(At left, array of flags flying outside playing hall. At right, both Steven and his young pupil Cameron have excellent results. Visit Cameron's chess blog for more photos.)
The two week long World Youth Chess Championships in Halkidiki, Greece reached its midway point today as the 1400 participants played both rounds 5 and 6 (of 11). Tomorrow is the rest day, typically reserved for sightseeing tours and a well-deserved break from the chessboard. The tournament concludes with a closing ceremony after the final round on Saturday.
First-hand accounts from Halkidiki have been quite positive, fortunately in stark contrast to World Youth nightmares of yesteryear, e.g. Belfort, France in 2005. Check out this detailed chess blog written by 10 year old Cameron Wheeler and his father Rob. Great photos! In addition to pairings and standings, the excellent official website features round-by-round reports, PGN files with 50 top games per round, hundreds of photographs, and video interviews.
The eight CalChess juniors who flew to Greece fare quite well given the tough competition. Half of our kids are in the top 10 of their section! Samuel Sevian, the top seed in U10, remains at the top of the hill, having surrendered just one draw. A bit more surprising is the phenomenal result of Cameron Wheeler in the same section. Cameron scored four wins and two draws against opposition that includes a trio of young FIDE masters. His friend Vignesh Panchanatham recovered from a first round loss by winning four straight games (plus a draw for 4.5/6). Two of Coach Ted Castro's talented 8 year olds, Rayan Taghizadeh (photo at right) and Joanna Liu (wearing her Weibel shirt!) stand at 4.0 and 4.5 respectively. Lastly, Kesav Viswanadha and Allan Beilin may have earned less points than the others, only because they are playing in the more advanced U12 section.
However, the biggest story so far has been the phenomenal performance of FM Steven Zierk in the U18 division. My former star student stands at an undefeated 5.0 out of 6 despite facing three opponents rated around 2500, including a pair of Grandmasters. His performance rating of 2656 puts him on track for a GM norm, and nearly clinches an IM norm! He already drew against the leader, GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan of Armenia, in a wild game. In fact, he played three of the top six seeds, beating one and drawing with the other two, in spite of losing positions. Admittedly, anything is possible with five rounds to go, but Steven currently finds himself in a most enjoyable situation. Good skill, mate!
Bay Area Standings at World Youth (after 6 of 11 rounds)
- U18: FM Steven Zierk 5.0 -- 2nd place
- U12: Kesav Viswanadha 3.0
- U12: Allan Beilin 2.5
- U10: Samuel Sevian 5.5 -- 1st place
- U10: Cameron Wheeler 5.0 -- 5th place
- U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 4.5 -- 16th place
- U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 4.0
- Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 4.5 -- 8th place