A Disastrous Championship

by Dejan Bojkov
11/21/2018 – No, the title does not refer to the absolute World Championship in London, but rather a battle of possible future challengers ages 8-12 which took place in Spain from November 4th to 15th. GM DEJAN BOJKOV was there coaching two players in the Girls Under-12 and sent us this personal narrative of the trip. | Pictured: Dilyan Ivanov (parent), Dilyana Ivanova (Bulgaria), Jackuline Ramalingam (parent of Aksithi), Aksithi Eswaran (USA). All photos: Dejan Bojkov

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A trainer's travelogue

The first time I heard that the World Cadet Championships (for ages 8-12) will be held in Santiago de Compostela I felt excited. After all, we all have heard about the famous Spanish hospitality, food and traditions. I have experienced those in this same area — Galicia. In fact, many of the Bulgarian grandmasters and international masters got their norms and even titles at tournaments there, as part of the Galician summer circuit. 

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela on a nice day

Clouds on the horizon

Some worrying signs started to appear when we (trainers, parents and players) tried to contact the organisers. Since I was about to coach two players from different countries, it was mandatory for us to stay in the same hotel. We wrote simultaneously to the organiser with a request and were assured that we shall stay in the same TRYP hotel — but only after many emails, the majority of which went unanswered.

However, roughly a week before the event we were mysteriously relocated to different hotels, without any explanation. The emails were still never answered and, eventually, even the contact phones were turned off.

The chaos at the arrival was evident: People were not on the list of the transfers, there was insufficient English-speaking staff. In addition, those who had the misfortune to arrive at other airports besides the one in Santiago had to first travel to the local airport and wait on a long queue to receive their badges before being taken to their hotels. This is, for instance, what happened to the American delegation [Aviv Friedman, the head of the USA delegation confirmed this - Ed.]. Once the kids arrived in the hotel they were asked to go back to the airport (all of them) to receive their badges. There was no logical explanation for why the head of the delegation cannot take care of the badges alone.

We, as part of the Bulgarian representatives, were relocated to a hotel named Los Tilos. It was supposed to be a four-star hotel, but a quick look at its pictures and the booking reviews revealed that it does not deserve at least three of those stars. 

Hotel pictures

The guests were not impressed by elements of the hotel looking rather worse for wear

An inquiry to the organisers to either change the hotel, or lower the price was made once that we arrived at the airport, but the reply was typical for this particular official: “I have personally checked all the hotel rooms and there are all very good.”  Later this version was changed to “I have checked this hotel two years ago, and it was fine…” In my experience, this is the first four-star hotel which did not have elementary facilities, to say nothing of a swimming pool or gym.

Let’s talk about math now: A double room in this hotel costs about €48 euros in peak periods. The organiser was charging €136 euros. One would expect that the food will be of a very high quality for that difference, would not they?

It transpired there was barely anything to eat. In the morning, apart from bread, there was one type of ham and one type of cheese. No warm buffet, eggs or even honey. Nada. Lunch and dinner were like those cosy French restaurants, where the chef is cooking what he likes and everyone eats the same. Except that the food was similar to what one might find in the army. No salad at all, typically meat and French fries. And no choice. We are not even talking about elementary needs for people with different dietary habits. We had representatives from Muslim countries who had their religious restrictions and could not eat pork, for instance.

Three days of polite complaints were met with the same answer by the organiser “I know about your problem…” I learned later that he specifically asked the hotel staff not to give his telephone number to anyone. 

Playing hall

The playing hall — Cidade de Cultura de Galicia

As for the playing conditions, the players had a nice venue to play, but for the parents, there was only a tent prepared while waiting for them. On a rainy, windy day it was useless and many of the parents had to stay outside in the rain.

The tent on a rainy and windy day

Due to a storm, the fourth round was cancelled — not that this was announced on the English page of the site, but rather only in Spanish.

During this accidental free day, there was some activity at the hotel. Some things were repaired or fixed. The organiser immediately took credit for these improvements.

But it came a bit too late. Social networks were filled with pictures of the disastrous conditions for which people were heavily overcharged. There were many complaints from the other hotels too. An ultimatum was signed by every participant of our hotel that we should be reimbursed and receive an official apology.

On the next day, the organiser capitulated and decided to return half of the money to the participants who stayed in Los Tilos. The food was also improved, although it remained way below normal standards.

A nice historic square

The city centre was scenic

How did the championships go?

In the Girls Under-12, the rating favourite was Machteld Van Foreest from the Netherlands, the only player who was rated above 2000 (her two older brothers Jorden and Lucas are grandmasters). However, she started with a loss and could not really get into the big fight for the medals, although at the end tied for the third. The other rating favourite, Amina Kairbekova from Kazakhstan, stood well but finished badly. Here is the game where it started going wrong for her:

 

Thus the battle for first place was between Umida Omonova from Uzbekistan and Savitha Shri from India. The former made one draw more and had to settle for the silver.

As for Savitha Shri, this is what her coach Ramesh wrote on his Facebook page:

“Congratulations to Savitha Shri Baskar for winning World under 12 girls championship! Coming from a very tough economic background, this is a fantastic achievement. Like many talented players, she will face the similar challenge of finding someone who can financially support her for further progress. Hope that happens”

The bronze went to Emilia Zavivaeva from Russia, thanks to her having the best tiebreak.

Samantha Edithso took clear first place in the Girls Under-10. Here was her win over the silver medalist Alexandra Shvedova from Russia:

 

I know Edithso from the Olympiad in Batumi. Peter Long who was helping her there showed me some of her games. She is very talented, sharp player and a bright hope for the Indonesian chess. The same applies to Shvedova and Yining Chen (bronze) from China. 

Samantha Edithso interviewed at the Batumi Olympiad

In the Girls Under-8, Yunqing Zhao of China is the champion with 9½/11. Second was Veronica Yudina (RUS) with 9/11, followed by Evelyn Qiao (USA) with 8½/11. 

In the Boys Under-12, D Gukesh from India was above everyone. With his rating of 2457 and strong play, he left no chances to his opponents. His start 8/8 was more than convincing and despite the slip in round nine he finished with 10/11, 1½ ahead of the group of four boys who tied for the second. Volodar Murzin, who won against Gukesh, earned the silver medal, with bronze going to Nico Chasin who edged out Arthur Guo (both from the USA) on tiebreak.

Under-12 podium

Winners of the under-12 section | Photo: Mikhail Kobalia

The Boys Under-10 saw Ji Yueheng of China and Erick Zhao of USA tied for first with the Chinese player edging out his opponent narrowly on tie-break. The interesting part here is that the two of them actually did not play each other at the championship. Bronze was for Artem Pingin from Russia thanks for his better tiebreak.

The most impressive win of the tournament was arguably in the Boys Under-8, after Yuvraj Chennareddy scored nine consecutive wins before slowing down with a draw and finishing with another win. A final result of 10½/11 for the boy from Chicago is one his coach GM Mesgen Amanov can be very proud of! Silver went for the European champion Jahandar Azadaliyev (Azerbaijan) and bronze for Khumoyun Begmuratov (Uzbekistan).

Yuvraj Chennareddy

Yuvraj Chennareddy clinched gold with a round to spare | Photo: Grant Oen / USChess.org

More travel woes getting home

There needed to be a cherry on the cake of misery and there was: My flight back home was from La Coruna airport. We already knew the people and decided to check if everything is OK with the transfer. Four days prior to the flight the first request was made. I was not in the transfer list but was assured it will be alright. Of course, once that the list of the travelers finally arrived I discovered that all the information was completely wrong. We called from the reception the organiser and he said it would all be worked out. Then a triple check with the travel office was made. They have not heard anything from the organiser but assured us it would be fine.

Now at 3 AM in the morning, guess if the transfer came? After half an hour I had to give up and call a taxi. It cost me about a hundred euros.

Taxi meter

Thankfully, I received reimbursement for my taxi fare and an apology from the organisers. Just before we entered the airport I saw the official bus, which was filled with Russian participants who came from another hotel. For a moment I thought I might have missed the transfer somehow. Until two minutes later two other taxies arrived with participants from Azerbaijan and Serbia. They explained that no transfer came for them either!

Despite the horrible conditions, my girls finished on a positive score and I am very proud of them. Although we know they can do better.

Santiago de Compostela is a great town to visit with its monumental building, churches and parks.

Pretty park

A pretty park view on a nice day

It is a pity that we did not have enough time and desire to visit it, after the survival game we forced into.

One thing is for sure: the wrong practices of overcharging and no choice for the participants should stop once and forever. If someone is organising a major event like this should definitely have some experience from the previous championships and/or have someone experienced to assist him.

Correction November 22: Umida Omonova is from Uzbekistan, not Tajikistan

Correction November 23: In the boys under-12, Volodar Murzin (from Russian and coached by GM Mikhail Kobalia), took second place (silver), while Nico Chasin came third.

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Dejan Bojkov, born in 1977, is a Bulgarian GM who qualified from the Sports Academy of Sofia as a trainer, a profession which he has followed in various countries. After his work as a trainer in Kavala (Greece) he trained ex World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Bojkov regularly reports for chessbase.com and chessbase.de. In 2009 Bojkov was champion of Bulgaria and member of the Bulgarian team at the European championships. Bojkov is the authorof a number of popular ChessBase DVDs and in cooperation with Vladimir Georgiev wrote the book "A Course in Chess Tactics" (Gambit 2010).
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macauley macauley 11/23/2018 08:43
@Katerina M - Thanks. Corrected.
tanu2 tanu2 11/23/2018 01:29
Really badly managed tournament,players n all participants suffered a lot .Organisers didnt take trouble to drop till tournament hall even in a rain & storm like conditions where to walk from gate to tournament hall was like an adventure. All umbrellas n raincoates were useless on that day and kids have to sit with wet cloths to play in such cool weather.My daughter Tanisha Boramanikar(u 12girls)who was playing table no.2 in round 10 got fever in last 2 rounds and due to ill health have to finish on 10th position.
Katerina M Katerina M 11/23/2018 12:01
Before writing article, you have to study final tables. It is not difficult. Boys are younger than 12 years incorrectly listed winners.
argiopas argiopas 11/22/2018 11:34
Spot on by Dejan Bojkov, I was also a coach there and confirm every word. A horrendous organisation from start to finish, it looked like nobody new what they're doing. It always looked like NOTHING will go right. This was outright the worst organisation I have ever encountered, this was just not acceptable.
Denix Denix 11/22/2018 10:20
Congratulations to the winners! Thanks to the organizers for making this happen. Things could be improved.
RayLopez RayLopez 11/22/2018 06:00
@Aigherarach - jail in the USA for a bad hotel experience? Not likely. It's a civil infraction, you can sue in small claims court and probably get three times damages if you can show bad faith. But not jail.

As for the chess tournament, I notice these days chess organizers take advantage of their 'captive' audience to gouge them. Chess is an addiction and these organizers know it. A common tactic for organizers is to oversubscribe the number of participants in a Swiss format. If there's 9 rounds, a 'fair' Swiss is about 9^2 = 81 participants, but organizers routinely will pack as many people as they can into these tournaments, to get more entry fees, so 200 players or more is not unusual.
Wastrel Wastrel 11/22/2018 03:15
You can bet the "organizer" made a lot of money from this, even after the reimbursements. It's a shameful way to treat our young players (and their parents and mentors) and FIDE needs to put the "organizer" on a blacklist.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/21/2018 10:24
In the US it would be fraud. And if they didn't return the money when asked, or offered a partial refund, you could report it to the police and they would go to jail. OTOH, some people say we have too many in our jails. But some of them are for things similar to what is in this story!

The difference in price compared to normal would make it a "slam dunk" case. There is no possible defense.
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