A Grandmaster in Beirut

7/5/2005 – It is not often that you can spot a veritable chess grandmaster in this war-torn region. But Nigel Short, who had made friends with Lebanese players on the Playchess server, undertook the trip to the Middle East, to give a simul, see the country and meet the people. Illustrated report.

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Nigel Short visits Lebanon

Recently, from June 17-22, GM Nigel Short made a long-awaited visit to Lebanon. The five-day sojourn was more of a tourist experience than a professional trip for the British former world championship challenger. Nigel got a chance to indulge in Lebanon’s cultural amenities and play some chess along the way.


Member of Parliament and President of Lebanese Chess Federation, Dr. Ammar Houri, giving Short a “thank you” plaque.

On Saturday June 18th, the Beirut Development Association Chess Club organized a 23-board simultaneous match with Short. It is the most active chess club in Lebanon, led by IA Abdallah Chahine. Some players from the club had first met Short via the Playchess server, and from there he was invited to conduct the simultaneous.


Simul in Lebanon: Nigel Short plays against members of a Beirut chess club

The simultaneous games elicited the participation of many players from Lebanon’s national chess team. The games lasted nearly four hours, and were all in all rather tiring for Short, who nonetheless still managed to score 18 wins and five draws.


On his way to 18 wins and five draws


These players rarely get to face a West European grandmaster


How does he do it? How can anyone be so good at chess?

The rest of Short’s days in Lebanon were spent vacationing and exploring Lebanon’s beautiful travelers’ sites. On Sunday morning Nigel was taken to Lebanon’s famous 6200-meter Jeita cavern, famous for its wealthy grottoes, pink-hued limestone, and massive orchids. In the evening he visited Beirut’s downtown where he got to explore the renovated and traditional French architecture and eat in the area’s chic cafés.


The famous “Saint George” seafront with some fast boats

On Monday the day started early with a visit to Beirut’s Rawche, an area spanning the entirety of the Mediterranean Sea, where he visited some of the area’s landmarks. Nigel was then taken to a different part of Beirut’s downtown where he got to see the ancient Roman Baths and Phoenician Ruins. He then went to the Lebanese Government building, a monolithic structure of historical importance as it used to be a barracks for the Ottomans in Lebanon.


The “Governmental Saray”...


with ancient excavations in front of it


The GM confronted with Middle Eastern history


A Christian church in Lebanon


Downtown Beirut getting ready for a busy night….


Nigel dining with members of the chess club


...and posing in front of a city landmark


The marks of a war-torn region


...in the process of reconstruction

Nigel Short’s last full day in Lebanon was spent mainly relaxing in his hotel luxuries. In the evening he went dining in a restaurant famous for its unique Lebanese cuisine, in the company of some chess buffs from the federation. There Short proved to be a skilled raconteur, as he told of some of his most remarkable experiences with chess over the past 30 years of playing.

Report and pictures by Mazen Fakhani


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