Fide Master Saeed Ishaq captures his first title this year Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Fide Master (FM) Saeed Ishaq won three straight matches in the final stretch, capped by a dramatic last-round victory over the erstwhile tournament leader to win the recently-concluded 2nd Dubai Closed Tournament — and move a step closer to earning an international master (IM) title.

With his solid title-clinching performance in the six-player, double round-robin event that featured chess masters from five countries, Ishaq was awarded the first-of-three norms required for an IM title by the International Chess Federation (Fide).

After trailing for most part of the tournament by at least a full point, Ishaq picked up the pace starting in the eighth round when he pulled within half a point of the lead with a win over the Philippines’ FM Julius De Ramos.

He scored another win in the penultimate ninth round, beating Bulgarian Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Adriana Nikolova, but tournament-leader IM Julijan Plenca of Croatia maintained his slim edge with a victory over IM Nanko Dobrev of Bulgaria.

This set the stage for a final-round championship showdown between Ishaq and Plenca, which the Emirati dutifully won to claim his first major title of the year.

“This is a very important tournament victory for Saeed Ishaq as he steps up his international campaign towards becoming the UAE’s next grandmaster,” said Yahya Mohammad Saleh, Dubai Chess and Culture Club’s planning and development manager who oversees the training and development program of the players under contract with the club. 

“Dubai Chess Club is fully committed to support him, along with all the top chess talents of Dubai. His results in this tournament underline the progress we have achieved in raising the level of competitiveness of our local players.”

Ishaq, who last month received a major boost to his campaign after being signed to an incentive contract with the Dubai Chess and Culture Club, scored 6.5 points from 10 games.

Plenca had six points to settle for second place.

IM Irina Bulmaga of Romania, who led the tournament in the early rounds, also had six points but settled for third place after the tiebreaks were applied.

Dobrev had 5.5 points, Nikolova had four points and De Ramos had two points to round out the standings.

The event, which was organised and hosted by Dubai Chess and Culture Club, was played under the standard time control of one hour and 30 minutes plus a 30-second increment per move to complete a game.