'The greatest Arab player since Stamma'

11/19/2007 – When was the last time a player from Africa, or one from an Arab country, dominated the chess world? Philipp Stamma did it, back in the 18th century. Now a lad from Egypt, Ahmed Adly, is following in his tracks. First stage: winning the World Junior Championship, ahead of all the hot European and Asian favourites. Adly is a multi-talent that bears careful watching. Meet Ahmed Adly.

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Ahmed Adly – World Junior Champion from Egypt

Ahmed Adly was the sensational winner of the 2007 World Junior Championship. Adly (2494) upset the heavy favourites Wang Hao (2643), Daniel Stellwagen (2639), and Laznicka (2610), to take clear first by 1/2 point over runner-up Ivan Popov (2539).

Adly was born in Egypt in 1987, and is the quintessential chess tourist, having played in tournaments in over 50 countries. He is one of only two Egyptian GMs, and represents Egypt at tournaments. Adly hopes to popularize chess in Egypt, and plans to open a chess academy next summer. This precocious young man seems to excel at everything he tries. He is a grandmaster of chess, an expert fencer, and has a talent for ice skating, to name just a few of his pursuits. Watch for Ahmed Adly at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansisyk later this month.


Ahmed Adly, World Junior Champion 2007

GM Adrian Mikhailchishin, trainer of the Turkish national team, told us that this young man from Egypt was a truly extraordinary talent, "the greatest Arab players since Stamma!" The reason for thís assessment: Adly has built his success mainly on his own private work, and had, compared to other players, very little formal chess training. "He has one quality that is sadly lacking in many of today's players," says Mikhailchishin. "That is the ability to work entirely on his own, to come up with interesting – very interesting – ideas without having strong players helping him with his analysis."

How Egypt's GM Ahmed Adly won the World Junior

GM Ahmed Adly learned a valuable lesson at the recent African Chess Championships. After losing his first two rounds, he realized that he had to change his approach to chess. He then won six games in a row and qualified for the World Cup. Going into the World Junior Championship, he had a modest sub-2500 rating and sat at #21 on the wall charts. His compatriot GM Bassem Amin was #7 at 2561.

Yet Adly continued his winning ways by scoring 10-3 to emerge ½-point in front of Russian GM Ivan Popov. Chinese grandmaster Wang Hao got the bronze with 9-4. This result must have been a pleasant surprise for Adly and the rest of the Egyptian chess community, but the country has done very well in 2007. Both Adly and Amin have scored well in Middle East tournaments; four Egyptian players qualified for the World Cup; Adly wins World Junior.

Adly becomes the first player from the African continent to win a major world title. This feat is the best performance by an African player since GM-elect Amon Simutowe had a top five finish in the 2000 World Junior Championship. There appears to be quite a bit to celebrate on the continent and representatives will attempt to impress at the World Cup. Adly will be amongst those trying to play at a good standard on the world stage. Congratulations Ahmed Adly!

Source: Chess Drum

Interview by Andi Albers

Hello Ahmed, congratulations on your success in the Junior World Championship! Did you imagine that you could win such a strong tournament? When did you realize that you had a chance to win?

As this year was the last year I would qualify for the U20, I thought I had to do something special. However, I did not expect to win it. I expected one of the first five places, although my federation and my Egyptian coach thought I would finish in the first fifteen. In the last round I realized I had a chance to win the tournament if I won my game.

You started out leading the event, then you lost two games in a row, but then you came back…

Of the two games I lost in a row, the first was an easy draw, and the second was completely winning after some perfect preparation – but I got into time trouble. I usually know how to recover after a setback.

Was this victory your best result in your young chess career?

Of course! It’s the best of the best. I have had some good results before, like at Ryekjavik in 2006, where I had a performance rating of 2725.

You have played with some of the world's leading juniors (minus Radjabov, Karjakin, and Carlsen). What is your impression of your peers? You played in the last round against Georg Meier of Germany. What do you think about him?

I never fear high rated players. For the record, I won against Carlsen with black in Reykjavik 2006. The last round was very hard for me because it wasn't so much about chess strength as about nerves, and feeling pressured to win. A draw would leave me in second – which I didn't want. Actually, while chatting on the Internet with my coach, he advised me to play for a draw, but I felt I should play to win. Georg Meier is a very good player. He has some problems in that he doesn’t usually play for a win with black.

Tell me something about your chess career. From whom did you learn chess? Who was your coach in the last years?

I started out in fencing. I was good at it, and my coaches expected a wonderful future. However, I soon started playing chess, and I loved chess more. My first chess coach thought that I would be Egypt's first grandmaster, at the age of nine. I got the title when I was 16.

Mr. Hassan Khaled was my first coach. He is the technical manager of the Egyptian chess federation. I owe him so much, as he discovered my chess talent when I was young. To this day he helps me psychologically, and keeps pushing me forward. Mr. Igor Rausis was my coach for three months in 2001. He helped me prepare for the world championships in 2001, but didn't believe I would become a good chess player or that I could win. However, in 2007 he did believe in me, and thought that I could become Junior Champion. In fact, he advised me to play for a win in my last round game with Meier. Edvins Kengis was my coach for one year 2005. I owe him a lot as well as he believed in my chess talent and taught me how to become a strong chess player.

How was your welcome when you came back to Egypt? Does anybody know that you are a world champion?

The welcome in Egypt wasn't so special. There was some media attention, so hopefully in the future it will be better.

Egypt is not one of the classical chess countries. Has chess a cultural background or cultural standing in Egypt?

Chess isn't very popular in Egypt. My duty as champion is to help my society, and help them understand how good chess is. My dream is that I will be able to popularize chess in Egypt much like Petrosian did in Armenia.

You are the first world champion from Africa, is this something special for you?

Yes, it means a lot for me to be the first African and Arabic world champion. I hope it will help future Africans and Arabs to have a chance to compete in the world championships.

I read in a German chess magazine that several years ago you were playing in a tournament in Nigeria, and that all the participants got malaria. Is it true that you survived because your next tournament was in Greece and you had access to a good hospital?

Yes, unfortunately. It happened at the African Olympic games. I was very sick and almost died. I was 60 kgs before contracting malaria and 32 kgs after. So you can imagine how bad it was. This stopped me from playing good chess for two years. However, I was more upset to lose two of my team mates, who were less ill than I was. I thank God I am still alive.

I have known you since the Dubai Open in 2004, and I cannot remember seeing you not joking around. Are you ever serious?

Joking always helps me to feel good, but of course I can be serious, especially on the chess board. I don’t want to be like players who have psychological problems, and don't have anything in their life except chess. I prefer to be social and to have a lot of friends around.

What are your plans for the future? How important was this victory for your career?

I hope to be able to compete for the World Championship, and to be amongst the top ten players in the world. This victory is very important for my career. It is helping right now, as I am getting invitations to play in strong tournaments around the world. This makes very happy because I don't have to pay for my plane tickets anymore.

Ahmed, thank you for your time and this interview.

Ahmed Adly has annotated two of his World Junior Championship games in the upcoming ChessBase Magazine 121.


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