How Salem Saleh became one of the UAE's best chess players

He earned the title of Grandmaster in 2009

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By Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 10:51 PM

Salem Abdulrahman Mohamed Saleh, arguably one of the most exciting chess players to come out of the UAE in recent years, realised his passion for the game at an early age when growing up in Sharjah.

By the time he entered his teens, he was already feeling a combination of enthusiasm and purpose about his future as a chess player. He was focused and began investing a lot of time into thinking about what kind of player he wanted to be.

Saleh was blessed with self-confidence and never doubted that he was ready to move into the next chapter of his life, in front of the checkered board. In short, he was ready for chess adulthood, when most kids his age were still unsure of what they wanted to be.

By the time he was 14, Saleh won his first Asian Youth title, which he would also win at the age of 16 and 18. During this phase he would go on to dominate the Arab chess scene and capture the Arab chess championship on three occasions, winning his first in 2008 as a 15-year-old. The same year he won his first UAE Chess Championship and followed it up by earning the title of Grandmaster in 2009.

Since 2016 Saleh has been on the elite list of the Top 100 players in the world reaching a ranking as high as number 44 with a peak rating of 2690 which he achieved last year. He would maintain this position till March this year as certified in the Fide monthly rankings list.

Saleh’s watershed moment came when he began working with famed Dutch-Bosnian chess coach Ivan Sokolov who would help him break into the world elite. Sokolov recently plotted the path for a youthful Uzbekistan to win the 44th World Chess Olympiad in India.

Salem and Sokolov locked their partnership in early 2013, at a time when Salem, already an established Grandmaster, was determined to break in o the Top 100 Fide ratings. With a total in the 2500s Salem needed to take his game to the next level and earn a score of 2600 which he did and even won the Asian Chess title in Al Ain.

In November of 2016, Salem finally arrived in the Top 100 with a rating of 2656, a position that has remained up to date.

“By the start of our cooperation my rating was 2500 and by the end of it, it became 2620 ad I won the Asian gold medal,” Saleh said of his alliance with Sokolov on the coaches website

“But more importantly I played much better and more entertaining chess!”


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