!
You, surprisingly, have also won the Latvian Team Chess Championship with your Swedish team, Wasa SK, in 2017. How did that happen?
The rules of the Latvian league then allowed any team to play so my team Wasa, which has many Latvian players on our roster in the Swedish league, decided to go and I happily joined the adventure to Latvia. It was a great event, very tough, but finally we managed to achieve our goal and became the Latvian Champions from Sweden 🙂
You are the strongest African and Arabic player in the history of chess. How do your interactions with fans look like both online and offline?
Online I have official pages on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I try to stay active there and try to reply to most of the messages I get. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with everything especially if during a tournament but still i try my best! Offline, taking a photo with a fan is something I happily do anytime even if after a bad game!
Apart from being a chess player, you are also a medical doctor. Why are you just focusing on chess at the moment?
I started playing chess professionally in March 2016. After finishing my army service I had to make a very difficult choice between chess and medicine because trying to do both was impossible, in my opinion, as both need a lot of time and so much work if you want to do it right ,so I finally chose to continue with my chess as I was already a top 100 player in the world and I have ambitions to achieve more!
In what direction is chess as an eSport developing, in your opinion?
Chess as an eSport is getting bigger and bigger, for example, now the PRO Chess League is starting and it is really big with most of the top players in the world taking part and I am happy to be playing this season with the Sweden Wasabis. I think it is very interesting for spectators to watch the players not only playing but also commentating their games and expressing their feelings during the games!
Other eSports manage to fill stadiums with spectators. Do you think that chess can do the same?
Of course, many people would go to watch chess matches this was also shown in the previous seasons of the PRO Chess League Live Finals. In my opinion, it was great start on the right way .
What are your thoughts on the new format of the PCL?
I like the new format better. They are trying to make the teams more stable so that they can bring more strong players and that of course will make all the matches very interesting to follow and we can already see that in the first round pairings!
What will it take for the Sweden Wasabis to be successful?
Well, it is our first season in the league but we have a strong team and we are motivated. The most important is to keep fighting during a match and throughout the season!
What are some of the keys to successful play online as opposed to playing over the board?
I would say having a good internet connection is very important which is something I don’t always have, unfortunately! And also being able to use the premove function wisely!