Abby Marshall Reflects on the World Youth
By Abby Marshall   
December 10, 2009
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Abby Marshall, Photo Gene Ng
On my third day at the World Youth Championships in Antalya, Turkey, along with wondering about what opening I’m going to play as a visitor on board one, I’m thinking that I’m not so sure about this whole trip. The TV is on to music that I don’t recognize and my roommate is chattering away on the phone in Turkish. I feel like I’m on Mars.

In the spirit of my Turkey blog from two years ago, I’ll say that I had roommate X, though her name is Bade (pronounced Ba-Day). This time, the identity of X is not hidden because of personal details, but because I spoke no Turkish and she spoke zero English. There’s not much that I got to know about her. During the first couple days, it was weird. We would come back to the room at around eleven at night, say hello, and then all we could do was smile and nod to each other the rest of the night. Thankfully, this awkwardness did not last: first of all, we could watch American shows in Turkish, such as Spongebob and South Park (a great American export, I know), and suffer through each other’s music. I recently became addicted to electronic stuff while she preferred a boy singing with a guitar. I doubt that Bade and I exchanged more than twenty unique words, but I did learn that she is from Izmir, Turkey, is twenty five years old, and was in Antalya for the FIDE trainer’s seminar. I also learned that Turkey had recently become secularized and I had the feeling that my roommate was pretty liberal and easy-going. It was a shame that we could say nothing to each other, but luckily it turned out well. It was interesting that, really, it was no big deal having an older roommate who spoke a different language.

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Tanuj Vasudeva strikes a victorious pose, Photo Bill Brown

This year there was a lot of anticipation surrounding the younger kids who had good chances for medals. A few people barely missed out on a medal, and we had two silver medalists, Tanuj Vasudeva and Samritha Palakollu, which is hugely commendable.

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Our medallists show off their prizes, Photo Bill Brown

In the Nationals, it may be possible to run on adrenaline and Poptarts for one weekend but the World Youth requires two weeks of stamina and mental toughness. It’s essential to stay focus and able to bounce back from rough patches. GM Sam Palatnik was my coach during the event and also great company. He emphasized that finding the best move in a position is not an important discovery. It’s all about asking what you can do to improve your position and how to find your own style of play. This advice was perfect for the first day when everything was looking nice and rosy. I don’t know whether it is better or worse to blow your chances in one day or over two days, but on the one day where we played two games instead of the usual one, I lost both games.

My result (a tie for 12th-20th)
was disappointing. Though I understood that the tournament would be extremely difficult, I was being completely serious when in my first blog, I said that I hoped to win gold. The two key moments for me came in the second round, when I was paired against the top seed, and the sixth round. In the second round on the top board, Palatnik and I decided to avoid the main lines, where my 2400 opponent certainly knew more than me. Instead we planned some offbeat stuff that led to a different position than the normal Sicilian.



 I didn’t play amazingly and had a worse position most of the game, until the endgame which I knew had to be a draw.

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Position after 66...Ka1

If I had only played 67. Rb6 instead of being greedy with 67.h4, who knew how my tournament would have changed.

In the sixth round, I faced an opponent from India who I also played two years ago. In the 2007 game, I was down a piece but managed a miracle draw.  In this game, I capitulated after a misjudged try to create tactical complications.



I didn’t feel as down as I thought I would, mainly because I felt that my defeats were not because I played particularly badly. I also had some nice wins, like this one from round four. 



I’ve had many good results in high stakes tournaments, but it’s rare that I beat anyone over 2250. I haven’t played that many titled players, though I’ve had no special results against the ones that I have played. The tactical style that’s served me so well is I feel starting to blow up in my face, showing me that I need to even out my play with sound strategy and more challenging openings. The King’s Gambit is great fun tactically, but by just using common sense, it’s terrible: you give up a pawn and open your king up, and you play this as White. Palatnik recommended that I study the endgame. Our lessons usually didn’t focus on openings unless I had a specific question; mostly we solved exercises and endgame puzzles. I think to make the next step I need to revamp my openings and study endgames deeply to round out my chess education. I realized that sharp, yet unsound, play and luck could only take me so far. Definitely here it did not fly.

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Team spirit in Turkey: Darrian Robinson, Abby Marshall, Andrew Ng and Stuart Finney, Photo Gene Ng

I had a good time hanging out with the team, even though sometimes I felt like the big sister. I heard that it’s easy for the other teams to spot the American team, because we all look different from one another. Individually, people often mistook us to be from somewhere else: someone asked Darrian if she was from a country called "ooooza!" I got mad when people spoke Russian to me. I don’t really look Russian, do I? I swear that I have no Russian relatives except for an aunt who’s some distance on my family tree. Whatever. Regardless of age, everyone from me to Tommy He’s little brother could enjoy the playground. Look for a future youtube clip.

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Darrian Robinson, Andrew Ng and Abby Marshall, Photo Gene Ng

I tried out some new openings, hung out with cool people, and had a good time overall. This was my last World Youth as a player. This tournament and High School Nationals in the Spring (April 16-18, Columbus, Ohio) are among my last kid tournaments, which makes me sad, but I hope to be back someday as a coach if I can get my rating up.  I hope everyone has a great time next year in Greece and congrats again to Tanuj and Samritha!