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The 2015 World Youth Championship

January 12th, 2015

Written by NM Carissa Yip

The 2015 World Youth Chess Championship was held at Porto Carras Resort in Greece from October 24 to November 6.

Porto Carras is a beautiful resort with charming villages. We took a two-hour bus ride from the Thessaloniki airport to the resort. It was well worth the long trip. The resort is right by the sea with a spectacular coast, green pine trees, and white sandy beaches. The hotel we stayed in, Sithonia at Porto Carras, was comforting and roomy.

It is just about the best place you could spend two weeks besides home.

The World Youth Chess Championship ran quite smoothly. All logistics were taken care of, and the pairings always came out in a timely fashion, sometimes even faster than we expected. There were three playing halls where the competition was held. The Olympic Hall was the main playing hall, hosting the u14, u16 and u18 sections for open and girls, and the Meliton Hotel was the second hall where u10 and u12 girls played.

The third playing hall was in the Sithonia, hosting the u8 open and girls. I played in the Meliton Hotel, in the u12 girls section. The walk from my hotel to my playing hall was an easy five-minute stroll, and although Olympic Hall was further, there were several shortcuts one could take. Olympic Hall was also by the port, where you could take a pleasant ferry ride to the nearest village, Neos Marmaras.

My only complaints were about the Internet connection and the food. The wifi connection was slow and sporadic, especially when everyone was trying to use it. You could only get some half-decent connection when no one was using it, such as in the middle of night. It was very frustrating, especially if you wanted to use the internet to prepare for the games, such as doing some tactics on Chess.com.

The food was a little disappointing too. I was expecting to have authentic Greek food, but the tournament food was pretty much “Americanized,” unlike the authentic Greek food we had in Athens the week before. Only one or two dishes were really Greek food. There wasn’t much variety either, and after a week, it felt repetitive. However, the quality of the food was pretty good.

We had our first USA team meeting the evening before the first round. Each of us got an assigned coach. The coaches helped us prepare for our games. The coach-to-student ratio was one to six, so each student would have a 30-minute training session with the coach. The trainings were all in the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the games started at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. On the last day though, the  round started at 10 a.m. in the morning.

My coach was Nick de Firmian, a grandmaster from California. Nick helped me to prepare for each of my opponents, and we spent two hours preparing for the last round the night before. He had a big book about openings written by him he would use it to check lines, and he referred to it often.

He is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He is knowledgeable, patient, encouraging, and he always had something positive to say to anyone. I would highly recommend him as a coach.

Carissa with coaches GM John Fedorowicz and GM Nick de Firmian.

I won’t talk too much about my games at the World Youth, as I will soon post some videos on them. I won all my games except for two, losing to first place and drawing third place. I tied for first with 9.5 out of 11, but my tiebreakers failed so I got silver medal instead.

The last round was definitely an exciting game for me. It started at 10 a.m., and I had gone to bed late the previous night after two hours of prep with my coach over my opponent’s Najdorf. I also didn’t have time to eat breakfast since I got up at 9:30 and was in a rush. In the game, I blundered a pawn, but I kept fighting, and later won a piece back and eventually won the game.

The closing ceremony was well organized. Trophies were presented to the top three players of each section, and medals to the top six. During the ceremony, a special video was shown, featuring the entire tournament,  the venue, the chess players and their families, and memorable moments. The organizers had done a great job piecing everything together in a cohesive manner.

Carissa (GU12 second place) and Agata Bykovtsev (GU16 third place).

The 2015 World Youth Chess Championship was a success. I am happy that I got a silver medal and that team USA got four medals altogether.

I’ve made many new friends from countries all around the world, and spent many happy hours with my old friends. I was sad that it ended all too soon; however, I have something to look forward to next year.


A Coach's Adventure At The Sinquefield Cup

October 7th, 2015

By Steve Abrahams 

As a young chess player, I looked up to the top players in the world to guide me on my way to success.  I now have the opportunity as a coach and writer to watch, interact, and interview 10 of the top 15 players in the world, representing eight different countries.

This series will cover my adventure before and during the Sinquefield Cup 2015 and offer suggestions to coaches on how you can use such an event to help your students improve even if you can’t travel all the way to the event.


Playing Hall at the Sinquefield Cup

(The playing hall at the Sinquefield Cup)

The 2015 Sinquefield Cup ran from August 22 to September 3 in St. Louis, with prizes totaling over $300,000. As a chess teacher with an integrated chess curriculum, I had the luxury of following along with the Cup during my workday. As the games occurred each day my students and I had the privilege to analyze live along with the likes of GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade, and GM Maurice Ashley.   

The live event and feel of Sinquefield got my students entranced with the tournament and its players.  Just as a football coach might invite his players to watch the Super Bowl and learn from the greats, in chess we have that same ability with “Super-GM” events. Each year there are many such events; however the Sinquefield with an average rating of 2798 was among the strongest of all-time. 

As a coach, player or simply a fan there is so much you can learn from these high level tournaments. Each day during these events I followed Chess.com and many other sites to see what was occurring in the games. I generally try to analyze along and play some “solitaire” chess (made popular by the famous coach Bruce Pandolfini) to emulate the top players, which is incredibly useful for any chess enthusiast. 

Chess engines are great, but they won’t give you the time to think and figure out what is actually going on; they simply tell you the answer. When showing these games in class, I push my students to create candidate moves and analyze each move deeply before offering their opinions.

Live Coverage of Games Online

(Live coverage of the games online)

Students love it when their coaches have a connection to the best players in the world. Most students think their coach is the best player in the world, and teaching them about the top players and the history of chess help those students better understand the game. 

As a student, I remember reading about the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match and being in awe of Bobby Fischer’s talent and celebrity. Now as a coach I try to instill in my students that same feeling for Carlsen, Nakamura, Caruana, and others.

The Author in the World Champion's Chair

(I took a turn sitting in the world champion's chair during the rest day.)

Look forward to part two,  featuring the top players’ thoughts on how you can use a tournament like Sinquefield to improve yourself as a player and your students as a coach.




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