Hey everybody! It has been a long time since I have last blogged, but it has been pretty crazy with the Holidays! And chess is always pretty busy for me! But with all the craziness I still figured I need to blog about the World Youth Chess Championships 2012 in Slovenia. If you read my last blog than you probably know how I did in the end! But in this blog I really want to focus on my highlights and key games to becoming the U14 World Chess Champion!
One of the hardest parts about playing in a tournament far away is the time difference. Because of the time difference when you are playing it might be like the middle of the night for you and I don't know about everyone else, but my brain just really doesn't like to think at that point! A bed sounds much better! So to kind of help with that we (my mom and I) flew in a week earlier to Austria and it was a dual opportunity to get adjusted to the time zone and also to work and get my brain warmed up with my coach before the tournament. Working with my coach was great! But one of the things you always notice when you go out of the country is the different culture. We were in Burgau, Austria which is a small village with a relatively small population (at least compared to where I live) of about 1000 people. You could just tell the difference in culture as it was obvious in the building styles and even in the air as we walked around it just really had a different feel for me. It was very enjoyable to see, but one of the biggest difference was how long the meals were! At our hotel we were served some very nice lunches and dinners, but every meal took about one hour which (especially for lunch) is not usual for me. I mean hurrying and putting something frozen in the microwave and eating it doesn't take that long! But the food was fabulous! And then the last night we had a special dinner which was seven different courses in which they serve a small amount of some of their best meals. It was very good without a doubt, but it took 4-hours! To some of you that are reading this maybe that is regular, but not for me. I mean I thought chess games took a while, but just do a meal like this every game and hey it would take about the same amount of time. It was a fun experience and after the week it was about a three and a half hour trip to get to our hotel in Maribor, Slovenia.
Our hotel in Maribor was nice, most of the US team stayed in the hotel where the U10 Girls and U8 Open and Girls sections were played, the hotel Habakuk, but we (and a few other US Players) were in a hotel on top of the mountain (quite literally)! We were in hotel Bellevue which was about a 10 minute cable car ride down the mountain to where the tournament was (which was a lot better than by car which was an hour). The hotel was nice, but unfortunately the food wasn't that good and actually made several people (including myself) sick throughout the tournament. Luckily for me, I got the most sick on the rest day which didn't make for a fun touring day, but at least I wasn't playing. It was a big difference from the great food in Austria! We eventually found an Italian restaurant (I have a new love and appreciation for Italian food now) and ate there everyday for lunch. Other than that there were tons of hotels hosting other countries.
The other sections (U18, U16, U14, U12 Open and Girls and the U10 Open) were by the hotel Habakuk at a Sports Center (the Dras Center). Overall from our hotel room down to the playing hall was about 15 minutes which is not bad at all.
This was my third time playing in a tournament out of the country and second time playing in a World Youth tournament (the other time was in Greece http://blog.chess.com/KaydenTroff/playing-against-the-world). The biggest difference from the tournaments in the US and the WYCC is the round times. Now I don't mean one is at 1:00 and one is at 7:00, but in the US most tournaments are two games a day and at WYCC they are one game a day except one day with two games. This is a HUGE difference! With games going about 4 hours, with only one game a day that means a whole lot more time. Now most of this time I used for preparation for my game. The previous two months before the tournament I had done a lot of opening work. New openings can be hard to remember sometimes, but with a lot of time before each game it made it easier to be able to study my openings before the game. Some of this time preparing was on my own, but then I would go and work with GM Alejandro Ramirez (who was a US Team provided coach). I enjoyed working with Alejandro and he is a good friend of mine! (You can check out his article after the tournament here: http://www.uschess.org/content/view/11980/688/) So all the work before the tournament and all the work during the tournament definitely helped, but now I want to point out my games that were key for winning in the end.
My first round game:
This game in every tournament is always important for me because it is the first round. Like a first impression, this game can really get me heading strong into the rest of the tournament. It also is the "warm up" game. After not playing in a tournament in a while this is the game that I try to really get into the tournament mind set.
My fourth round game:
For those that know my results in the tournament, you know I lost my game in round three to a player I played in the WYCC at Greece in 2010; not just any player either, but the one I drew in the last round giving me the silver instead of the gold in Greece. Losing (especially to a lower rated player) is a real set back not just point wise, but in your mental focus especially early in a tournament that is 11 rounds long!! That made this game (my fourth round) even scarier because I had just lost and the opening in this game didn't go very well for me. So fighting back in the middle game and winning really saved me to get back into a good mental focus of going in and winning the tournament.
My ninth round game:
After drawing in round eight, I figured I probably had to win my last three games if I still wanted a chance at 1st place and the Gold Medal. This was the first of those three game and after the opening went pretty well for me I was feeling confident, but then he hit me with a surprise move 27.Bf6! After getting a winning position out of the opening I had felt extremely scared that I might be losing after Bf6... After calming myself down I managed to find a very strong move 27...Re2! which after several good moves brought me a win. It wasn't until after analyzing my game with GM Alejandro Ramirez that night that I found out 27...Re2 is not only a good move, but in fact the ONLY move that doesn't lose! This game was both a needed game for points and a needed game as it gave me excitement and adrenaline for the last two games.
My tenth round game:
This game was good game on both sides, but the scary thing was that it was equal for most of the game. This was a problem for both me and my opponent since we both needed to win to have any chance to catch the leader of the tournament. Somewhere in the middle of the game he could have played for a draw, but instead my opponent played for the win (he was white which I think gave him added reason to play for the win). Because he played on for the win I was able to some how sneak a win. This game was key because if I had drawn instead of won I would have been 1.5 points away from the leader with one round left and thus no realistic way of getting Gold. This was the point in the game were he just made a mistake and I found the move that turned the game to my favor:
My eleventh round game:
My opponent here had lost in round three just like me, but then he won 7 games in a row to be leading with 9 out of 10. Going into this game he was in clear first with 9/10 and I was the only one that could catch him with 8/10 since everyone else had 7.5 or lower. Of course there were a lot of nerves, but for me, I had White and I was really excited to go in there and try and get it done. He offered me a draw on move 5 which I think just made me more confident. He went into my preparation and I got a good position out of the opening and kept it and by move 22 I knew my position was strong and actually it was pretty much winning. On move 26 I think he knew it was over and reluctantly he thought and pretty much resigned without resigning by letting me checkmate him on move 27. I knew I had just guaranteed myself a medal, but we were tied at 9/11 and I knew he had better tiebreaks going into this round and from the results it looked like he would still have better tiebreaks than me. It wasn't until I saw my mom on my way back from the tournament room and she said, "You just won the gold!!" She told me that the first tiebreak was head-to-head and since I had just beat him in our game that meant I also beat him on tiebreaks!
After the final game it was all celebration and, of course, relaxation after a long tournament! And it definitely wasn't just me celebrating as three other kids from the US team brought home a medal! Sam Sevian took Gold in U12 Open and Cameron Wheeler took silver in U12 Open! And then Christopher Shen took bronze in the U8 Open! Here is the article on uschess.org about it http://www.uschess.org/content/view/11977/688/. Many congratulations to these three that got medals! You guys did great and I will definitely be cheering for you in future events!... Unless we play
This was my road to U14 World Champion after A LOT of work... and some luck! But I couldn't have done it without help! Thanks to everyone that supports and helps me!
Happy New Year everyone!