Claudia's Journey to India Begins
By Claudia Munoz   
October 1, 2014
Claudia300.gifIf you would have told me three months ago that in October I would be going to the 2014 World Junior Chess Championship in Pune, India (October 5-20) as the USCF official representative, I would have simply stared at you in disbelief, but dreams do come true! As a 16-year old teen with a peak USCF rating of 2106, at times I pinch myself as I realize that there are girls more deserving and higher rated than myself to attend this tournament, but the awesomeness of American chess is that we all have the opportunity to earn the right of representing our country.


I earned my right in becoming the U.S. official representative by winning the 2014 U.S. Girls' Junior Chess Championship, on tie-breakers, held this summer at the University of New Hampshire as 10-top rated girl player accepted the invitation to compete in this 9-round robin FIDE rated event which included WFM Jennifer Yu (who just became U-12 World Youth Champion this week), WFM Ashita Gorti, WFM Kimberly Ding, WCM Apurva Virkud, WCM Maggie Feng, Carissa Yip, Becca Lampman, Alice Dong and Alexandra Weiner.


When I was notified about attending the 2014 World Junior Chess Championship in Pune, India (October 5-20) my parents had their financial budget session since $6,000 had already been spent on my chess calendar in three national and one state tournament between June and August.

Having the ‘official representative' status meant that the organizers would cover my room and board while the USCF paid my registration. I still had some out of pocket costs such as my plane ticket, VISA application fees and medical shots, but that was just for me as I was not going to India alone - my mother would travel with me with an additional plane ticket and room and board.  In our family meeting I decided that for the first time in my website history (2 million hits) aided by my platforms in social media I would launch an Internet fundraiser.  After three weeks into my fundraiser approximately $3,000 dollars were contributed by 43 sponsors of which 85% I have never met in person. Monies arrived from Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Illinois, West Virginia, Oregon and Delaware but because of the Internet, finances also arrived from Germany, Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico! The Texas Chess Association was the highest individual financial contributor. Weekly I would post a financial report along with a list of sponsors like this one in order to demonstrate transparency.
Last but not least, I recently opened a Facebook page specifically for my 43 sponsors so that they may get the inside scoop first on every detail of my trip before the thousands of followers in my website, Facebook and Twitter.

During the last 60 days, my coach and I analysed in-depth my last 4 tournaments this summer: North American Youth Chess Championship, U.S. Girls Junior Championship, National Girls Invitational and U.S. Open in order to learn what caused each mistake that I made and what corrections were needed. I averaged 10 hours per week of chess training.  We did spend two weeks analysing the top ranked girls in this World Junior Championship in order to understand the different playing styles. However with 77 girls in 13 rounds specific preparation will have to be on an individual basis according to my opponent as the tournament format is one round per day. 
claudia300.jpg VISA ISSUES
I have traveled to seven countries and never applied for a VISA so this was something totally new for our family.  The Indian government uses a private company called CKGS Group as a third party to process the VISAS and then they proceed to the consulate for final approval. Honestly, it was a nightmare. I will say it again - it was a nightmare, however the organizers of the World Junior Championship came to the rescue! When they found out that my mother and I were caught in red tape they asked for our VISA application tracking number and they contacted the Indian Consulate in Houston explaining the importance of the American team to be issued visas. Problem solved as the consulate replied and stated that the visas would be approved. Today they arrived so we are ready to go!

Because of the efforts of Relyea Chess in organizing the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, I earned my seat in the World Junior Chess Championship.  Without the assistance of the USCF, my parents, my sponsors and the organizers of the event, I would not be able to board the plane to Mumbai and Pune, India. I thank God for all those in my life that are assisting me in my chess endeavours and I will do my best to make them proud of me. I know that this will not be easy as I am starting from the 63rd position in a field of 77 players but I have been the underdog in many tournaments. It has never been about where I start, but where I finish after the 13th round.

I will keep you posted for the next three weeks.

Find an in-depth profile of Claudia on CLO here and look for more updates by her from India.