Tyler and Tatev Arrive in Turkey
By Jennifer Shahade   
August 3, 2008
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Tyler Hughes, U.S. Representative in the World Junior in Turkey
U.S. representatives Tatev Abrahamyan, Tyler Hughes and coach Armen Ambartsoumian have arrived in Gaziantep, Turkey for the World Junior Championship (August 2-16.) Tatev, who is ranked 14th in the event, won her first game while Tyler lost to IM Jan Ludvig Hammer. UTD student GM Alejandro Ramirez, officially playing for Costa Rica, was upset in the first round to the Moldavian representative, Pavel Vavric. Alejandro is blogging from Turkey and we hope to see a big comeback from him. Colorado high-school senior Tyler Hughes may be unknown to many CLO readers, so we caught up with him between his win at the Junior Closed in Lindsborg Kansas and his journey to Turkey.

Chess Life Online: What school do you attend?
Tyler Hughes: I am a 1st grade dropout -  I do not care for the term “homeschooled”, because sometimes that gives people the erroneous impression that I’ve led a sheltered life, but most would describe me as homeschooled. I have one more year of “high school” before I plan to enroll in college.

CLO: How did you prepare for the U.S. Junior Closed?   
 TH:I did not know the full participant list until two days before the tournament, so I was unable to prepare for my opponents specifically. However, on the weeks leading up the tournament I focused my chess studies on weaknesses in my opening repertoire. For example, I was quite worried about my lack of understanding of a variation in my Sicilian Kan. I attempted to remedy this by playing training games on ICC starting from the position of concern, both with my current coach GM Petr Kiriakov and with another friend, expert Dale Coleman. This seems to have helped, as when Young challenged me in this variation in our first game, I was able to come out of the opening with a comfortable position.  

CLO: How did you feel going into your final game against Gregory Young? When did you feel confident of the win?
 TH: Going into the game my main goal was to not let my emotions cloud my thought process. The last time I had played a game that determined a national championship, at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions in 2006, I had a very difficult time concentrating on my play due to the stakes of the battle. The morning of the game my friend, Matt Clark, emailed me a verse by Chuang Tzu titled “The Need to Win”. I found it enlightening, and I think it helped me maintain my focus during my game with Young.
 
 
I was not really confident of the win until after we made the time control on move 40. The decisive turning point was on move 33, but due to my time pressure (I had only about 3 minutes for 7 moves) and my opponent’s excellent composure even after the blunder 32...bxc3??, at first it didn’t really sink in that I was winning. Only after I had some time for reflection after move 40 did I consciously realize that I would probably win the game.

CLO: After this win, you and Gregory Young had the same number of points. How did the tiebreak work? Did you think there should have been a playoff? 
TH:I believe that the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak system multiplies your personal score against each opponent by their score in the tournament. The theory is that if one scored one’s points against players who got more points in the tournament, one had a more impressive performance. Young and I both scored 1.5/2 against Lu and Yeager, but he beat Sawyer, while I beat Young. As Young had a better tournament than Sawyer, I received 1st place on tiebreaks. I feel that for a double round robin such as this, fairest tiebreak is head-to-head result, only moving on to Sonneborn-Berger if the tied players split with one another. In this case, I feel the tiebreaks worked out fairly, because I won my mini-match with Young. In the probably rare situation that head-to-head result and Sonneborn-Berger fail to yield a decision, I think the championship should be determined by a playoff.

CLO:What are your interests outside of chess?
 TH: My sarcastic sister says: “Shouldn’t it be: do you HAVE any interests outside of chess?” The truth is chess has been my dominant focus outside of academics since I was 10. However, I’ve found time for Jazz piano for a few years now, and I enjoy fishing, studying evolutionary biology, and dabbling in tennis and racquetball.

CLO: How are you preparing for Turkey?
TH: As I expect most of my opponents will be much stronger than me, I don't think there is much I can do to significantly boost my performance in only a few weeks. However, I am giving it my best shot by meeting at least twice weekly with my coach, studying my games from the US Junior, and attempting to work my way through Dvoretsky's books.
 
CLO: The U.S. Junior was controversial this year, due to the absence of many top players and the sudden withdrawal of Chris Williams. How did you feel about that and the CLO article by Robby Adamson?
TH: I was excited to play, despite the weaker than usual field. During Memorial Day weekend I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation notifying me that I was an alternate for the US Junior Closed, as I am only #40 or so on the under 21 rating list. Later, I learned that I had not been on the 1st round of invitations. Going into the tournament, I knew I would enjoy in playing in a prestigious tournament with such a rich history. I recognized that it was still an honor to participate despite the unfortunate lack of acceptance from many of the strongest juniors. It is amusing to me that an unanticipated invitation has led to a national title and a two-week trip to Asia to compete in a world championship. This summer is turning out to be a lot more fun than I expected!

Keep up with Tyler, Tatev and Alejandro on the official website of the World Junior Championship.