Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mozah Al Mansouri, a Chess Champion

Mozah, a chess champion By Yasir Abbasher, Senior Reporter Published: April 12, 2008, 00:39 Abu Dhabi February 27, 2000. The father paced up and down the waiting hall at the maternity ward - praying silently for a boy. His wife was in labour and he waited impatiently for her to deliver. It was strange how he, like his ancestors in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries, opted for sons. He already had two sons and as many daughters, but his wish was not granted as the nurse came out smiling: he was just blessed with another daughter. " Yes, I wanted a son, but believe me, I was as pleased when the nurse told me it was a girl. It was a blessing," Sarhan Al Mansouri reminisced, sitting near a chessboard facing his eight-year-old daughter Mozah at the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club (ACCC). Last year had been an extraordinary one for Mozah, making her an instant celebrity in the capital's chess circles. Shy but at the same time conscious of her appearance like any other young girl, Mozah was reluctant to remove her baseball cap for the photographer as she believed that her hair was not properly combed. Strong determination The innocence of childhood soon was replaced by the determination and deep thought when she sat down at the chessboard to play some moves against her father. Mozah, who took to the game at home when she was only two-and-a-half years old, has already won local and regional acknowledgement despite the fact that she started receiving proper coaching only one year ago. "I am a chess player. In my university days, I used to play with my teachers at the Emirates University in Al Ain, as there were no chess clubs in the early 1980s. "I was hence keen also to teach my children the basics of the game. Mozah got jealous when she saw me playing with her other sisters and brothers and used to bring the chessboard to me. "In order to make her happy, I tried to teach her the first few steps. She imitated all my moves and used to spend a lot of time alone at the board," Sarhan recalled. "It was strange - while other children of her age were busy playing with dolls or TV games, she was trying to learn more about the game. "She started to play against her elder sisters and brothers and even started winning some matches against them. "Last year, she joined the ACCC after she was discovered by her present coach at a school tournament," Sarhan added. "I organised a competition for about 20 girls under eight years and when I saw them playing, I circled three names in red because they interested me. Mozah was the first one. "That tournament was held on February 26 last year, a day before her seventh birthday," Huda Al Najjar, the ACCC coach for women, told Gulf News. "Nobody can create a chess champion by coaching only. It is important that the player has the talent. Mozah has it in plenty and I predict a glorious future for her if she continues to take part in tournaments and gains more experience from higher rated players," Al Najjar said. Mozah then took part in the UAE School Chess championship last March 16, in which she won all but one of her matches in the under-eight category, collecting eight points out of nine. On June 26, 2007, Mozah won the UAE girls singles title for under-eight years in what was her first official tournament. Only a month later, she took part in the Arab Juniors chess championship in Syria and won 4.5 points as she was frightened by the fact that all the other competitors were older than her. Still a child "At only seven years old and with the duty to represent her country, Mozah was accompanied by her mother, aunt and uncle to Syria. She is still a child," her father said. Barely another month passed and Mozah found herself taking part in the Asian juniors chess championship in Al Ain in August 2007. She won five points in nine matches and was hailed as one of the best future prospects. Her best was yet to be as Mozah found herself and her father in Turkey to take part in the World Youth Championship in November 2007. She defeated the champion of Turkey in the first match and came under the spotlight of the world media as she could move to play on top of the table. The media hype and the camera flashes put her under tremendous pressure - so much so that she lost her second match against the champion of India. "She recovered and went on to beat champions from Poland, Australia, Canada and Hungary, although her best result was beating the champion of Russia in an exciting encounter. "I was so moved by her victory that I cried for the first time in years. I was so overjoyed that I gave her a big cash reward but believe me, I was even more pleased when she donated the money to the housekeeping staff of the hotel where we stayed." Sarhan said. While being only a seven-year-old, Mozah became one of the rated players by FIDE ( International Chess Federation). with an elo rating of 1,590. She was the youngest female player to be ranked in the World Youth Championship. "After beating the Russian player, I began thinking of her potential as a future world champion. Why not, as with more training, participation in strong tournaments and a bit of luck, that can be achieved," Sarhan hoped. The high point of Mozah's short career came when Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received her with the officials of the ACCC, headed by Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakhboot Al Nahyan, President of the Asian Chess Federation. FACTFILE Promises to keep--Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received her along with officials of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club recently. - On June 26, 2007, Mozah won the UAE girls singles title in the under-8 age group. - In July the same year, she took part in the Arab juniors chess championship in Syria. --Last November, Mozah took part in the World Youth Championship in Turkey.

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