AL AIN // Emirati Saleh A R Salem has become the Asian Continental Chess Champion of the year.
The 22-year-old grandmaster was declared the winner after the final round of the competition at the Hilton hotel in Al Ain on Monday.
It is the first adult continental championship title that Salem has won after victories in several junior and youth championships.
“I am very happy. It was a very tough tournament. I was not hoping that I would actually win but now I am really happy,” he said.
“Al Ain is a very good place for me and I have very nice memories.”
In 2007, Salem won the Asian Championships U14 crown before going on to win the Rapid tournament in Al Ain last year.
His game with grandmaster Vidit Gujarathi of India ended in a draw, but he was named the winner as his total number of victories – seven out of nine rounds – was more than any other participant.
In an earlier round, he beat grandmaster Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, of Vietnam. Salem used the Sicilian Najdorf, one of the most useful of all chess openings, to win the match in just 49 moves.
Explaining his strategy for the final match, he said: “It was obvious that I would need only a draw to get the gold medal. So I decided not to take any risk. I have played so many games before, and if a draw is enough, I played accurately.
“The first definition [of the overall winner] is by direct encounter and second is by most number of wins, so I won more games than them.
“I finished sixth in the Asian Continental Championship in 2014 and third in 2013, so I qualified for the World Cup. But this is my first time as the Asian Continental champion.”
Salem’s next step is to participate in the Abu Dhabi Masters followed by the Chess World Cup next month in Baku, Azerbaijan.
His plan is to prepare for the 128-player Chess World Cup, a single-elimination tournament, by playing the masters, with the help of his coaches, grandmaster Ivan Sokolov and grandmaster Alexey Dreev.