Saturday, September 20

World Youth Begins in Durban

Vignesh and Rayan at the venue.
Hans strolls on the sand.

The 2014 World Youth Chess Championships kicked off today in Durban, South Africa.  Among approximately 950 players from 88 countries are 70 Americans, including 7 residing in Northern California.  The overall turnout is half of last year in United Arab Emirates, and Team USA shrunk from a record 94 participants.  No doubt, the tournament dates contributed to the lower turnout, especially compared to last year's event over the Winter Holidays.  Follow the results of Team USA at a glance using the Chess-Results website.

Life's a Beach in Durban.
The first impressions have been positive.  In a preview at Chess Life Online, GM coach Ben Finegold spoke of a great hotel with a plentiful buffet, immediately addressing one of the shortcomings last year.  In his chess chronicles, Bay Area NM Vignesh Panchanatham lauds the organization and good playing conditions.  The children will no doubt enjoy the adjacent beach, while adults can relax in the mild spring breezes off the Indian Ocean.

Of course, the primary focus is chess.  The schedule features 11 rounds through September 29, with double rounds tomorrow and on Tuesday, plus a rest day on Wednesday.  Most rounds begin at 16:00 local time, which converts to 7:00 in the morning PDT (rounds 2, 5 and 11 begin at 10:00 local).  Hopefully there will be live coverage of some of the top boards at the official website.

Three of the seven Northern California representatives already earned the USCF title of National Master, a tribute to their skill and experience competing against adults and juniors alike.  I expect them to fare well even against higher rated opposition.

Bay Area Delegation -- Scores after Round 3
  • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (G8) 2.5 !
  • Andrew Hong (B10) 2.5 !
  • NM Rayan Taghizedah (B12) 2.0 
  • Hans Niemann (B12) 2.0
  • Chenyi Zhao (G12) 1.0
  • NM Vignesh Panchanatham (B14) 3.0 !!!
  • NM Ashritha Eswaran (G14) 2.5 - drew with #1 seed from Russia!

Extra: Check out this fun attack and checkmate by Rayan at US Chess!

Team USA maintains high hopes of earning several medals once again.  Arthur Guo (B8) and FM Awonder Liang (B12) are rated highest in their respective sections.  Alas, they're hardly the only contenders.  In particular, watch the Boys Under 12 section with seven Americans seeded in the top 20, including Rayan and Hans from the Bay Area.  Among the young ladies, the Girls Under 12 appears most promising, with Jennifer Yu and Akshita Gorti both ranked in the top 4 of the section.  Good luck to all!  Go U-S-A!!

(Photos have been shamelessly borrowed from the Facebook pages of player parents.  Credit to Siva Panchanatham, Kaimi Niemann and Ramalingam Eswaran.)

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