Four Medals in Greece: "This is real chess"
GM Alejandro Ramirez writes about coaching the World Youth squad in Greece, highlighting the four players who came home with hardware.
Group Photo of Team USA, sporting Two Sigma uniforms “I see so many players wearing the USA team uniform I feel like I am playing at home!” Anthony He Open U10
“I’m so glad it’s over… I can’t take it anymore. I mean, we’ve been to nationals – several times – but this… this is another level.”
I didn’t quite recognize him, all I was certain of was that he was a parent of a USA player – it is hard to remember everyone in a 300+ team delegation – but in his face I could see the same expression of mixed feelings that many other parents wore. Relief the stress of the tournament was over, and at the same time appreciation for the greatness of the tournament and the experiences it provides.
Chess in America is rather strange, making it difficult to convey the way tournaments are played in Europe. Weekend swisses, different playing schedules, four rounds in one day… these are concepts that are very familiar to American chess players, especially scholastic participants, but unheard of in the old continent. “This is real chess!” the same parent continued, “It’s a different world”.
The World Youth Chess Championship is the first taste for many of our talents of what tournaments are like in the rest of the globe – and in the professional scene. The tournament lasted a grueling 14 days if one only counts the time it takes to get to Porto Carras, the arrival day and the round days. There is also a rest day, something that most players don’t know how to handle as well as time to prepare for games. When I play tournaments in America sometimes I don’t even bother bringing my computer: why even try to prep when there are more than ten hours of chess per day, and the rest of the day is spent simply sleeping or eating?
Overview of our performance
Chess is a very unforgiving sport. A couple of slight mistakes can ruin a tournament completely, destroying and nullifying months of preparation and weeks of work. Overall, however, I have to say that our delegation did a great job. We had players that were just dipping their toes into the chess world as well as players who thought that anything less than podium was a disaster. At the end of the day, USA brought home four medals, more than any team except for India, who completely swept the tournament with eleven medals, five of which were gold.
Our medalist in the U12 Girls section was Carissa Yip. One of the sassiest twelve year olds I have ever met, Carissa is funny, silly, and extremely witty.
However, when she is in front of a chess board, it is as if she went through a transformation. She is mature, calm, and showed a degree of understanding that surprised me.
Carissa started with 6.0/6, and the way she was playing it seemed that if she overcame her obstacle in round seven she would have a clear path to gold. As it was, she spoiled a promising position, lost and had to play catch-up after that game and a subsequent draw. She recovered, finished on 9.5/11 and was relegated to only silver because of tiebreaks.
Here is a crucial victory of hers:
Agata Bykovtsev was our bronze medal in the U16 Girls. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Agata at a chess camp before, and I always thought of her as a relatively serious and calm person. However, at least in this tournament, she was simply a roller coaster of emotions. She worked extremely hard, and you can tell that just by looking at her deep and on point preparation that she had with her coach Andranik Matikozyan.
Here is a hard-fought victory of hers:
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