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GM Joel on the World Youth Print E-mail
By GM Joel Benjamin   
December 17, 2007
Dear Joel,

Congratulations Coach Joel! I noticed that this year's World Youth team did better than ever, and I read in Abby Marshall's blog that you were a great coach despite your disdain for the King's Gambit.  Now for my questions:  what do you think the factors were behind the team's success this year? What do you see in the future from our medal winners, Daniel Naroditsky and Sarah Chiang?

Anonymous fan

Dear Fan,

I wouldn’t describe my attitude towards the King’s Gambit as “disdain” (I don’t think I called it “antiquated” either).  I told Abby the opening was out of fashion, which meant two things: 
1)    Grandmasters believe Black is doing well in the main lines.
2)    Most players aren’t prepared to face it because they see it so rarely.

Unfortunately the element of surprise will be lost for Abby now that she has revealed her opening repertoire to the massive audience at Chess Life Online.

I would have to cite 2007 as our best performance in a World Youth.  The historic gold and silver medals naturally grab most of the attention, but let’s not forget the depth of our success, with several players scoring 8/11 and making the top ten (little brother Jonathan Chiang, 6th in Boys U-8, Simone Liao, 6th in Girls U-8, Brian Luo 7th BU-10, and Ray Robson, 7th BU-14).

The stellar results in the lower age groups suggest that the strong scholastic programs are putting our kids in good position to compete internationally, even if our older players have more difficulty dealing with hardened professionals.

American players are now much better equipped to score big because the USCF has stepped up its commitment to this event.  Heeding our pleas, the Federation increased the coaching complement to six and a half (Kudrin worked for the first half, before leaving for the World Cup).  In past years, coaches would struggle with seven or eight assigned players each.  We had no time for in-depth analysis as our rooms resembled assembly lines.  The current ratio of 1:5 gives us time to adequately prepare all our players by lunchtime.

I didn’t know anything about Daniel Naroditsky before Belfort 2005, but in the last two years he has shown himself to be an extremely capable young player.  I didn’t see any of his games in Antalya so I can’t say much specifically about his game.  I do expect big things from Daniel because he and his parents seem committed to doing whatever it takes for his chess career to progress.  He brought a private coach to the tournament and worked very hard.  We tend to make predictions based solely on talent, but American players need to make sacrifices to thrive at the highest levels in today’s chess environment.

It’s way to early to make predictions for Sarah Chiang.  She is performing at a very precocious level (her rating is in the 1700s), but I think she would agree the competition she faces on a regular basis at the Dallas Chess Club is stronger than her field in Antalya.  I’m sure her remarkable achievement here will motivate her to work hard to improve in the future.