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The 2015 World Youth Championship

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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.

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