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Minister of Sports Affairs Sheikh Saad Al Saadi and Fide chief Kirsan Ilyumzhinov play a game to ceremonially start the Asian Zonal Chess Championship on Sunday.


Muscat: Four Grandmasters, three in the men’s category and one in the women’s section, dominated the inaugural day as the Asian Zonal Chess Championship (Zone 3.1) 2015, which serves as the qualifying event for the Fide Chess World Cup, opened at the City Seasons Hotel here on Sunday.

A total of 14 players in the men’s event and ten in the women’s competition are vying for the lone qualifying spot in their respective categories.

In men’s section, Grandmasters Ehsan Ghaem Maghamim, Pouya Idani and Pouria Darini — all from Iran — began their campaign with first round victories.

Ehsan, who has a Fide rating of 2558, accounted for Lebanon’s Ibrahim Chahrour (2269), Idani Pouya (2526) defeated Bahrain’s Maher Ayyad (2123) and Pouria Darini (2485) defeated Tamara Attallah (2080).

In the women’s category, Qatari Grandmaster Chen Zhu (2414) eased to a victory over Palestine’s Yara Faqeeh.

Amin loses marathon
Four Omani players, two men and two women, are also in the fray.

In the women’s competition, both Omani girls Wafia Al Ghagri and Mariya Al Balushi were pitted against each other in the first round, which the former won after a keen battle with her compatriot.

In men’s competition, Amin Al Ansi played a marathon match against Syrian International Master Basher Iyti (2298) but made a mistake at the crucial juncture to lose the match.

“It was a five-hour epic battle between two players. But Amin lost out due to a blunder he made towards the end,” Ismael Karim, a Muscat-based International Master, said in his comments to Times Sport.

“Till then the players were on level terms and the game was in good balance,” Ismael, who is also the in-charge of International Chess Academy of Oman, added.

“After five hours of playing, Amin was visibly tired and was under pressure. And that led to him making a costly mistake,” he said.

Amin’s compatriot Mohammed Salim Al Mamari had earlier lost to Iraq’s Ahmad Abdulsattar Abdulwahab.

In other first round games, Yemen International Master Basheer Al Qudaimi (2405) defeated Kuwait’s Candidates Masters Hashem Khaled while Qatar’s International Master Husein Aziz Nezad defeated Saud Arabia’s Abdulrahman Al Masrhi.

On the distaff side, Iranian Women’s Grandmaster Atousa Pourkashiyan defeated her countrywomen Mitra Hejazipour, Iraq’s Afamia Mir Mahmoud defeated Kuwait’s Saud Al Kanderi and UAE’s Abeer Ali defeated Iman Hasan Mohammed Al Rugaye of Iraq.

Ceremonial opening
Earleir, Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed bin Said Al Mardhouf Al Saadi, the Minister of Sports Affairs, inaugurated the championship in the presence of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, chief of world chess federation Fide, and Oman Chess Committee chairperson Laila Ahmed Al Najjar.

In her welcome speech, Laila said: “Since the formation of the Oman Chess Committee in February 2014, we have been striving for the development of chess across the Sultanate.”

She also informed the committee is conducting an arbitators course from May 20 to 20 under the auspices of Asian Chess Federation.

Around 25 aspiring arbitrators, including 10 Omanis, will be attending the course.

Laila also thanked the Ministry of Sports Affairs for their support in organising the Asian event.
The Asian competition will conclude on May 25.

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