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Exclusive Interview with Fide Master Faisal Khairallah

6 times!!! Champion of Lebanon

Faisal: My main opponent was myself!!

Scoop!! The first Chess Academy in Lebanon!!

Short Biography:

Born on the 8th of May 1975 in Bhamdoun, Faisal has a Master in Economics and Business Administration from the Freiburg University in Germany, and was twice the chess champion of his city. He obtained the title of the Fide Master at the 2003 zonal in Dubai. Faisal won in December 2012 the Lebanese individual championship for the six times. Also he won the Rapid Individual Championship in 2008. He was member of the Olympic team in the years: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2012. His best Arab performance was his 5th place during the Arab Individual Championship in Dubai 2004. He was decorated by the Silver medals during the Arab Clubs leagues in Amman 2008 (playing then for AlRiyadi Club), and during the Arab teams in Beirut 2009. His best memorial ranks were his second place in the Bois-Colombes Open tournament in France (2nd place among 80!) and in r2-c2 Paris tournament (2nd place).

Impressions on the championship

Charles Kayle: Congratulations Faisal for winning the Championship, and for the 6th times.

Faisal Khairallah: Thank you Charles.

CK: Can you please tell us about your impressions on the championship, which was held in the Golden Tulip Hotel?

FK: The playing hall was much better than the last one, which was held at Assafir newspapers building. It is spacer, less noisy, excellent services, although the hotel location is far from the center of Beirut.

CK: What about the level of the championship?

FK: In my opinion, the last 2 players in the final ranking should not be qualified, because it was like a 9 rounds championship, not 11. The Lebanese Chess Federation (LCF) should not qualify that number of players.

CK: and what do you suggest to improve the formula?

FK: I suggest that the number of qualifiers should depend on the strength of the qualification championship, i.e. more higher rated players would be much better.

Technical part

CK: let’s move to the technical part of the championship. How did you prepare for it?

FK: I didn’t prepare too much. I mainly was following the main international events, like London, and the analysis of the top players. With some training games on the internet, I was in a chess mood. In general, I play against my opponents’ weaknesses, and try to reach positions where they can’t put their strength into play.

CK: How was your feeling before the start of the championship?

FK: I thought I was the favorite to win it. My main opponent was myself!! The main motive was to stay in good health and in full concentration and my main concern was how I should manage my preparation for the event and my work time table.

CK: Let’s start with round 1. How did you prepare against Dr. Mahmoud Maasarani? Especially as you knew the colors in advance as it was a Round-Robin event.

FK: Dr. Maasarani’s play was not difficult to forecast. I was expecting his play. The critical moment of our game was when he played 7.Qb3, a move which he already played before. I expected that he would reach this position, and I felt relieved when he played 8.Ng5, because it was a premature attack. His move 11.h4 weakened his kingside. Another critical moment aroused when he didn’t play 17.Qc1 (instead of 17.Nd2) attacking my h6 pawn.

CK: in the second round, you faced Bassel Sharaf with the White pieces.

FK: The preparation against Bassel was not easy as it is more difficult to predict what he is going to play. When he returned back his knight to f6, I had the possibility to play Nb5, threatening Nc7. And in case of cxN, Bc7 was in order to win his Queen (Rubinstein’s trap – CK). I saw the idea some moves earlier, then I forgot it!! It took me a lot of time to digest this missed opportunity as it would have given me a decisive advantage (it is a standard tactical motive.) Another critical moment occurred when, instead of his Rad8, he should play c5 with counter-play.

CK: You had Black in round 3 against Amir AbouElHusn.

FK: That was a tough game. My opponent played very well. Actually he impressed me with his play. At the beginning he played well, then, he collapsed.

CK: Your opponent in round 4 was Mahdi Kaouri.

FK: I missed his move (Kh7!) after Rxg6. I was worried about my chances in order to win the issuing endgame.

CK: In round 5, you meet Tarek Moudallal.

FK: Tarek surprised me in the opening! He managed to build a strong attack in the endgame phase. But at one point he wasn’t able to continue with his attack due to time trouble.

CK: In round 6, you had to face the young Ibrahim Chahrour, who inflected on you the only loss.

FK: I was 20 minutes late to the game due to the traffic jam and demonstrations in the streets. So I arrived in a nervous state without any concentration, which caused me to miss a mat in 2 or 3 moves.


CK: The critical round was the 7th one, as you have to face with the Black pieces Antoine Kassis, with whom you were then leading the event.

FK: It was indeed a critical round, as both of us were leading the championship. In this game, I played for the first time of my life the Modern Defense in a serious game. In order to avoid any preparation, he avoided to play his regular repertoire. But with passive moves, he got rapidly a bad position (e.g. the move h3), abandoning the center instead of fighting for it with c3 move.

CK: Another critical encounter was your game with Amr ElJawish in round 8.

FK: Concerning the preparation against Amr, I wanted to play safe. That’s why I chose the Caro-Kann, and was not objecting for a draw due to the championship situation.

CK: Then he replied with the Panov!?

FK: He surprised me with it as it was the first time he played it, especially c5. At a certain moment, as he was in a big time trouble, I tried to complicate the game with the move e6-e5, which was objectively not a good one, but was an attempt to win. But he found the refutation, and missed good chances to win the game.

CK: Your impression about your round 9 game with Mohammad Mikati.

FK: He was in a positional zugzwang, as he couldn’t move any of his pieces. He played too passively.

CK: Another important round was the 10th one, when you faced Ahmad Najjar with the Black pieces.

FK: Against Ahmad I played again the Modern, which was an excellent decision, because he wasn’t used to play this kind of positions. He surprised me with his passive play.

CK: your last round draw against Jamal Shamiyeh, after just 2 moves, was a surprise!

FK: I was happy with this early draw, as it allowed me to secure the championship title especially that Jamal is able to play dangerously.

CK: So, you lost to the youngest player of the tournament, made a draw with another young player, and a Lebanese Guinness draw!

FK: What made me happy in the championship were my 2 crushing wins with Black against Number 2 and Number 3 in the starting list of the event, taking into consideration the tension and the importance of the games.



CK: Do you have any suggestions to the new board of LCF?

FK: It is important for the LCF to find sponsors, with the main target: 1. Bringing trainers for the adults and young players 2. Give support to participate in local and international tournaments, as this is the only way to improve our chess level. And in order to attract sponsors, the LCF has to offer to them a good product, like dress code implementation, nice playing areas and media coverage in order to satisfy the sponsors. Why not transmit the games live on the internet?! This is one of the attractive ideas that can satisfy the sponsors. Also TV coverage is a must in order to cover the events.

CK: What do you suggest to the new raising players?

FK: They should read more books on middle and end games. I suggest to them to read Dvorestsky’s books. For the beginners, they should focus on tactics. I can also advise the players to analyze the games of the champions, the past and the present ones.

CK: What do you think about the role of the Champion?

FK: The champion should have his say in the federation. It is not normal that the champion is not invited to LCF meetings and not asked for his opinion, as he is a model for other players and has usually great experience.

CK: When was your critical chess moment in your life?

FK: It was in my first national individual championship that I won (2002). It was a turning point in my life as I stopped working as a consultant, and started dedicating my time to chess teaching.

CK: What is your next plan or ambition?


CK: What is your next plan or ambition?

FK: (after a long thinking) I see myself as a chess teacher, so as to pass my chess education to others. I have been teaching chess full time since 2002 (at University Saint Joseph, in schools, in companies and give private sessions, as I hold the “FIDE trainer” since 2007, the second highest title delivered by the World Chess Federation).

I believe that chess is good for the development of the children education, as it is proven that chess increases the children’ school grades and plays a basic role in their social and educational environments, especially in improving their logic, memory, concentration, and their strategic thinking. Also chess let the children learn to respect the rules, and increases their fighting spirit.

For all those above reasons, I am glad to announce, through your website, Charles, the opening of a Chess Academy next month (February 2013).

CK: WOW!! It is indeed a great scoop! Can you please enlighten our readers more about this first-to-be in Lebanon project?

FK: I have already rented a 200 square meters flat (and 100 square meters garden) in a villa in Gemayze (Mar Antonios street).

The academy will offer chess courses for adults (the whole day) and for children (afternoon and Saturday). We are offering courses for companies. There are 3 teaching rooms. There will be at least 2 teachers helping me in the teaching. In summer children will be able to play in the garden. The school will offer latest teaching technologies (digital boards, analysis of the games with computer and viewing of the analysis on LCD).

CK: After this wonderful news, allow me to ask you the final (classical) question: What was the game that made a strong impression on you?

FK: Short-Timman Tilburg 1991

Short,Nigel D (2660) – Timman,Jan H (2630) [B04]

Tilburg 1991

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bg7 7.Qe2 Nc6 8.0–0 0–0 9.h3 a5 10.a4 dxe5 11.dxe5 Nd4 12.Nxd4 Qxd4 13.Re1 e6 14.Nd2 Nd5 15.Nf3 Qc5 16.Qe4 Qb4 17.Bc4 Nb6 18.b3 Nxc4 19.bxc4 Re8 20.Rd1 Qc5 21.Qh4 b6 22.Be3 Qc6 23.Bh6 Bh8 24.Rd8 Bb7 25.Rad1 Bg7 26.R8d7 Rf8 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.R1d4 Rae8 29.Qf6+ Kg8 30.h4 h5 31.Kh2 Rc8 32.Kg3 Rce8 33.Kf4 Bc8 34.Kg5 1–0


CK: Thank you Faisal for your time.


FK: Thank you Charles for your effort.


Faisal has analyzed the following game of the championship exclusively to be included in our article:


(1) Najjar,A – Khairallah,Faisal [B06]

Lebanese Individual Chess Championship, 17.12.2012


a very important game from the competitive point of view. 1.d4 g6!? I wanted to surprise Ahmad with this move! 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 a6 5.a4 I was sure that he would push the a-pawn to avoid my active counter-play with b7-b5. 5…b6 6.Bc4 e6 [I saw that 6...Bb7 is very risky because of the standard sacrifice 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Ng5+ Ke8 9.Ne6 Qd7 10.Nxg7+ Kf8 11.Nh5 gxh5 12.Qxh5] 7.0–0 Ne7 8.Bg5 h6 9.Be3 0–0 10.Qd2 Kh7 blacks setup is called rats. Even Kasparov used it in a recent friendly match against Nigel Short. It is a bit risky because white controls the center, but it is very flexible. 11.Ne1 I was shocked by this move! I felt relieved. When the center is not blocked such retreats are usually not good. He had more useful moves, for ex. Rfe1 11…d5! [11...f5 12.f3] 12.exd5 exd5 13.Ba2 Nbc6 14.h3 Na5 15.Ne2?! Again a retreat! Before the game I thought Ahmad needs to win this game at all price. He played too passively. [15.Nf3 Nc4 16.Bxc4 dxc4 17.Ne5] 15…Nc4! 16.Bxc4 dxc4 black won bishop pair. 17.c3 Bb7 18.f3 Nd5 19.Nc2 Re8 20.Bf2 h5 to improve the bishop, and to target weak e3 square 21.Qd1 Bh6 22.Re1 Qg5 23.h4 Qf5 [23...Qf6 24.Na3 Ne3 25.Qb1 Nxg2] 24.Ng3 Qd3 25.Rxe8? White’s position is bad, but this move is probably the decisive mistake. Why give up the control of e-file? 25…Rxe8 26.Ne1 Qxd1 27.Rxd1 this endgame is in my opinion lost for White. He has too many weaknesses and black is dominating. 27…Bc6 [27...Nf4 28.Kf1 f5 29.a5 Kg7] 28.Ra1 f5 [28...a5] 29.a5 b5 30.Nc2 Nf4 31.Nb4 Bb7 32.Kf1? [32.Re1 was more tenacious] 32…Nd3 33.Nxd3? [33.Rb1] 33…cxd3 34.Rd1 Bd5 Did Ahmad miss this move? 35.Kg1 [35.Rxd3 Bc4] 35…d2 36.Nf1 Re2 37.Ng3 Bb3 38.Ra1 Rxf2 [38...Re8 was stronger] 39.Kxf2 d1Q the second time in this championship that I promote my d-pawn in a Queen in the modern defense (see game against Kassis). Watch out guys! 40.Rxd1 Bxd1 Whites position is hopeless. 41.Ke1 Bb3 42.Ne2 Bc4 43.Ng1 b4 44.Kd1 Bb3+ 45.Ke2 Bc1 46.cxb4 Bc4+ 47.Kd1 Bxb2 48.Kc2 Bxd4 49.Nh3 Kg7 50.f4 Kf6 51.Ng5 Bd5 52.Kd3 Bf2 53.Nf3 Bxf3 54.gxf3 c6 Ahmad resigned 0–1


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