UAE and chess
By Bill Wall
The United Arab Emirates (الإمارات العربية المتحدة) (UAE), a fairly new country (December 1971), is one of the richest countries in the world. It is also becoming a chess Mecca as chess has become one of the most keenly-followed pursuits in the UAE. The UAE is composed of a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. The founder of the UAE was Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004), the first President of the UAE.
The UAE already has the tallest man-made structure in the world (the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 2,722 feet), the world’s biggest mall (the Dubai Mall), the most expensive Formula One racing track in the world (Yas Island), the world’s biggest carpet (60, 570 square feet and weighs 47 tons, found in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque), the world’s most expensive hotel (Hotel Emirates Palace, costing $3 billion to build and the most expensive suite is $11,500 a night), the world’s largest hotel constructed on an artificial island (the Burj Al Arab in Dubai), and the world’s tallest hotel (the JW Marriott Marquis). It now has the world’s largest chess club.
Chess has the support of His Highness, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1948- ), President of the UAE, the emir of Abu Dhabi and the commander of the Union Defense Force. Chess is also supported by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Another supporter is Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
In October 1976, the United Arab Emirates Chess Federation (اتحاد الامارات للشطرنج ) (UAECF) was established. It is a member of the Arab Chess Federation, made up of 18 member nations in the Arab community. Its headquarters is located in Dubai (web: http://www.uaechess.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). Its current president is Mr. Saeed Al Megbali.
In 1977, the UAECF became a member of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
On July 1, 1978, Taleb Moussa was born. Taleb was the first UAE professional chess player and first UAE grandmaster (2004).
The UAE National chess team has participated in 17 Chess Olympiads since 1978. The UAE team has collected 2 gold medals and 1 bronze medal for best individual performances. The UAE participated in the chess Olympiads from 1978 through 2014, only missing 2004.
In the 1978 Chess Olympiad, the UAE took 64th out of 65 teams.
In 1979, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club (DCC) was established as part of the UAE Chess Federation. At one time, the club published a chess magazine called Al Shirah. It is located in Al Mamzar, Dubai, on 44th Street. The Dubai Chess and Culture Club is the most modern dedicated chess club in the world. There are over 200 members.
In 1979, the Abu Dhabi Chess & Culture Club (ADCC) was formed. It currently has a membership of 500 chess players. It is open from 5 pm to 11 pm.
In 1979, Saeed-Ahmed Saeed (born Nov 28, 1967) took the silver medal in the world under-14 chess championship, held in Durango, Mexico.
In 1980, Saeed-Ahmed Saeed took the silver medal in the World Youth Chess Championship, under-14 section, in Mazatlan, Mexico.
On May 16, 1981, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club was officially recognized as an independent entity. Its charter is to promote chess in the emirate and for training and developing Dubai’s top chess talents and official representatives to national and international competitions.
In 1981, the Abu Dhabi Chess & Culture Club got official promulgation by the Supreme Council of Youth and Sports.
In 1981, Saeed-Ahmed Saeed won the world under-14 chess championship, held in Xalapa, Mexico. Saeed was called by the Arab media as “The Arab computer.” He became the first International Master in the UAE.
In 1982, Saeed Ahmed Saeed took the bronze medal in the International Golden Pawn of Brazil tournament, Under-17 section, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In 1982, Ahmed Saeed took the silver medal in the World Youth Chess Championship, Under-16 section, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
In 1983, the first UAE International Chess Festival was held in Dubai.
In 1983, Ahmed Saeed took 3rd place in the World Junior chess championship, held in Belfort, France.
In 1983, FIDE President Florencio Campomanes (1927-2010) decided to hold the semi-final match for the world championship between Vasily Smyslov (USSR) and Zoltan Ribli (Hungary) in Abu Dhabi. The Soviet Union refused to allow Smyslov to play in the UAE because it was too hot. The UAE then withdrew its invitation to host the match after it was announced that Smyslov would not play.
In 1983, Adel Jassem Balrumaithah of the UAE won the gold medal at the Gulf & Arab Peninsula Individual Championship, Under 16, in Doha, Qatar.
In 1984, the UAE national chess team took 35th place in the 26th Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, their best team achievement.
In 1984, Saeed Ahmad Saeed won the Arab Chess Championship, held in Dubai. Nadia Mohammad Saleh won the women’s title.
In 1985, the Dubai Chess & Culture Club hosted the Youth Blitz World Chess championship.
In 1985, Ahmed Saeed of the UAE took the gold medal at the Asian Zone 10 Chess Championship, held in Dubai, UAE.
In 1986, the UAE had 2,000 registered chess players.
In November-December 1986, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club hosted the World Chess Olympiad, held at the Dubai Trade Centre. 108 teams participated (a record at the time), with 641 players, including 59 grandmasters. Garry Kasparov lead the USSR team for the first time as reigning world champion. Kasparov lost one game to Yasser Seirawan. The USSR took 1st place, followed by England and the USA. Anatoly Karpov won the gold medal for best individual performance. The women’s Chess Olympiad had 49 teams with 193 players, including 17 woman grandmasters. The UAE created a 1 Dirham commemorative issue coin celebrating the 27th chess Olympiad. On one side of the coin, it featured a knight and a rook. A statue of a camel carrying a large rook was unveiled by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktourm to commemorate the opening of the 27th chess Olympiad.
During the 1986 Chess Olympiad in Dubai, Mohammed Obaid Ghobash, President of the UAE chess federation and FIDE vice president, fell asleep during one of the rounds of the Olympiad (games lasted 6 hours plus adjournments). After he woke up, he asked Florencio Campomanes, FIDE President, to establish a commission for promoting events with games lasting under an hour. Thus, the start of Rapid Chess.
In 1987, Abdurah Suhail took the silver medal at the Gulf & Arab Peninsula Individual Chess championship, Under-16, in Bahrain.
In 1987, Mansoor Abdullah of the UAE won the under-16 Arab World Youth Chess Championship in Sharjah, UAE.
In 1987, Mansoor Abdullah of the UAE took the bronze medal at the Asian Clubs Team Chess Championship, held in Singapore.
In 1988, Ricardo Calvo of Spain announced that he was taking legal action against Mohammed Ghobash of the UAE. During a FIDE General Assembly meeting in Seville, Spain, Ghobash called Calvo ‘a criminal of the worst type.’ (source: New in Chess, March 1988, p. 7) Calvo also stated that the UAE spent over a million dollars to get Campomanes reelected. Campomanes then did the UAE a big favor and kept Israel out of the Dubai Olympiad (source: The Crazy World of Chess, by Larry Evans, 2009. p. 91)
In 1988, Mansoor Abdullah of the UAE took the bronze medal at the Asian Youth Chess Championship, Under-16, held in Dubai.
In 1988, Nagueb Saleh of the UAE took the silver medal for best performance on Board 5 at the 28th Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece.
In 1988, Mansoor Abdullah of the UAE took the gold medal in the Arab Junior Individual Chess Championship, held in Baghdad, Iraq.
In 1989, Nabil Saleh of the UAE took the silver medal in the Arab Boys Individual Chess Championship, held in Doha, Qatar.
In 1990, the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival was first held.
In 1991, the Sharjah Women’s Chess Club was opened.
In 1991, Mansoor Abdullah of the UAE was awarded the International Master title after winning the gold medal at the Arab Junior Individual Chess Championship Under-20, held in Doha, Qatar.
On January 4, 1993, Salem Abdul Rahman Saleh was born in the UAE. He was awarded the GM title in 2009.
In 1994, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club hosted the Dubai Open Chess Championship and Credit Swiss Chess Masters Tournament.
In 1994, Al Saeed Mohammad Abdul Rahim of the UAE took the gold at the Arab Juniors Championship in Doha, Qatar.
In 1995, Taleb Moussa of the UAE took the gold medal at the Arab Junior Individual Chess Championship, Under-20, held in Abu Dhabi.
In 1996, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club hosted the Asian Cities Team Chess Championship (Dubai Cup).
In 1997, Taleb Moussa of the UAE won the 4th Credit Suisse Masters Chess Tournament, held in Cannes, France.
In 1997, Othman A. Moussa of the UAE took the silver medal in the Arab Zone 1 Individual Chess Championship, held in Doha, Qatar.
In 1998, International Master Talib Mousa won the UAE President’s Cup championship.
In 1999, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club moved to its permanent headquarters in Al Mamzar.
In 1999, Othman A. Moussa of the UAE took the silver medal in the First Arab Zonal Chess Championship, held in Fujairah, UAE.
In 1999, the 1st Dubai Open was held.
In 1999, Mohamed Saleh Yahya took the silver medal at the Arab Boys Individual Championship, Under 10, held in Cairo, Egypt.
In 1999, the UAE won one gold and 3 bronze medals in the 9th Pan-Arab Games, held in Amman, Jordan. Fatima Hussain of the UAE won a gold medal.
In 1999, Taleb Moussa of the UAE took the silver medal in the First Arab Chess Clubs Championship in Cairo, Egypt.
In August 1999, the 9th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival was held.
In 1999, Taleb Moussa of the UAE took the bronze medal at the First Arab Zonal Chess Championship in Fujairah, UAE.
In 2000, a club open for women was affiliated with the Dubai Chess Club.
In April 2000, the 2nd Dubai Open has held.
In 2000, Saeed Ahmad Saeed, former world under-14 champion, was Nakheel’s project manager and member of the Dubai World Board of Directors.
In 2000, Taleb Moussa won the gold medal for Board 5 at the 34th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2001, Ahmed Ishaq took the gold medal at the Arab Boys Individual Chess Championship, Under-12, held in Sharjah, UAE.
In 2001, Salem A. R. Saleh won the Arab under-10 championship. He repeated his championship title in 2002 and 2003.
In 2001, the 3rd Dubai Open was held.
In 2001, Salem Saleh received his FIDE master norm when he was only 8 years old.
In 2002, the 4th Dubai Open was held.
In 2002, the UAE hosted a FIDE Grand Prix tournament, won by GM Peter Leko.
In 2003, the 5th Dubai Open was held.
In 2003, Abdul Rahman Hassan Al Shamsi, president of the UAE Chess Federation, was elected as the new president of the first Asian chess zone. This zone comprises of 11 Asian countries: Iran, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, and the UAE.
In 2004, Taleb Moussa of the UAE was awarded the Grandmaster title. His rating was 2517.
In 2004, the 6th Dubai Open was held.
In 2004, Salem Saleh won the Arab under-12 chess championship.
In August 2004, the 14th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival was held at the Khalida Palace Hotel.
FIDE planned to hold a reunification match between Garry Kasparov and Rustam Kasimdzhinov, scheduled for January 14, 2005 in Dubai, UAE, but terminated the negotiations in December, 2004. The organizers from Dubai did not supply FIDE with the required financial guarantees within the deadline set by FIDE.
In 2005, GM Vladimir Akopian was arrested at the Dubai International airport, having been mistaken for an individual of a similar name (Vladimir Hakobian) wanted by Interpol for murder. He was supposed to play in the 7th annual Dubai Open as the top seed, but had to withdraw when he was arrested.
In April 2005, the 7th Dubai Open, organized by the Dubai Chess & Culture Club, was held. The event was won by 16-year-old Wang Hao (2484) of China.
In 2005, Taleb Moussa obtained a substantial sponsorship of 5.7 million Dirhams ($1.5 million dollars).
In 2005, Salem Saleh won the Arab under-16 championship. He also won it in 2006.
In June 2005, Salem Saleh tied for 1st place in the Asian under-14 championship, held in Iran.
In August 2005, the 15th Annual Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival was held at the Khalidia Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, under the patronage of Lt. General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Interior. 34 grandmasters participated and 14 different countries were represented. Ashot Anastiasian (2595) of Armenia won the event.
In 2006, Damas jewelers in the UAE agreed to sponsor Salem Abdul Rahman Saleh, age 13, to the tune of $136,000 (500,000 Dirhams). Damas provided financial support to Salem for all competitions and training camps in addition to a monthly stipend for three years. Salem won 6 gold medals in a row in a four-year period.
In 2006, the 8th Dubai Open was held.
In January 2007, the UAE President’s Cup was held in Dubai.
In 2007, the 9th Dubai Open was held.
In April 2008, 14-year-old Wesley So, the world’s youngest grandmaster, won the 10th Dubai Open on tiebreak points, with a 2708 performance rating. 15-year-old FIDE Master (FM) Salem A.R. Saleh made a grandmaster norm. There were 132 players in the event.
In 2008, and Iranian player, M. Sadatnajafi, was caught cheating in the 2008 Dubai Open. He was found to be receiving help from someone else was watching the game’s live broadcast on the Internet and was sending the moves through text messages. The Iranian player was receiving moves by SMS on his cellphone.
In 2008, the championship of the Arab countries was held in the UAE. It was won by Salem Abdul Rahman of the UAE. There are 22 Arab countries, with 18 registered Chess Federations. Saudi Arabia and Oman have no registered chess activity.
In December 2008-January 2009, the first Asian Club Cup was held in Al Ain. 30 clubs participated with 27 grandmasters, representing 24 Asian countries. The event was organized under the patronage of Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the Abu Dhabi Sport Council. Funding was also provided by Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakboot Al Nahyan, President of the Asian Chess Federation. The event was won by the Al Ain Chess Club.
In 2009, A R Saleh Salem (Salem AR Saleh) was awarded the Grandmaster title.
In April-May 2009, the 11th Dubai Open, also known as the Sheikh Rashed Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup, was held at the Dubai Chess & Culture Club. 140 chess players from 29 countries, including 40 grandmasters participated. GM Tigram Kotanjian (2552) of Armenia won the event on tiebreak points.
In August 2009, the 18th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival was held. The festival was held under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Hazaa bin Zayed Al Nahyam, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. The event has held at the Aljazeera Sport Club and won by GM Aleksey Alexandrov of Belarus.
In 2009, GM Zurab Sturua of Georgia won the 18th UAE Open Chess Tournament, held in Abu Dhabi.
In 2010, the UAE Chess Federation pledged its support for Anatoly Karpov for FIDE president. Karpov received support from sports patron Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim (1977- ), president of the UAE Chess Federation.
In August 2010, Saleh Salem came 5th in the 2010 World Junior Championship that was held in Poland. He qualified for the 2011 World Chess Cup by winning the Western Asian Zonal 3.1.
In August 2010, the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival was held. The winner was top seed GM Anton Korobov (2657) of the Ukraine.
In 2011, Saleh Salem was defeated in the first round of the 2011 World Cup, losing to GM Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia.
In April 2011, the 13th Dubai Open (Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup) was held at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club. Iranian GM Ehsan Maghami won the blitz event. Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta (2580) won the Open event.
In 2011, the Abu Dhabi Chess Club launched the official website of the Abu Dhabi Chess Club.
In December 2011, a Chess and Society Campaign was organized by the Al Ain Chess Club under the patronage of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, president of the Asian Chess Federation. To help promote the event, Diego Armando Maradona, perhaps the greatest soccer player of all time, took part in the festivities and the festival’s closing ceremony. Around 3,000 players and supporters took part in the chess campaign.
In December 2011, the Arab Games were held in Doha, Qatar. Saleh Salem of the UAE took the bronze in the Rapid tournament.
In 2012, Saleh Salem took 3rd place in the 2012 Asian Continental Chess Championship, qualifying for the 2013 World Cup.
In April 2012, the 14th Dubai Open was held at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club. The winner was Georgian GM Ni Hua (2637) on tiebreak points.
In 2012, the Fujairah Open was won by Sura Shekhar Ganguly of India.
In 2012, the Sharjah Cultural & Chess Club was established by Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah.
In May 2012, the 11th Asian Continental Chess Championship was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. GM Salem A R Saleh (2528) of the UAE took 3rd place.
In 2012, Saud Mohammed Al Marzooqi, a senior UAE chess official, was critically injured in Szegred, Hungary, after he was attacked in the street claiming to be immigration police. (source: The National, June 4, 2012)
In December 2012, the world Cities Chess Team Championship was held in Al Ain, UAE. 24 teams from cities around the world participated, with a maximum of one city per country.
In 2013, Saleh Salem was defeated in the first round of the 2013 World Cup, losing to GM Anish Giri.
In April 2013, Russian GM Aleksandr Rakhmanov (2591) won the 15th Dubai Open, held at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club. There were 194 players from 34 countries. At stake was a total of $50,000 in cash prizes. Salem A.R. Saleh won the blitz championship.
In March 2013, the Sharjah Cultural & Chess Club opened. It is the world’s largest chess club facility, with over 34,000 square feet, and can accommodate up to 500 players. It has several class rooms, library, VIP room, and a regional FIDE office. The facility was inaugurated by His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council member and Ruler of Sharjah. The coach of the club is GM Dimitri Komarov. The president of the club is Sheikh Saud Al Mualla. The club hosted the Asian Juniors Championship under-20, and a match between GM Salem and GM Khismatullin.
In July 2013, Russian GM Igor Kurnosov (2657) won the 20th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival on tiebreak points. The top UAE player was Ali Abdulkhaleq. Kurnosov later died in a car accident On August 8, 2013. He was hit by a car while crossing a street in Chelyabinsk.
In August 2013, Salem Saleh of the UAE took 9th place in the 46th Biel Chess Festival, Grandmaster section.
In December 2013, Indian GM Abjijeet Gupta (2608) won the 2nd Al Ain Classic Championship was held at the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club in Al Ain, UAE. Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Shakhboot Al Nahyan is the President of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club as well as the Asian Chess Federation.
In December 2013, the Al Ain Chess Club, UAE hosted the 2013 World Youth Chess Championships. 1,773 of the best players in the world age 18 and under from 171 countries participated. Former world champion Garry Kasparov made a visit. International Master (IM) Poula Idanya of Iran took gold in the under-18 Open section. Lidia Tomnikova of Russia won the girls’ under-18 section.
In 2013, GM Denis Khismatullin defeated GM Salem Saleh (2564), scoring 7-1 in a match held in the UAE.
In April 2014, French GM Romain Edourd (2670) won the 16th Dubai Open held at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club. It was the strongest Open tournament in the Middle East. There were 148 players from 39 countries, with 38 grandmasters.
In April 2014, the 13th Asian Continental Championship took place at the Sharjah Cultural & Chess Club. 96 players competed, including former world chess champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov and 32 grandmasters. The Open section was won by 19-year-old Chinese GM Yu Yangyi (2667). The Women’s section was won by Irine Sukandar, Indonesia’s first woman grandmaster. The top UAE player was Salem A.R. Saleh (2561), who took 6th place and qualified for the World Cup 2015.
In June 2014, Dubai held the World Rapid and Blitz chess championship. Both events were won by world champion Magnus Carlsen. 103 grandmasters participated in the event, which offered $400,000 in prize money.
In June 2014, the UAE held the Asian Chess Clubs Champions League at the Danat Hotel in Al-Ain. Eight teams participated in the round-robin event.
In August 2014, the UAE took 84th in the chess Olympiad, held in Norway.
In August 2014, the 21st Abu Dhabi Chess Festival was held at the Softiel Hotel.
In August-September 2014, a FIDE Woman’s Grand Prix tournament was held at the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club in Sharjah, UAE. It was won by Ju Wenjun on tiebreak over Hou Yifan.
In December 2014, the 3rd Al Ain Classic Chess Championship was held in Al Ain, UAE. Saleh Salem won the blitz championship. The event was won by GM Gaioz Nigalidze (2536) of Georgia. The event has a $50,000 prize fund with 150 players from 27 nations, and 43 grandmasters.
In 2015, the Concorde Hotel in Fujairah hosted the UAE chess championship.
In March 2015, four-time US chess champion Yasser Seirawan visited the Dubai Chess and Culture Club and lectured on chess.
In April 2015, Salem Seleh of the UAE took 4th-9th at the Aeroflot Open tournament.
In April 2015, GM Gaioz Nigalidze (2013 and 2014 Georgian chess champion) was caught cheating with a computer at the 17th Dubai Open Chess Tournament (Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup) and was banned from the event. He was caught by tournament officials consulting a mobile device (iPod running Stockfish) in one of the toilet cubicles of the Dubai Chess and Culture Club during his 6th round. The winner was Turkish GM Dragan Solak on tiebreak. Best female player was IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman of India. Over the years, the Dubai Open has established itself as one of the strongest open tournaments in the world. The 2015 Dubai Open has 150 players from 43 countries, with 39 grandmasters. The event was held at the JW Marriott, recognized as “Best Hotel in the Middle East.”
In May 2015, the 3rd Arab Elite Chess Championship was held in Dubai.
In May 2015, Mahdri Abdulrahim from the UAE was chief arbiter on the 2015 World Schools Chess Championship, held in Thailand. Mahdri is a former Technical Director of the UAE Chess Federation, Chairman of the Arbiter’s Council of the UAECF, and member of the FIDE Arbiter’s Council.
As of June 2015, the top active UAE players are A.R. Saleh Salem (2614), Noaman Omar (2403), Abdulla Kashwani Faisal (2306), Jasem AlHuwar (2277), Nabil Saleh (2249), Ibrahim Mohamed Khouri (2205), and Ishaq Saeed (2204). GM Taleb Moussa does not seem to be active anymore.
Many strong grandmasters around the world have worked in the UAE as trainers. Some trainers include Victor Bologan, Alexey Kuzmin, Elmar Magerramov, Edvins Kengis, and Sarhan Guliev.
Titled players from the UAE include FM Mohamed Abdul Majid, FM Abdulwahab Marwan (1990- ), IM Mansoor Abdullah, FM Jasem Al-Huwar (1979- ), IM Hassan Abdullah (1986- ), FM Adel R. Jassim, FM Ibrahim Mohamed Khouri (1991- ), FM A. Moussa Othman (1975- ), IM Taleb Moussa (1978- ), IM Omar Noaman Al Ali (1991- ), FM Naser Ahmed Said, FM Jassim Saleh, GM A.R. Saleh Salem (1993- )