Tuesday, December 17

World Youth in United Arab Emirates

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The final two weeks of 2013 bring one of the most exciting events on the international chess calendar: the annual World Youth Chess Championships.  Usually held in late October or November, the organizers in the United Arab Emirates chose to host the tournament over the European winter holidays.  The change in dates helped boost the overall turnout to 1800+ from 120 countries, up from 1584 children last year.  The American delegation has swollen to more than 90 players, not counting parents, siblings and coaches!  There are 12 sections differentiated by age (U-18, U-16 through U-8) and gender (Open + Girls).  The chess competition promises to be fierce; for example, the U-18 section features a record 10 Grandmasters, including the Bay Area's own Daniel Naroditsky.

Attending an event of this magnitude requires careful planning.  A typical flight to the United Arab Emirates includes a stopover of several hours in Frankfurt or London.  Upon arrival in Dubai, the weary travelers must endure a 2-hour bus trip to the inland oasis of Al Ain.  All delegates will spend two weeks living at a modern university campus.  The next challenge is overcoming the jet lag--a 12 hour time difference from California.  Many families flew in several days early to adjust to the complete reversal of the body clock.

United Arab Emirates University

The tournament runs 11 rounds from December 18 to 28, with one game daily except for a double-round on the 21st.  The rest day after round 8 will coincide with the major religious holiday of Christmas.  Will Santa and his reindeer find their way deep into the Arabian desert?  Perhaps Santa should hire a camel instead.  On the bright side, the relaxed schedule allows young players time to review their games with a professional team coach (GM or strong IM) and learn from the inevitable mistakes.  

Royal family at Opening Ceremony (Photo: McCarty)
Team USA hopes to improve on a strong performance in 2012, bringing home four medals including gold in both U-14 and U-12.  This year, a total of 94 players registered: 53 boys and 41 girls.  On one hand, there are 21 USCF masters, most competing in the challenging U-18, U-16 and U-14 Open sections.  On the other hand, 27 precocious kids are 8 years old or younger!  The Americans comprise the second largest delegation in Al Ain, behind Russia (111), but ahead of the host country (87) and India (82).

Museum (Photo: McCarty)
Stay tuned to this blog for coverage of Team USA as a whole, and especially the 19 participants from Northern California.  The first round pairings have not yet been posted, probably to accommodate late arriving travelers from all regions of the world.  I eagerly await eyewitness reports at the official World Youth website, Chess Life Online, various chess blogs (some of my favorites: Susan Polgar, Claudia Muñoz, Vignesh Panchanatham) and, of course, social media (Facebook + Twitter).

Good luck to all. Go U-S-A!

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