Shamema Chess News from Abu Dhabi

Here is a chess game my daughter, Shamema Honzagool Sloan, played in a tournament in Abu Dhabi when she was five years old. The game was published in the the Gulf News on May 13, 1987. I thought that I had misplaced the article. I found it when I was going through some old papers yesterday. Her birth date is October 15, 1981, so she was five years old when this game was played.

My daughter's opponent was a master. The reason for this pairing was that, in this particular tournament, the director adopted an unusual pairing system. Instead of pairing the top half against the bottom half, as is normal in Swiss System chess tournaments, the director paired the strongest player against the weakest player, as is done in tennis tournaments and other knock out events.

My daughter's paired opponent protested to the director, saying that it was unfair that he, a master, be paired against a child. My daughter was the only child in this tournament. All of the other players were adults.
The Gulf News, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 13, 1987
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 13, 1987

This was one of only two chess tournaments that my daughter Shamema ever played in. The other one was the giant blitz tournament at the 1988 World Chess Olympiad in Saloniki, Greece. My daughter was given the youth prize for that tournament, but I think that was mainly because again she was the only child in the tournament, which had more than 500 players.

The mother of my daughter was Honzagool, from Chitral, Pakistan. My daughter, Shamema, was later kidnapped in Abu Dhabi in 1990 by Christian Religious Fundamentalists and taken to Lynchburg, Virginia, where she was held by them for ten years until 2000. She is now in the US Marines.

The game was rather strange because the master opponent of my daughter played unusually cautiously. He allowed a trade of queens and went into an early endgame. However, on move 15, my daughter put a knight en pris. After that, knowing that the game was won, her opponent started fooling around, not bothering to take a second piece when she left that en pris too.

I am not sufficiently familiar with scholastic chess players to evaluate this game. I would like for anybody who is familiar with scholastic players to express an opinion as to whether her playing ability was above average, below average, exceptional, weak or whatever. One point I would like to make is that my daughter kept the score of the game herself. She did this by writing down the coordinate squares, as in E2-E4 or G1-F3 for example, which she read off the sides of the board. In the photos in the newspaper clippings, you can see my daughter holding a pen as she writes down the moves. I see that many children in chess tournaments even older than five years cannot keep score at all.

My daughter played the game entirely on her own. I did not go anywhere near the board during the game. She did not even follow my advice. I had told her to start with d2-d4. Instead, she started with e2-e4; a disobedient child.

Here is the game and the newspaper clippings from both the Gulf News and the Khaleej Times:

[Event "Ramadan Open"]
[Site "Abu Dhabi"]
[Date "1987.05.12"]
[Round "01"]
[White "Sloan,Shamema Honzagool"]
[Black "Abu Bakr,Aiman"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B08"]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be2 Nf6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.O-O c6 7.Bg5 Nbd7
8.Re1 e5 9.Rc1 b5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Qxd8 Rxd8 13.Rcd1
Be6 14.Rxd8+ Rxd8 15.Nd5 cxd5 16.exd5 Rxd5 17.Bf3 e4 18.Bd1 h6
19.Bh4 g5 20.Bg3 a6 21.a4 bxa4 22.b3 a3 23.Be2 a2 24.b4 Rd2
25.Ra1 Rxe2 26.Rxa2 Re1# 0-1
Here is the Gulf News article in full text:

Five-year-old Shamema makes her move - GN Photo by Ataur Rahman

Chess Row over Toddler

By A Sports Reporter

THE first round of the Ramadan Open Chess Championship concluded in Abu Dhabi with all but one of the fancied players winning.

The only incident of note took place when Aiman Abu Bakr, one of the strongest players in the tournament, at first refused to take his seat against his opponent, five-year-old Shamema Sloan.

Abu Bakr protested his pairing to the tournament director, Hassam Rustom, saying that it was unfair to let a five-year-old girl participate and also contending that his tie-breaking points would be adversely affected by the pairing.

In Swiss system chess tournaments, it is normal for the strongest players to play the weakest players in the first round.

Since Abu Bakr had received the normal pairing, his protest was disallowed.

This incident delayed the opening ceremony of the tournament by about fifteen minutes.

Strangely, when the game finally started, Abu Bakr played as though was afraid of his opponent. Instead of attacking, he started allowing exchanges of pieces so that by the fourteenth move, each side had only a rook, a knight, two bishops and seven pawns left.

The game was clearly drawish, with Shamema actually having a slight advantage.

However, five-year-old Shamema then made a childish blunder, losing a knight. The game was over in 26 moves.

The only minor upset occurred when Edgar agreed to a draw with his countryman Raoul, both from the Philippines.

The other results on the top boards were as follows:

Alaam (Egypt) defeated Abdulrehman (Somalia); Latif (Pakistan ) defeated Bilbao (Philippines); Zlyad Khan (Pakistan) defeated Lobo; Homsi (Syria) defeated D'Silva (India); Barazanji (Syria) defeated Sheriff (India); H. Abdullah (UAE) defeated Mostafa (Jordan); Abu Bakr Ali (India) defeated Salim (Pakistan) and Ismail Sloan (USA) defeated Basheer (India).

The tournament was opened by Khalfan Al Mohairbi.

Over 50 players from 12 countries are participating

However, the strongest player in Abu Dhabi, Toufeik Catalan, a professional chess trainer from Syria, is not playing because of his duties as an arbiter in the tournament.

The game between Shamema Sloan and Aiman Abu Baker went as follows:

Pirc defence 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be2 Nf6 5. Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 c6 7.Bg5 Nbd7 8.Rel e5 9.Rcl b5 10.de5 Ne5 11. Ne5 de5 12.Qd8+ Rd8 13. Rcd1 Be6 14.Rd8+ Rd8 15. Nd5 cd5 16. ed5 Rd5 17.Bf3 e4 18. Bd1 h6 19.Bh4 g5 20. Bg3 a6 21.a4 ba4 22.b3 a3 23.Be2 a2 24.b4 Rd2 25.Ral Re2 26.Ra2 Rel# 0-1

At 07:56 PM 9/30/2002 -0700, J Meyers wrote:

Having worked with many kids, including a number of talented 4 and 5 year olds, I can tell you the game is very good. The modern defense is an excellent choice against young kids, who usually have no idea how to play against it. Noteworthy is the fact that she does not fall into the back rank mate by capturing on e4 at move 18, even though she gets back ranked later.

However, talent at a young age does not always turn into supertalent later.

Jerry Meyers

At 12:25 AM 10/1/2002 -0400, Lonnie Kwartler wrote:

Hi Sam,

I have taught chess to students from preschool through 12th grade for years. Now that I have been retarded, I mean retired, I am teaching in various programs. The game Shamema played was in some ways good for a 5 year old.

Keeping score is often difficult for a 5 year old. Readiness is one issue. Another is their handwriting in the space on a score sheet. You did not give information on that, except that she did keep score. In many tournaments, scores are not kept in sections that will not be rated.

The opening play was good. Two pawns occupied the center, pieces were brought out, and rooks were centralized. The queen was not moved "too early" and stayed home until it was exchanged. Kids often make too many pawn moves, create weaknesses, and neglect development. Kids will often move the same pawn or piece repeatedly until it runs out of moves. She didn't do these things. You might have played some pieces elsewhere, possibly Qd2, but she followed general principles. Of course, an instructor has to know the mistakes that will be made in advance, such as not looking at the opponent's last move and just playing a planned move, not to mention an impulsive move, for example, 1.g4. Sam, did you ever try to throw your opponent off with 1.g3? That's the g4 deferred.

After Nd5 the game was over and more errors followed. Keeping score may have reduced Shamema's concentration. Keeping score and playing the game is, for a 5 year old, something like you playing a simul. Everyone will tell you, though, beat the kids while you can. They are coming for us - and we like it!


Dear Lonnie,

Thank you for your letter and your comments.

By the way, several people have asked if I would teach my kids to play 1. g4. Of course, I would never do that.

Shamema would write her moves in large block letters like E2E4. She would read the letters and numbers off the sides of the board. It was important that the board be set up so that if she was white, the square A1 would be at her left hand corner and not the square H8. If the board was not set up correctly in that way, I was usually not able to figure out her scoresheet.

Unfortunately, I lost all of my daughter's original scoresheets after my brother first arranged to have Shamema kidnapped by the Roberts, then had our mother locked up, then sold my mother's house and had all my mother's personal property deposited in a trash dump.

Sam Sloan

For other photos see:

Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: