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Hot Competition at Youth Olympiad in Chongqing Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
July 26, 2013
The World Youth Olympiad, for players aged under 16, was first held in 1979 and is now an annual event.

In recent years a few of the world's chess superpowers – Russia and India in particular – have decided that this is an event worth winning and have started to send full-strength teams. (In 2011 the Russian team included two Grandmasters!)

When China put their hand up to host the 2013 edition of the Youth Olympiad in Chongqing, it was clear that there would be a new contender for the medals – though few could imagine just how the tournament would look once China became interested...

Chongqing is a megacity on the Yangtze River with 36 million inhabitants; home of spicy food, traffic gridlock and China's biggest political scandal of the moment. For the players, Chongqing's reputation as one of China's four 'furnaces' has well and truly been borne out, temperatures reaching 100+ during the day and staying well over 80 at night.

Fortunately the organizers have air-conditioned the playing hall well and, equally importantly, have provided unlimited free cold drinks for the players at both the games and the restaurants.

The venue is the Yucai Middle School, a sprawling complex of classrooms, dorms, sporting fields and auditoriums. 

Photo Cathy Rogers

The school is festooned with slogans exhorting peaceful and principled competition and the value of wisdom, which is endless, apparently, something which will come as news to White in the following position.
Chongqing 2013
White: Liou Yian
Black: G.Oparin


US FM Liou, playing White (an earlier version of this article incorrectly had Liou as Black), is in a difficult position against his much higher ranked opponent and after 53...a5! White's defences would have been stretched to breaking point, e.g. 54.Qd1 Qxd1 55.Bxd1 a4!.
Instead Black heads for an opposite coloured bishops endgame which turns out to be unwinnable.

53...Qa1+? 54.Qd1 Qxd1+?! 55.Bxd1 Bxc4?! 56.bxc4 Be3 57.Kh2 Bf2 58.c5! Kf7 59.Ba4 Bxc5 60.g4! Ke7 61.Kg2 

and Black was forced to concede the draw 25 moves later.

The playing hall features pictures of great thinkers from the past while the stairs up to the hall displays portraits of the World Champions, male and female and the ground floor has pictures and mini-biographies of celebrity chessplayers.

While in the West such a display might include singers and sportspeople, the Chinese look in other directions, with their eclectic list including chess fans Robespierre, Mendeleyev, Woody Allen and Stalin!
Photo Cathy Rogers

At the start of the Olympiad, the battle for first place was expected to be between Russia and China. Both could boast a 2550 player on board one, China having 14-year-old Wei Yi, currently the youngest Grandmaster in the world.

The fourth round match-up between the two rivals went heavily in Russia's favour, Vladislav Artemyev beating Wei Yi on top board, and the following demolition on board four adding to China's pain.

Opening: Sicilian Defence


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4!? 

An extraordinarily risky plan invented by the great Hungarian attacker Bela Perenyi.
7...e5 8.Nf5 g6 9.g5 gxf5 10.exf5! 
This is White's idea – a piece sacrifice – and not the mundane 10.gxf6 f4! which leaves Black well placed.
If the knight moves, Black will be buried alive after 11.Bc4.
11.Qf3! d4 12.0-0-0 Qa5?! 
12...Nbd7! is the critical test of White's plan, when both 13.Bc4 and the more sober 13.Bd2 leave White with great attacking chances at serious material cost.
13.gxf6 Nc6 

Desperately hoping to develop some pieces since 13...dxc3 14.Bc4! leaves the Black king stranded in the centre.
14.Bc4! h5 15.Ne4 dxe3 16.Ng5! Nd4 
Giving back material must be hopeless, but passive defence with 16...Nd8 would not hold on long after 17.Rd5.
17.Bxf7+ Kd8 18.fxe3 Bh6 19.h4 Qc7 20.Qd5+ Bd7 21.exd4 e4 22.Kb1 Kc8 23.Qxe4 1-0

However only a day later India upset Russia, throwing the Olympiad wide open. (For the first time the Youth Olympiad is being decided by match points rather than game points, a change which tends to randomise the final placings, as the regular Olympiads have shown since they switched to the match point system almost a decade ago.)

The 2013 Youth Olympiad continues the encouraging trend of having female players earning a place in many teams. From China, a women's chess powerhouse this might have been expected, but in 2013 three over-performing countries, Iran, Turkey and Malaysia  have at least one female team member and two of the three have female players on high boards.

Photo Cathy Rogers
The US is represented in Chongqing by two teams but, without World Youth Champions Troff and Sevian, are far from full strength.

Nonetheless, after 6 of the 10 rounds, USA 2 remains in striking distance of a medal, being only two match points behind the leader India. 

The USA 2 team, seeded seventh at the start of the Olympiad, has already played against top seeds Russia (a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss) and drawn 2-2 with fourth seeds Hungary. USA 2, led by Michael Bodek, will probably need to win three out of their last four matches to secure the first US team medal in this event.

The US stars have been on the bottom boards, reserve Christopher Gu starting with 5/5 and Arthur Shen, who beat Russia's Alexey Zenzera in the following game.

Opening: Sicilian Kan
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 b5 6.Bd3 Qb6 7.Nf3 
7.Nb3 would be the natural retreat but the text move has been scoring well for White in recent years.
7...Qc7 8.0-0 Bb7 9.Re1 Be7 10.Nd4!?

An extraordinary new move, which immediately induces a mistake. Previously White had preferred 10.e5 but then 10...f5 keeps the position unclear.
10...Nf6? 11.e5 Nd5 12.Nxd5 Bxd5 13.Qg4! Nc6 
Possibly the best practical try since moves such as 13...Bf8 and 13...Kf8 are ugly and 13...g6 14.Bh6 even worse.
14.Nxc6 Bxc6?!
Mistakes are rarely orphans. Black would have preferred to recapture with the queen but feared 14...Qxc6 15.a4!. However 15...b4 hangs on.
15.Qxg7 0-0-0 16.Qxf7 Bb4 17.c3 Rhg8 18.g3 Rdf8 19.Qh5 Be7 20.Bh6 Bf3 21.Qh3 Bg4 22.Qf1 Bc5 

Black's attack looks scary but Shen stays cool.
23.Be3! h5 24.Be4
Not fearing the loss of the e pawn – one extra pawn will be enough for Shen. 24.Bd4 before 25.Be4 was the safe way to play.
24...h4 25.Qd3 hxg3 26.fxg3 Qxe5 27.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 28.Qe3 Qc7 
Zenzera understandably avoids the endgame, but finds the attacking tables are now turned.
29.a4! d5 30.Bg2 b4 31.cxb4 Kb8 32.b5 axb5 33.axb5 Rf7 34.Rec1 Qd6 35.Rc6 Qb4 36.Rb6+ 1-0

Photo Cathy Rogers
USA 1, led by Jeffrey Xiong – who would have been a handy addition to the USA 2 team had the US not decided to split its strength – has in contrast endured a nightmare Olympiad and is currently sitting in a tie for 43rd place from the 72 teams.

The USA 1 team has the right to feel somewhat aggrieved, having scored only one match point from three matches against Chinese teams ineligible for medals.

Therein lies the one major defect of an otherwise well organised Youth Olympiad. In their infinite wisdom, the world chess body, FIDE, allowed China to enter 40 teams in the Youth Olympiad.

Although only two local teams are eligible for medals, the other 38, mostly regional, teams have wreaked havoc with expectations, being seeded low because of their lack of internationally rated players. 

However with young talent springing up all over China, most of the local teams are, at best, tough to beat, especially with no information available about the players. In contrast, the Chinese teams have a wealth of opposition games in international databases to analyse for weaknesses.

Apparently the extra teams helped China cover a budgetary short-fall; unlike most World Youth event organisers, the Chinese did not attempt to balance their budget by ripping off the visiting teams with exhorbitant rates.

For some teams who have been paired with local teams almost every round, competing in the Youth Olympiad has become a proxy for admission to the Chinese Schools Championships. Such competition is fine in itself but not why players travel to a World Youth Olympiad hoping to compete against opponents from around the world. Add to that Chongqing's summer temperatures and the absence  of Western sitting toilets and the event is probably the most challenging many of the youngsters will ever have encountered.

2013 World Youth Olympiad
Chongqing, China
Leading scores after six of ten rounds:
1.India 11;
=2.Russia, China 2, Hungary, Iran 10;
=6.USA 2, China 1, Australia, Turkey, Kazakhstan 9.

The top two matches at the World Youth Olympiad can be watched live via

The seventh round will begin at 21.00 AEST.