Minnesota's Young Talents at World Youth 2017
Over the last two weeks, the youngest elite of the chess world gathered together in Brazil, to dispute the World Youth Chess Championship in the categories under 8, under 10, and under 12. Over the last several years, the state of Minnesota has made substantial progress, when it comes to organizing regular tournaments, and providing some of the opportunities that young talented players need in order to improve past amateur level. Three of our young players attended this event: Alice Li in girls under 8, her brother Linden Li competed in Boys under 12, and Nastassja Matus competed in girls under 12.
For Alice and Linden, this was their first opportunity to compete in an event of this caliber, and they did so in great form. Alice managed to tie for 3rd place with 8/11, though she finished 5th on tiebreaks. She finished higher than all other American players in her category, thus confirming she is in fact the strongest American girl in her age group. Her brother Linden had a strong first performance with 6.0/11. Both of their performances are very promising, considering that these siblings played their first chess competition only 1 year ago.
Nastassja Matus has already accumulated plenty of World Championship experience over the years. This is her fifth event, but this year her chances were much higher, as she has been accumulating a series of excellent results over the last year. Nastassja obtained the Woman Fide Master title last year, after winning the Pan American under 12 (at age 11), and this year, she obtained 4th place at the Pan American under 18, quite a convincing display of her ability. She also managed to win the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational Event, overcoming the nation's top high school and middle school female players, again, in a very convincing fashion.
Nastassja's results did not disappoint. She was able to defeat former World Champion Rakshitta Ravi (Greece 2015, under-10) among many other strong players. Toward the end of the tournament, the tournament was a two-horse race between Nastassja and Divya Deshmuk, the eventual winner. They were both winning their games, but unfortunately, Divya Deshmuk emerged as the sole winner in the final rounds. For my taste, this was perhaps a combination of experience, and maybe even a little bit of chess-luck (more on this later). Now, let's see one interesting game from each player:
Linden's 9th round victory
Alice's 9th round victory
I can't remember ever seeing a 7-year old play so well:
Nastassja's 3rd round victory
A little bit of chess-luck?
As I said earlier in this article, I did feel Nastassja did get a little unlucky, and I was talking specifically about round 9. In this game, she managed to dominate her opponent, but then, perhaps due to lack of experience, she chose a tactical sequence that allowed her opponent to perform a very good, yet accidental, positional exchange sacrifice. I mean... how often does that happen? In the resulting position, Nastassja is an exchange up, but there is no way to make any more progress, and therefore the game ended in an easy draw.
You can see the key position here. It's a very interesting position, which I will probably include (at least mention) in my next book, so if you wish to improve, I would definitely encourage you to analyze it for a bit: