Abby Marshall Previews the World Youth
By Abby Marshall   
November 11, 2009
Abby Marshall, in a photo by Monroi at the 2009 Denker Championship
Denker Champ Abby Marshall reveals why she's going for World Youth gold, the desserts she fears and how she feels about being called the "rocking teenage girl next door" in print. Update: Abby to play on board one in round two against Anastasia Savina of Russia (2401). Catch that and other games featuring Americans at 8 AM EST Nov.12, on the live game link.

 Before I left for Turkey for the World Youth, I sat down with a reporter from the Daily Press, a local newspaper in my hometown Newport News, Virginia to talk a little about the tournament and what I’ve been up to.

Normally, I really dislike reading things about myself because I feel at worst it will be incorrect and at best it will tell me something that I already know. But this time, I am at a loss; I have no idea how to categorize this recent article. 

No summary could do it justice, which you can see from the opening:

"Young Abby Marshall may look a lot like the rocking teenage girl next door.

But underneath her trademark T-shirt beats the heart of warrior — one whose remarkable displays of grit, cunning and ferocity on the 64-square battleground of chess have generated international admiration."

It is totally hilarious. It’s not like I wore anything flamboyant or made up stuff. What terrifies me is that I heard there is a billboard in Newport News with my picture on it that people can see driving down the highway. Omg.

Regardless of that craziness that has just sparked up, it feels good to be back in the chess world, and being on the US team keeps me grounded. I haven’t played in a tournament since the Denker and US Open , so I feel a little out of the loop. I misidentified Alex Getz as a Canadian player because I hadn’t seen him since he had a different haircut.

Abby Marshall playing bughouse with team-mates while waiting to board the plane to Turkey, Photo Deren Getz

I asked one of the tiny girls on my plane if she played chess and learned that she is a rockstar, one of the favorites to win her section.  Hanging out with chess people did motivate me to review my openings, especially the two surprises that I have planned. It would be the second time I have deviated from my repertoire since I was six years old. I swear this time that I am going to switch systems and learn some more grown-up variations. In fact, if any of my opponents are reading this, don't bother preparing for me. You’ll just be disappointed.

Two years ago I was at the exact same tournament at the exact same place. I’m super fantastically looking forward to staying at the Limra again because it is a gorgeous hotel with lots of shops and things to do right in the vicinity. I have great memories of it from two years ago. My only complaints are getting up early and the monotonous food, which will be rough, though as long as they get rid of certain unappetizing desserts I’ll be fine. What would happen is that no one would eat them, so at the end of the week there would be this gelatinous mountain of grey Jell-O blocks. Gross.

Unfortunately, I was so focused on the tournament that only when it was too late did I realize that I had left my red evening gown at home and I had only brought my regular sized chess set. What a shame. Everything else, though, I’m excited about. When people are surrounded by diversity in a foreign country, it makes them realize that they have no cultural reference to draw upon, so sometimes they have to make up their own way of doing things. Anything goes. You shouldn’t limit yourself.  

I don’t anticipate many surprises, except for one thing, which is a pretty big unknown: my roommate. The organizers told me that my room would be completely free if I stayed in a double, in which case they would put me with someone else travelling alone. I’ve gotten no further details. I’m excited about it, though I really hope she speaks English. Even if she doesn’t, I’m trying to believe that chess is a universal enough language that we will still be able to connect in some way, even if it is just playing blitz. I’ll be crossing my fingers.

I would say that this is a rebuilding year for the US team because many of the highest-rated players did not come and most of the players here are under 12. However, I think we have a good chance to clear some medals in the younger categories, and these players will be the future leaders of the team. For instance, Annie is 1700 and already has the WFM title from winning the Pam Ams. She’s seven years old. I think I could tie my shoes when I was seven. Initially when I heard that the team had a median age of twelve, I was not so thrilled, but what’s cool is that the kids who I meet here may be just ten or eleven now, but I will probably know them for the rest of my life. It’s a nice thing to realize.

As for my own prospects in the tournament: I’m seeded about fifteenth or so, but the gap between me and the number one seed is only about 200 points (roughly 2400). Sure it’s a long shot, but when I think back to the Denker where I was a low seed and when I remember the Polgar in 2005, when two 2300s played, I feel reasonably confident in my chances. I am going for gold.

See the official website and the list of American players and coaches. Also see coverage on