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US Youth Team Breaks Medal Record In Colombia! Print E-mail
By FM Aviv Friedman   
July 8, 2015
Team USA, Photo Alex Jenny Ky

The Southwestern Colombian city of Cali was the host for the 26th Pan American games - an event open for youth players from the American continents. The format is similar to the one from the World Youth: with open and girls sections under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. The US delegation totaled 25 players, in all sections but the Under 18 Open.

While our accommodations deserve only praise - both for the quality and service, the playing conditions left a lot to be desired. The venue, an unventilated, un-air-conditioned sports arena, was no match to soaring temperatures in the mid 90's(!) throughout the competition. When I asked how can such a place get approved, the answer was that it held a similar size event before, and everything was fine since the weather 'cooperated'! The response to my suggestion to bring large fans for some air circulation made me think that in my imperfect Spanish, I might have asked for their daughter's hand in marriage!
Photo Huy Nguyen

Before I move on to the actual chess, and our team's fantastic achievement, I am afraid I must also negatively comment about the officiating. As an international competition, the tournament was of course governed by the laws of FIDE, but to many of the arbiters, these were set aside as 'recommendations only', with their (often flawed) discretion replacing them. I could write a small pamphlet about our experiences, but I will just mention mis-pairing, changing pairings after they were published, stopping clocks for long periods of time inappropriately, allowing unauthorized persons inside the playing venue, not fixing point tally errors, and plenty more. The priceless moment came right at the closing ceremony, when we realized that they have wrongly totaled our medal count. A swift correction elevated us from third to second place overall team prize, to second!

In spite of the aforementioned difficulties, our players combined both fighting spirit and exemplary sportsmanship in their games. When the event came to a close, the coaching staff - FST Armen Ambartsoumian, Michael Khodarkovsky, and yours truly, could not have been more proud of our players. Not only for their record breaking result - a total of 10(!!) medals: 5 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze, but also about the way they represented us all. Our list of medalists:
Ariah Leib Shlionsky Under 8 Open (gold) 
Maya Behura in the Under 8 Girls (gold)  
Aksithi Eswaran in the Under 10 Girls (gold)
Sanjana Vittal in the Under 12 Girls (gold) 
Marcus M Miyasaka in the Under 14 Open (gold) 
Anh Nguyen in the Under 10 Girls (silver) 
Atreya Vaidya  in the Under 10 Open (silver)  
Agata Bykovtsev in the Girls Under 16 (silver)
Zhao Chenyi in the Girls Under 12 (bronze)
Ashritha Eswaran in the Girls Under 18 (bronze)

International events carry with them (besides the obvious prestige and bragging rights), significant prizes: all medalists get a FIDE title, and a free ride for next year's event, with the winners also getting free accommodations at the next World Youth championship. Competition is fierce, and our youngsters once again rose to the occasion!
Photo Huy Nguyen

The schedule was tight, with 3 days of double rounds, with only the first round (which started several hours late), the last round, and one more on single days. It was a bit tricky to properly prepare like we always do - more so with climate-related early morning start times, but we tried to use as many 'windows' as we've had to prepare and go over the players' games. Those often proved to be enterprising and exciting, so let's take a look at a few examples from our five gold medalists:

Behura,Maya - Quispe,Stephanie


Here Maya started taking some stuff: 6.Nxe5 Qg5? 7.Nxf7 and at this point her opponent complained about health issues... not the first time one of Maya's opponents have done that! Of course, if I played black here, I might also feel a bit sick.

After a medical checkup, she was deemed more than fit to keep playing. 7...Qf6 8.Nxh8 Bd6 9.d4 Qh4 10.e5 Bb4 11.Be3 Bxc3 12.bxc3 d5 13.Bb3 Kf8 14.Qf3+ Kg8 15.Qf7+ A cute finish 15...Kxh8 16.Qf8+ Ng8 17.Bxd5 Qe7 18.Qxg8#



Shlionsky,Ariah Leib - Bustamante Malpartida,Jhamil (1393)


In this Scotch opening position, Aryeh improves his position, and cashes in when his opponent errs: 8.Nd5 Qg6 9.f3 Nf6 10.Nxb6 cxb6? 11.Qxd6 Bd7 12.Bd2 0-0-0 13.Bf4! Nd5?? Panic. ...Ne8 was necessary 14.Qxg6 fxg6 15.exd5 Rhe8+ 16.Be2 Nb4 17.Kf2 Nxd5 18.Bg5 and white converted his material advantage soon thereafter 1-0


Eswaran,Ak - Castano,S (1404)


Aksithi correctly appreciates the weakness of the black king, and starts mobilizing some troops. 21.Qh4 Rxf3?! an understandable decision, but a bit extreme. Still: [21...Rf7 22.Ng5 Rg7 23.b4 followed by lifting the e1 rook was very unpleasant for black!] 22.gxf3 Qxb2 23.Qd8+ Kf7 [23...Nf8 24.Bd3 and the c8 bishop looks sad.] 24.Ba4 Nb6 25.Be8+ Kg7 26.Qe7+ Kh6 27.Qh4+ Kg7 28.Rc7+ Bd7 29.Bxd7 Nxd7 30.Rxd7+ Kf8 31.Qf6+ a picturesque final position! Aksithi was our best team scorer, with a perfect 9/9 score!!


Pina Araya,Ayline (1334) - Vittal,Sanjana (1624)


Sanjana goes after the white king: 14...Qg5 15.Qe2 Qh5 Even stronger was ...Qh6 where the black knight isn't pinned to the queen 16.f3? Kg2! was the only try 16...Bxg3+ 17.Kg1 Ne5 18.Be4 Bh3 19.Rf2 Bxf2+ 0-1


Miyasaka,M (2103) - Amaro,R (2021)


Marcus is quick to take advantage of black's piece discoordination: 4.Nxd5 gxf5 [4...exd5 5.Ne7+ Kg7 6.Rxd5 wins] 5.Qe5! exd5 6.Rxd5 Qb8 7.Rxa5 Qxe5 8.Rxe5 Rd8 9.Rxf5 Rd1+ 10.Kh2 and white won effortlessly 1-0


Next year the event is scheduled for Uruguay, for late July. As the event is open to all USCF members who fit the age categories, I encourage those who can play to come, and experience not only an exciting and challenging international tournament, but the opportunity to make new friends - both on the US team and from other countries, and experience a cultural enrichment only such a trip can offer!

Photo Huy Nguyen