Ramadan Chess in Sharjah

Chess is growing popularity in the United Arab Emirates. The nation, which houses about 9% of world's oil reserves, is professionalizing its chess clubs rapidly, not being shy to invest loads of money in the chess club's infrastructure. Last week I had the chance to have a look at the Sharjah Chess Club, proud owner of the biggest chess building in the World.
Sharjah Chess Club - which doesn't completely fit on my camera with a fixed 55mm lens. The high road next to the club prevented me from stepping more backwards. 
This period, it is Ramadan fasting period for Muslims all over the World, which means: no food or drinks between sunrise and sunset. Thus, most of its social life is taking part during the night, celebrating life. And is there a better way celebrating life than playing a chess tournament? That's where the 18th Sharjah International Chess Championship comes in.
About 200 people participated in the tournament, a nine round rapid event, spread out over 5 days. Every day starting at 22.30 hrs. This tournament, I found such a mixed diversity of people: from locals to Europeans. Muslims to Christians. Women and Men. Young and old. 
Arbiters showing how to avoid the Scholar Mate a next time
Russian girls playing on the top boards
Some kind words from mom before the start of the round
Drinking hot chocolate, eating sweets and enjoying the game of chess!
One thing what realy surprised me at the chess club me was the high level of organization. They seem to be working on long term plans. Trainers, having a full time contract, are being educated to work with young kids. Top GMs like Loek van Wely are being hired to give training sessions with the most talented players, like GM Salem Saleh, who will play the World Cup in Tromsø next month. Tournaments are being organized every week. I can't recall any Dutch chess club being so active!
The competition between the different Emirates is an important factor for the growing spiral of chess in the region. For a long time, Dubai's chess club was recognized for having the most impressive chess building. Al Ain will organize the WCh Youth in December this year. And Sharjah having set the new record with its chess club. What will be next?
The map of the Emirates.
Well.. for instance, we can expect many tournaments being broadcasted live over the internet. Sharjah, for example, has 60 DGT E-boards, including the new wireless Caissa system. The international tournament in Sharjah was the first rapid tournament ever where those wireless boards were used on such a large scale, without any problems at all!
During the tournament, I gave a four day seminar on DGT E-boards. About ten people attended, who learned everything about the live boards, to work with the new LiveChess software and to think about online presentation and communication.
Practical part of the seminar: all around the laptop. People from the Emirates, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Syria were awarded with the official DGT E-board certificate.
Photo: Julia Manakova
A gril pondering about her next move
The proud winner of the 'youngest player' trophy, next to Sheikh Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Mualla (left, president of the Sharjah Chess Club).
GM Elmar Magerramov (AZE, with the white pieces) won the tournament
Website of the Sharjah Chess Club


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