x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Olympiad competition is good move for Dubai chess player

While his friends are out partying, Ikrom Ilhomzoda is at home poring over chess move. The 19-year-old will be competing in the Chess Olympiad in Turkey in August.

"No matter what, my work will always be related to chess," says Ikrom Ilhomzoda.

DUBAI // While his friends are out partying, 19-year-old Ikrom Ilhomzoda is home poring over chess moves.

He records almost every move he sees in an exercise book.

"They've been playing chess for 20 centuries and only five per cent of moves have been discovered. It keeps me interested and basically I learn and understand this", he said.

"I cannot satisfy my career and write every move and combination that exists on the board.

"I try to draw a diagram of every move and record each position and study it because you don't know the move the opponent will play on the day."

Ikrom, originally from Tajikistan, will be competing in the Chess Olympiad in Turkey at the end of August - the next rung on his quest to become a chess grandmaster.

"Everyone is my opponent in chess. Even if we are best friends outside, if you feel sorry for your opponent you will never win. You need a feeling of killing him over the board. If not, you will never beat him. It is as simple as that," he said.

He considers the game of chess a sport, but rather than building physical strength he says he must build mental strength. Studying moves is his exercise.

"You have to mentally prepared to meet all the answers. If not, you will lose."

As a young boy, Ikrom would sit on his grandfather's knee as he played against friends in Tajikistan.

When Ikrom was 6, his grandfather began pitting him against his own friends. At 9, he sent Ikrom to chess school.

Today, Ikrom's focus is on doing well at the olympiad, where all the best chess players will be - including his hero, British grandmaster Nigel Short.

To reach his goal of grandmaster, he needs to earn 2,500 Elo points. He has collected 2,220 so far and he reckons he'll have to play 100 games to win the remaining points he needs.

When he's not playing chess, Ikrom is working on his degree in telecommunications engineering at the Canadian University of Dubai. When he graduates next year, he will move to India to gain much-needed Elo points.

"India is the heart of chess," he said. "They have tournaments on a weekly basis."

If he doesn't become grandmaster, he says he will fall back on his degree.

"It is why I chose this major: because I can design a chess programme. First I will try chess, but if in two or three years I don't reach the level I want, I will go back to the text books and write the best chess programme in the world," he said.

"No matter what, my work will always be related to chess."

eharnan@thenational.ae