|Americans Take the Lead in Mexico|
|By Ted Castro|
|July 14, 2014|
Half-way through the XXV Panamercan Youth Chess Festival held in Oaxtepec, Morelos, Mexico (July 10-17) and the American team is racking up points. Children from 22 countries are flock to this prestigious tournament which was held in Brazil last year. American kids are on top boards in various divisions and are even playing against each other "which is inevitable," as FIDE Senior Trainer Michael Khodarkovsky (one of the coaches of TEAM USA) puts it.
Starting from Open Under 8- Arthur Guo from Georgia is tied for 1st with 4.0 (and is playing on Board 1). American kids doing well in this section also include Andrew Tang & Rithik Polavaram, both with 3. There are no US players in the Girls under 8, otherwise, last year's gold medalist WCM Aksithi Eswaran would've been a strong contender.
In the Under 10 Open, two American kids are playing against each other on Board 1: CM Christopher Shen & CM Cole Frutos. In the previous round, CM Cole Frutos beat another US kid Jason Zhang in a heartbreaking game. Jason was clearly winning but accidentally touched the wrong piece which cost him the game.
In the Girls Under 10, two American girls are also facing each other on Board 1: WCM Martha Samadashvili vs. WCM Aasa Dommalapati. Both also have 4.0. In the Under 12 Open, David Li is tied for 1st with 4.0 and is playing against a Peruvian kid on Board 1. For the Girls under 12, Ramitha Ravishankar is tied for 1st with 3.5. She is, however, playing against another American girl, WCM Naomi Bashkansky who has 3.0. Ingrid Guo & Chenyi Zhao are also doing good in that section. In the Under 14 Open, NorCal House of Chess member and Weibel-trained kid Abishek Handigol is alone on top with 4.0. He is playing against a kid from Columbia on Board 1.
In the Girls Under 16, #1 seeded Agata Bykovtsev is also alone on top with 4.0. She's on pace on earning her title. She's playing against WFM Paula Robles Sarmiento from Ecuador. In Open Under 16 section, Christopher Wu won a nail-biting game which earned him 4 points. He is now facing Sosa Tomas from Argentina who also have 4.0. In the same section, NM Vignesh Panchanatham (who played up) also won an exciting theoretical drawn endgame in the previous round. He's also undefeated with 3.5/4.0 and is facing Estiven Zapata from Columbia.
In the Open Under 18, Joshua Sheng has 2.5 & Akshay Malotra has 2.0. While on the Girls under 18, WFM Jessica Regam is undefeated with 3.5 and is tied for 3rd place. WFM Simone Liao is also in the same section with 3.0. Although it's a long way to go, many members of Team USA have good chances to bring home a medal.
The organizers are doing everything possible to make everyone happy. They even gave a big surprise before the start of the round, when all children participating in the Festival received a backpack with a kit: cap, beautiful notepad for their games, pen, t-shirt, and a cylinder plastic bottle. They gave out 700 backpacks through Mexican National Chess Federation. "We want everybody to keep the feeling that Mexico is a place where all are welcomed with open arms and we as Mexicans have much to give."
They also have a seminar for parents & coaches. They invited Dr. Guillermo Isidron to give couple of lectures. The first topic was on "how to manage a loss." And second topic is "Most frequent medical affections among chess players." It was well received by the parents.
There's also a place where you can buy chessboards, books, DVDs, etc. Most of them are in Spanish though but I was able to snag a Digital Clock - Chronos!! Since they no longer make these, I can easily sell it. But then again, I'd rather keep it.
Lastly, we were serenaded by a gorgeous Mexican (from Sinaloa) named Svetlana Bastidas Apodaca (see lead photo). Kids and parents took a picture with her in the frame that she made. She also sang pop songs, romantic songs, or whatever requests you have while you take a photo souvenir with her.
The US team is coached by FM Aviv Friedman, GM Robert Hungaski and FIDE Senior Trainer Michael Khodarkovsky. They're doing an excellent job in coordinating the logistics and coaching of team USA. I, on the other hand, am helping some of my students from NorCal House of Chess, namely NM Vignesh Panchanatham, Abishek Handigol, Chenyi Zhao and Jason Zhang. I'm also here to make sure that both kids & parents enjoy this trip. It's not just about chess, it's also about the experience.
Check the official website here and find more photos on the NorCalHouseofChess facebook.