GM Ramirez on Maribor: Clutch Preparation
By GM Alejandro Ramirez   
November 18, 2012
The tournament so far
It’s hard to explain to most American players what happens at a World Youth. Most American opens go something like this: arrival, game, game, sleep, game, game, sleep, game, departure. World Youth works much more like a European tournament – an experience that is tiring, demanding, difficult to handle and unbelievably rewarding.

The main difference of course is the fact that this tournament is one round a day. This gives the players time to look up their opponents, review their opening and general strategy for the game with a coach, and still have time for lunch and some other activity before the 3 p.m. game. Since there is no game after that, the players come to the analysis room immediately following their round and have a chance to analyze their games with a coach, fully understanding what went wrong and fixing the mistakes immediately.

This extra time that the players can devote to their game allows for immense progress. Already I can observe how some of the players are quickly assimilating the lessons imparted on the coaching sessions, never repeating the mistakes that cost them a half or a full point earlier in the tournament.

With the last round looming, it is visible that many of our players are tired, not being used to being so far from home for such a long time, and not used to playing in tournaments that are so demanding and so long. (Though, I suspect, the players are nowhere near as tired as the parents are right now…)
By the end of the tournament, I’m sure that most players will have gained an amazing amount of strength.

Free Day!

A characteristic of very long tournaments in Europe is that they usually come with at least one rest day. With no game that day, the players and coaches are allowed a breather, and the organizers were nice enough to organize some very pretty tours for the WYCC guests. The American delegation took full advantage of the opportunities. Many of them went to visit the absolutely picturesque city of Bled, Slovenia. Those that were more adventurous visited Vienna, on the other side of Austria. Others, such as yours truly, slept in, enjoyed the fabulous sauna and thermal water pool, and one of our coaches even took a drive all the way down to Italy to visit family! This rest day is important – the players get a chance to relax and enjoy some peace. The coaches have a breather before hell begins.
From the rest day to the stress days

The tournament has been a success for many Americans. The tension keeps rising round by round, as our players are playing in the top boards and competing for those coveted medals. In round 10, we had some heartbreaking losses and some amazing successes.

Our biggest hope, even before the tournament started, was the u-12 section. With Sam Sevian and Jeffrey Xiong being the 1-2 of the section in terms of rating, and with another 16 strong kids from America following suit, this was the section that we just had to win. Our hearts almost stopped when our top seed lost to Indian Puranik Abhimanyu. The next round, with both players having an impressive 7/8, it was up to Cameron Wheeler to stop the Indian’s rampage. The American’s team room had the position of that game set up in at least two or three boards, and as the engine evaluation’s swung much more violently than we would’ve liked our stress level went through the roof. Thankfully, Cameron was able to swindle an endgame and win the game.

Sevian was then paired with the leader of the tournament, Cameron. After a super tense struggle that went down to a queen-and-pawn endgame, Sevian emerged victorious and now only needs a draw to clinch gold medal! Cameron is in great shape for a medal, and a victory will guarantee it.

A Gamble gone Wrong

As I mentioned in the previous report, every coach is assigned 7 students. Although I’m happy with every single one of my student’s performance – I saw immense improvement from all the boys in the u8 section, not to mention the girls in u14 and u12 – I want to single out the efforts of Vignesh Panchanatham (u12). After having not the best start of the tournament and losing early, he bounced back and had an awesome 7/9 score. Needing to win on the second board, he employed a queen’s pawn opening, something he rarely does, in the hopes of trapping his opponent in prep. Unfortunately, his cunning opponent decided to play something he very rarely plays, sidestepping the ordeal, and even managed an advantage out of the opening.

Though a valiant effort, Vignesh lost at the end; the worst position to be in chess: when you see the hope of victory, and it is crushed. Chess is not a merciful sport, but that being said Vignesh’s tournament has been excellent and I hope he finishes well today. It’s hard to be happy not medalling, but his performance rating and level of play were simply through the roof.

My own personal nightmare

Earlier in the tournament I was talking to Aviv Friedman about the stress level of this tournament. I told him I really enjoyed coaching and that it just didn’t feel as bad as when I myself was playing for the medals about a decade ago. I must now eat those words, as I haven’t been this stressed out in an event in a long time. Obviously, I had to give the tournament more time to develop.

One of my ‘kids’, IM-Elect Kayden Troff, is now currently in contention for a medal and I cannot be more stressed. The best I can do is look at the preparation (which looks amazing), offer a few pointers and ideas and improvements, tell him what I think exactly his opponent will play, and then glue myself to the computer hoping that he finds all the right moves. At least before it was all up to me, now I’m biting my teeth and waiting from the sidelines, this is truly torture!

The f5 button

I write these words half an hour before the game. The Catalan and the Tarrasch have been analyzed so deeply Leko will think twice about playing this against Kayden. Rumors are that there is champagne being served with breakfast, and maybe that will help to take the edge off a bit. We are worried about all of our kid’s games, but today it will be Sevian’s, Cameron’s and Kayden’s games that will be analyzed thoroughly and deeply. In the next few hours I will probably sigh a lot, gasp in both appreciation and disgust, the f5 (refresh, for you internet noobs) key will be smashed repeatedly as we urge our players to move and not get in time pressure, and I will write a teary-eyed wrap up to this tournament. Whether its tears of joy or tears of sadness, well, that’s up to the little ones now.
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