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US Team Bags Eight Medals at Pan Am Youth! Print E-mail
By FST & FM Aviv Friedman   
August 5, 2013

 Front row: Jessica Regam, Maggie Feng, Shaileja Jain, Kevin Chor, Aasa Dommalapati, Naomi Bashkansky, Chase Frutos, Cole Frutos. Back row: Michael Khodarkhovsky, Aviv Friedman, Armen Ambartsoumian, Shyam Gandhi, Alvin Cao, Ethan Bashkansky, Shaurya Jain, Agata Bykhovtsev.

The Brazilian South-Western spa city of Pocos de Caldas was the venue for the 2013 Pan American Youth championships, held between July 25-August 1. The president of the Brazilian chess federation, main organizer GM Darcy Lima and his able crew, once again did a fine job in running this multi-country event. We owe them a debt of gratitude for obliging our  unique travel and accommodations needs!

Our delegation quickly acclimated at the comfy Golden Park hotel, up the hill from the convention center, where all the games took place. The steep circular road from the hotel to the hall was a slalom skier’s dream (or a mountain climber trainee’s going back up!), but the organizers thoughtfully arranged for a continuous shuttle to and fro. 

As its name implies, the event is open for youth players up to age 18, from the American continents (19 countries were represented this year), divided to sectionals under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 years of age – both for girls and open. Our delegation was smaller than previous years – 17 players plus parents, family members, and coaches. Team coaches were IM and FST Armen Ambartsoumian, FST Michael Khodarkovsky, and your narrator, who served as the head of delegation, while GM Dejan Bojkov and IM Andranik Matikozian came as private coaches. 


IM and FST Armen Ambartsoumian, FM and FST Aviv Friedman & FST Michael Khodarkovsky

Airfares were sky high, due to the Pope’s visit to Brazil at the same dates, and many chose the North American Youth, scheduled right after the event, in the much-closer Toronto, Canada. A 10+ hour flight (and more to some!), ‘complemented’ by a 4-5 hour bus ride from Sao Paulo is not for everyone! The silver lining in this cloud was that with a good coach to player ratio (even with a crammed schedule of 9 round over 6 days), we have managed to maximize our pre game prep sessions, and post game analysis ones.


Chenyi Zhao and Kevin Chor

Before the event starts, the coaches always discuss our performance expectations and medal chances for the event, and I must admit that this year we were a bit concern because of the low numbers. We discounted the chances of a team trophy (given to the best performance of countries, best on top finishes criteria), and wondered how many, if any medals we might win. These unshared concerns were quickly tossed to the paper basket like a losing lottery ticket, when our players showed a real tour de force! 

The final tally was a total of 8(!) Medals: 3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze! What’s more our collective team result was good enough for second place (behind Peru), and a huge trophy (see photos!). Previously in the history of the event, only two US players have managed a perfect score in this tournament, but in this year’s edition we have doubled that feat, with both Kevin Chor (under 8 open) and David Peng (under 10 open) getting 9/9! Aksithi Eswaran scored an impressive 7/8 in the girls under 8 section (an 8 round event), for our team’s third gold. Naomi Bashkansky’s fantastic 8/9 in the girls under 10 section gave her a tie for first, and silver on tie-breaks. Cole Frutos was second only to David in the boys under 10 group, also securing a silver medal with a strong 7/9 finish. 


Back row: Jessica Regam, Armen Ambartsoumian, Aviv Friedman, Andranik Matikozyan, Agata BykhovtsevFront row: Aasa  Dolammapati, Naomi Bashkansky, Aksithi Eswaran, David Peng, Kevin, Cole.

Agata Bykhovtsev’s good showing in the girls under 14 division gave her a 6.5/9 score, and a bronze medal. She was very close to winning gold, had she won her much better position in the last round, but her opponent managed to escape with a draw. Aasa Dolammapati had a similar fine 6.5/9 result in the girls under 10 section, clinching a bronze medal as well. Our last deserving bronze medallist was Jessica Regam, who finished with a 6/9 tie for second, and third on tie-breaks. 

All winners also earned the right to play at both next year’s Pan Am Youth event, and the World Youth Championships for their respective age groups – accommodations included--, and the title of FM for boys and WFM for girls. 2nd and 3rd places earned a return trip to next year’s edition of this event, as well as the titles of CM and WCM. Hats of to our winners, and all our players who really gave it their all, showing good chess and just as good sportsmanship while representing us! 

The tournament, which was as competitive as always, went without any disputes, and so for the first time in many years my traditional position as co-chair of the appeals committee left me pleasantly unemployed. The serenity trickled down to the teams as well, and in talking to coaches from other delegations they concurred. Our own team was united and well organized, with communications via emails and a Google group (thanks to Alexey Pershin).

Finally, here are a few games by our gold medallists, but not before thanking our parents whose logistical help with pairings and opponents’ info made our prep work more efficient, the USCF for its support of the event (especially the tireless Jerry Nash). 

In our first game from the critical 8th round, David Peng shows his opponent what happens when you open a position when your opponent has two agile bishops: 

Next Kevin catches his opponent in the opening, ‘Pac Man’s’ (captures) his pieces, and brings a point home comfortably:

Last but not least, in this game Aksithi uses a back rank tactic to help convert a winning rook endgame into a full point:

As a post script to players and parents who consider playing in the event next year: it will be held in Mexico, and as it is an open event to all, I encourage you to go, if you feel ready for it. It’s a great experience chess wise, a chance to explore a new culture and make new friends!


Photos in this article are by parents like Guy Bashkansky who writes a travel and chess blog at http://chesstravel.blogspot.com/

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