UAE: 17-year old Palestinian chess champ wants to visit home country when war is over

Representing his motherland and winning on its behalf is the ultimate source of pride and honour

by

Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

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Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 8 Jan 2024, 4:25 PM

A 17-year old Palestinian chess champion based in the UAE has represented and won many accolades for his home country. For him, representing his motherland and winning on its behalf is the ultimate source of pride and honour. Since his country is in a state of war, his fervent wish is for the hostilities to end so he can visit Palestine one day.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Raji Sayel Abu Azizah said: “I just started my chess journey. I am proud of all the tournaments I won, but my ambitions are even higher as I aim to become one of the best chess players in the world.”

Raji is considered one of the youngest and most vigorous chess players in the UAE. He plays for the renowned Sharjah Chess Club. He learned to play chess at the age of 8. A year later, he participated in competitive tournaments and has never looked back.

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“I remember going to the club back in 2015. It was the first tournament I ever played. It was called the expo tournament,” he shared.

Since then, he has won many tournaments in the UAE and abroad, including the Arab Youth Chess Championship, Western Asia Chess Championship, Dubai Open, U-18 UAE Chess Championship, and many more. His FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs/ International Chess Federation) rating is 2070 in classic, 2010 in rapid, and 1900 in blitz.

Juggling high school pressure

Raji is also an ardent student, aiming to become a chess grandmaster while juggling high school academic pressure. “Initially, I encountered some difficulties when I entered high school, but through time, I could multi-task and organise my time efficiently,” he shared.

His recent tournament was the 25th Asian Youth Chess Championship held in Al Ain on December 11, under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

The UAE Chess Federation organised the tournament in cooperation with the Asian Chess Federation and hosted 1,200 chess players from 46 different countries.

Among the many chess players from different nationalities, Raji was the only Palestinian chess player who represented his nation in the Under-18 Category. He said: “The tournament was strong and extremely competitive but I managed to win most of my games.”

Game of life

But there is one game in life he wants to win the most. His country is being ravaged by the war. Although his family who are residing in Jordan and the UAE all safe, he said it is very challenging to not be worried with the ongoing conflict.

“My family is safe and doing great, as they reside in Jordan and the UAE. But I hope that this war ends so I can visit Palestine one day,” he said.

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