By David Koetsier
This year the World Youth Chess Championships for players in the categories U14, U16 and U18 are held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. For those that have never been to ‘Khanty’, it lies 1914 kilometres East of Moscow on the start of the Siberian plains. In winter the temperature can get as low as -49 degrees, but currently this sits at a pleasant 10 degrees.
Australia has selected 3 players to represent their country; Patrick Gong from Western Australia, who is playing in the U18 category, 14 year old Henry Slater-Jones from sunny Brisbane who is playing in the U14 category and 12 year old Eva Ge from Sydney who is playing in the U14 girl’s division.
Patrick Gong (Photo: Anna Volkova)
Henry Slater-Jones (Photo: Anna Volkova)
Eva Ge (Photo: Anna Volkova)
Despite all seeded in the second half of their groups at the start of the Championship, the tournament is showing that rating is really nothing to go by among juniors. The rate at which these students take on new topics and understand difficult openings is mind boggling. Most are still learning new concepts every day and improving at a rapid rate. Chances that players are under rated at this event is something that all coaches need to keep in mind when preparing for the next round.
Patrick is playing well above his own rating (2143), beating Malaysian FM Dilwen Ding Tze How (2397) in round 1 and Denis Gretz (2339) from Germany in round 3.
Patrick Gong (left, with White) at the start of his game against FM Dilwen Ding Tze How
Unfortunately FM Aram Hakobyan (2417) from Armenia, Jadranko Plenca (2396) from Croatia and FM Alexander Timerkhanov (2340) from Russia were all a little too strong.
Eva is showing that having no FIDE rating is not a limiting factor for participating in this tournament, by drawing against Anna Marie Koubova from the Czeck Republic and Marta Voskresenskaya from Russia. The win against Dayana Nasybullina from Russia in round 3 was extremely adventurous for her playing style and resulted in a win.
The emotional roller coaster that junior players face at events like these are incredible and should not be underestimated. They do not yet have the experience like seasoned players when dealing with a loss. It is hard for young players to stay motivated when you are losing multiple games in a row. It must also be the hardest part for parents, and it certainly is for me as the team leader, to replay the games, seeing when things did not go their way, knowing very well that you have seen them play these particular structures before. It is however very rewarding as a coach when after the round you sit one on one with a student and see the light in their eyes when they grasp the error. You know that at that point in time they are learning and are becoming better players. As Capablanca once said: ‘You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.’
For Queensland player Henry who is participating in the World Youth Championships as his first overseas tournament, he may not be playing as well in this event as he has recently shown he can do in Australia, but that does not mean the games are not of a high standard and World Youth Championship worthy. He is certainly becoming a better player through this tournament.
Henry Slater-Jones (Photo: Anna Volkova)
Having just travelled from the Olympiad it would be easy to continue to compare the two events; the opening ceremony, the way the tournament is run and the battles that are being fought over the board, but that would not be fair to either championship. One thing that feels strikingly different, is that with over 400 players (the largest number of players for this event ever achieved according to the WYCC website) there are more than 260 accompanying persons.
The Playing Hall
This means that at the start of every round there are hordes of parents wishing their children good luck, before they all retreat to the spectator’s area. It is unfortunate that access to the playing area is extremely restricted and with only the top four boards broadcasted per category, it becomes a little bit of a guessing game when certain players may be finished.
After round 5 there was a day of rest, which at a junior event is not really about rest. It is an opportunity to release some of the tensions and focus on other things rather than chess. The Australian delegation travelled as part of the organised city sightseeing tour on buses with English speaking tour guides. A visit to the Archeopark and attending an ice hockey game were all part of the ‘rest day’.
The Australian delegation enjoys the rest day.
It is perhaps no surprise that at this stage Russia is dominating and is represented in the top 3 in each age category (except for the U16 division). It also appears that chess players are not only getting stronger, they are also stronger at a younger age. Georgy Ryabov from Russia is the youngest player at the event at the age of 9, who played Australian Henry in round 4 in the U14 category.
So far it has been an absolute honour to guide and support the Australian players through this championship.
I may have attended many international tournaments myself over the years, but it is for me the first time I am wearing the Green and Gold. Despite the fact that we all know that Australia will not be finishing at the top, it has given these juniors a new sense of purpose towards their chess. To be part of such a large event, with players from around the world, it has opened up the prospect of what can be achieved through chess. Whether you win or lose, having the opportunity to represent your country and play against some very strong up and coming juniors is an amazing experience that will stay with these players forever.
David Koetsier, Team Leader and Coach for the Australian players
at the World Youth Chess Championships (Photo: Anna Volkova)
David has been a chess coach for over 20 years. Born and raised in the Netherlands, he started playing chess as an 8 year old and immediately fell in love with the game. He found his passion in teaching others the skills of the game while he was still competing in tournaments around the world. David is passionate about the many benefits chess can provide to students – helping them increase their forward, creative and logical thinking, developing their mathematical skills and providing a tool to communicate in autistic students. Since moving to Australia, he established Chesslife and works as a Certified Senior Junior Chess Coach using the Step method developed by Cor van Wijgerden. David is well known for his lively delivery, wide chess knowledge and incredible enthusiasm. David is the current South Australian Representative on the Australian Junior Chess League Committee.