Update From Al-Ain: Mettle to Win Medals
By GM Ben Finegold   
December 26, 2013
Awonderplaying250.jpgAfter round 8 at the World Youth Championship (Al Ain, UAE Dec 17-29), Christmas Day was a free day, and many of the players, parents, and coaches grabbed the chance to sight-see.  Some went to Abu Dhabi, some went to Sharjah, but I decided to go to Dubai with Aviv Friedman, Michael Khodarkovsky, and Armen Ambartsoumian. We took a taxi, stayed at a hotel next to the famous Dubai Mall, and spent the better part of 2 days looking at everything the Mall has to offer.

Even though we were at the Mall December 24 and 25, they were open until 1AM each day!  I was able to go to the Mall's Underground Zoo at the Aquarium, thanks to my (A)viv (T)eller (M)achine. We also saw the fountain show, and ate more times than I care to remember.

The 2013 World Youth is in the home stretch, and with 2 rounds to go, several Americans have good chances to medal.

The best chance for American Gold is Awonder Liang, in the U10 section.  He has started with a fantastic 9 out of 9 (!) and is a lock to win a medal, and almost certain to win gold. (Update- after ten rounds, Awonder now has 10/10 and has clinched gold!) Many of his wins are smooth crushes, but here is one of his tougher efforts, where he had to make something out of nothing, and he was able to win a drawn ending:

Kushagra Mohan  (IND) - Liang Awonder  (USA) [B56]

The American coaches were wondering if black could draw after 36. f5! (he probably still can), but white was not interested in trying to win, but merely doing nothing and hoping for a draw. [36.f5! gxf5 37.Kf4] 36...Ke6 37.Re3+ Kf7 38.Rd3 Rc7 39.Kf3 Rc6 40.Kg3 Rc5 41.Re3 Rc7 42.Rd3 Rc8 43.Kf3 Rc6 44.Ke3 Ke6 45.Kf3 a5 

After moving around, perhaps giving his opponent a false sense of security, Awonder goes for it! 46.Re3+ Kf7 47.Rd3 Rc7 48.Kg3 Moving the king away from the action. White can draw with several moves, including 48.b4, 48.f5, and 48.Rxd5. But the text move is also all right. 48...a4 49.b4 Rc4 50.Kf3?
One slip and it's over! 50.Rxd5! Rxc3+ 51.Kh4 Rxa3 52.f5! draws comfortably. 50...Ke6 51.Re3+ Kd6 52.Rd3 Re4! 53.Rd1 53.Re3? Rxe3+ 54.Kxe3 Ke6 and black easily wins the K and P ending with his outside passed h pawn luring white's king away. 53...Ke6 54.Rd2 Re1! 55.Rc2 Rf1+ 56.Ke3 Rd1 57.Rf2 Kf5 White is helpless due to his passive rook. 58.Rf3 h4 59.Rf2 h3 60.Rf3 h2

Awonder is alone at the top!
Several Americans are still in the medal hunt.  In the U18 section, GM Daniel Naroditsky is undefeated, scoring 7 out of 9, and is currently tied for 2nd place. Daniel won in round 9 after his opponent lost on time on move 40, although Daniel was close to winning in any event.

Two Americans are tied for 3rd place in the U10, Josiah Stearman and David Peng. Both need to win their last two games to have good chances for a medal.  I'm glad to say neither player has a draw, with 7 wins and 2 losses each.  Scholastic chess can be bloodthirsty!
Stearman,Josiah P - Graf,Justus Felix (1489) [A00]

This Caro-Kann has not worked out well for black. Josiah has a crushing attack, whereas black has nothing against white's king. The American finishes in style!

24.Nxg7! Bxg7 25.Rxg7!
Crashing through to victory! 25...Kxg7 26.Qg6+ Kh8 27.Qxh6+ Kg8 28.Rg1+ Black is defenseless against the onslaught. 28...Kf7 29.Rg7+ Ke8 30.Qg6+


I like to brag a little bit, and the player I am coaching who has the most points is Edward Song in the U14 section, with 6.5 out of 9.  He is no longer in medal contention, but he fights to the end every game. Here he wins an endgame with a little help from his opponent's time trouble.

Bashirli,NQ - Song,Edward

Black has the advantage here, but white has good chances for a draw. However, white has been playing on the increment for some time, and blunders. 31.Rxe6 Qb5! The only winning move! 32.Kg1 Qc5+ 33.Kh1 Qc4! 34.Rf6 gxf6 35.exf6 Rxf6 36.Qd8+ Kg7 37.Qd7+ Rf7


I want to end this report with a bit of fun news.  After we got back from our trip to Dubai, it was about 8PM and the women who are helping everyone at the dorms decided to have a barbecue, with food, tea, water, marshmallows, corn,and some football (soccer) and dodge-ball!  It was great to see kids from all delegations taking part in the festivities and everyone having a great time.  The people who work and volunteer at the tournament and University are doing a great job and are in good spirits, making the tough tournament more enjoyable.

Jerry Nash of the USCF gives a chess lesson to volunteers in Al Ain

Go USA and look for excellent news in my next and final report from Al Ain!

Find full results at the official website at http://www.worldyouth2013.com/. You can follow Ben Finegold on twitter and see his blog here.