Visiting the World Championship in Dubai

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin

When International Master Carlos Perdomo was a guest on my podcast back in May ,we casually discussed the possibility of arranging a group to travel to Dubai to visit the World Chess Championship between reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Challenger Ian Nepomniachti. Before the World Championship was announced, I was interested in traveling to Dubai given the Abraham Accords and how many Jewish travelers were visiting the emirate. Several months later, I bought tickets and made it a reality. I went to Dubai with Carlos and Orrin Hudson, Founder of Be Someone. On my trip, I enjoyed global networking, the excitement of the match and general tourism in Dubai.

At the match, I met people from India, Netherlands, Italy, Israel, Uganda, Norway and many other countries. Outside of the playing hall during Round 1, played a blitz match against FIDE Master Harold Wanyama, the Official coach of Uganda.

We talked about potential partnerships as I shared with him our annual teaching trip with Make a Difference Now in nearby Tanzania.  As our podcast guest  Dean of Scholastic Chess Dewain Barber likes to sway, chess is a language. 

The World Chess Championship is taking place at the Exhibition Center of the Dubai Expo 2020. As the world fair, most countries have a pavilion. Zimbabwe, Krygystan, Armenia, Russia, Spain and other country pavilion features chess as part of the exhibits. On Sunday, November 28, we helped run a chess event at the U.S Pavilion. I experienced music, food and art from all over the globe. Two highlights were the two concerts and Chanukah party at the Israel Pavilion ( in conjunction with the Chabad of UAE) and milk tea and biscuits at the Lower Sudan Pavilion. I built rapport with their volunteer, talking about National Master Majur Juac, who famously was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. 

I was in Dubai for the first three games of the match. While they were all draws, none of them lacked fighting. We saw the Ruy Lopez and Catalan, two openings that we’ve seen repeatedly so far in the first half of the match. Carlsen and Nepomniachti surprised me by rarely sitting at the board at the same time. In contrast, Carlsen mostly played the Shveshnikov Sicilian against challenger Fabiano Caruana in London in 2018. 

I told National Master John MacArthur how it was against the guidelines I give students, in which they should remain alert at the board and think on their opponent’s time. However, he told me he encourages students to walk around and recalibrate. While one should not walk around too much where its distracting to himself, it does make sense for him to do to remain energized. There is a reason that when our podcast guest Grandmaster Timur Garayev won the World Record for Biggest Blindfold Chess Exhibition ( 47 players), he rode an exercise bike for the 12 hours to keep his energy flowing. 

Outside of the playing hall, Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who Carlsen took the World Championship title away from in 2013, and Anna Muzychuk did FIDE’s official commentary. They were educational and did not use computers. While it could get a little boring  in the spectator area of the playing hall (behind sody and easygoing. While I did get a chance to go, I heard the beach is beautiful. I did though take a desert excursion and enjoyed getting outside of my comfort zone, exploring in a Sand Dune safari, driving in an ATV and sand surfing. 

If you have not yet been to a World Championship match yet, it is definitely a worthwhile experience. This was my second; in 2016, I attended one of the games of the Carlsen- Karjakin match in the South Street Seaport in my hometown of New York. The match  goes on until December 14 and flights are still reasonably priced so consider going to Dubai now if you have some vacation days left for the year. 

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