World Youth Underway in South Africa
By GM Ben Finegold   
September 21, 2014
Oceanview.jpgThe 2014 World Youth Chess Championship is currently being held in Durban, South Africa.  The tournament runs from September 20-30, with 11 rounds played in several sections.  There are sections (Open and girls) for U18, U16, U14, U12, U10, and U8. 

The 2014 event is small compared to previous editions, with slightly less than 1000 players from over 85 countries. The most likely reason the attendance is down is due to the time of year, when most kids have just started school, it is difficult to take 2 weeks off.

The US delegation is slightly smaller than last year, but it is 2nd, in terms of numbers, to the host country.  There are about 125 players from South Africa and 70 from the US.  This year, many players could decide if they wanted a USCF coach, or simply work on their own (or with a private coach), so, of the 70 Americans, we are officially coaching 48.  This works out well, since there are 8 coaches and each coach has been assigned 6 participants. A typical day, is for each student to work 30 minutes with a coach before the round, and then there is a 3 hour analysis session after the round where we look at the games of the day. 

I am once again working with Michigan players Atulya Shetty and Ed Song.  Ed lost a heart-breaker in round 1, as he was winning much of the way and then made a one move blunder in the 5th hour of play. Atulya won a nice game, and both players are again paired down in round 2.  Atulya is in the U18 section, and it only has one GM this year, so, I think Atulya has an outside chance at a medal.

The event has had a lot of ups and downs so far, so, I think I will give the organizers a chance to make improvements before complain too much! Let me list some of the pros and cons, and we will see how things have changed when I file my second report in a few days.

  • Beautiful hotel, spacious and well-lit playing site
  • Indian Ocean and beach across the street from hotels
  • 5 star breakfast every day
  • Pick-up at the airport was perfect
  •  Local people are very nice
  •  Weather is normally 60-75 everyday.

  • Internet is very suspicious
  • Lunch and dinner are much worse than breakfast
  • Two rounds a day on two different days
  • Round 1 started very late due to various announcements and kids showed up one hour before for opening ceremony (so they were sitting at their boards for more than 90 minutes before move 1!), 15 minutes late forfeit rule (better than zero tolerance, but, with everyone coming from hotels to the playing site, I think 30 minutes makes more sense)

Under 8 Representative Lucas Foerster-Yialamas & 2013 gold medallist Awonder Liang

I love going to new places, and this is my (and many other Americans) first time in Africa.  It is beautiful here and having a view of the Indian Ocean outside my window is priceless.

Our best chances for medals, based on rating and previous youth events are:  Awonder Liang (two time gold medalist at the World Youth), Christopher Shen (he just went 9-0 to win the Pan American Youth), David Peng (silver medalist last year), Martha Samadashvili (2013 North American Youth winner), Jennifer Yu, Akshita Gorti, and Ashritha Eswaran.  Of course, any of our players could fight for medals, and I expect we will do even better this year, and I will predict 5 medals overall for Team USA!

So far, for the most part, the US players scored very well in round 1, and almost all the top Americans won their games. Of course, it is a marathon - not a sprint, but it's always good to win the first game.

A big shout out to the Co-heads of delegation (and coaches!) FST Aviv Friedman and FST Michael Khodarkovsky and my fellow coaches: GMs Nick deFirmian, GM John Fedorowicz, GM Sam Palatnik, IM Armen Ambartsoumian, IM Andranik Matikozian.

Rayan in the Under 12 Open played an exciting game in round two, which I've annotated below:

Nehyba (CZE),Martin (1806) - Taghizadeh (USA),Rayan (2026) [A26]

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6
So far, it looks like a standard English. In these kinds of lines, we often see white try to advance on the queenside with b4-b5 and black attack on the kingside.
6.Nf3 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Rb1 a5 9.a3 h6 10.Be3 Ng4 11.Bd2 f5 12.b4 axb4 13.axb4 g5

I like the way both players have played the opening. Now white starts to go astray.
14...f4!? 15.e3 Ne7 16.b5 Nf5 17.h3?!

This weakens the white king position.
17...Nxf2! 18.Kxf2 Nxg3 and black has a very strong attack.
18.g4 fxe3 19.fxe3 Ng3 20.Rfe1?


Here white offered a draw. This move is not good though, since white could have played Be1 later otherwise.
20...h5! 21.Kh2? hxg4!! 22.hxg4 Bxg4! 23.Kxg3 Nh5+! 24.Kxg4 Qd7+ 25.Kxh5

25...Rxf3!! 26.Bxf3 Qh3+ 27.Kg6

27.Kxg5 Bf6+!! 28.Kxf6 (28.Kg6 Qg3+ 29.Kxf6 Rf8+ 30.Ke6 Qg6+ 31.Kd5 Qf7+ 32.Ke4 Qxf3#) 28...Rf8+ 29.Kg5 (29.Ke7 Rf7+ 30.Ke8 Qd7#; 29.Kg6 Qf5+ 30.Kh6 Rf6#) 29...Rf5+ 30.Kg6 Qh7#
27...Qh6+ 28.Kf5 Rf8+ 29.Ke4 Qg6+ 30.Kd5 Qf7+


White resigns due to the upcoming Qxf3#. A beautiful attacking game! 0-1

For results, standings, games, video, and other info go to: