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U.S. Success at the 2010 World Youth Print E-mail
By Shaun Smith   
November 2, 2010
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Medallists Steven Zierk and Kayden Troff

This year's 11 round World Youth Championship was held at the beautiful Porto Carras Resort in Halkidiki, Greece from October 20-30, 2010 and included nearly 1,400 players from 87 different countries.

In total, the United States had one of the largest and strongest delegations in the event, including 40 students in nearly every section, and some of the strongest coaches in the world. Going in to the final day of the tournament, US players had chances to win gold in three different sections.  In a very large award ceremony, which included local dancers from Marmaras (a small town players visited between the rounds and on rest days) the top eight players from every section were awarded prizes.

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World Under 18 Champion Steven Zierk
The biggest story of the tournament was FM Steven Zierk's incredible undefeated performance, which earned him the IM title and a GM norm. Steven won clear first in the U18 Open while turning in an over 2700 FIDE performance rating!  Zierk amazed all of the US Team members by playing solid chess throughout the marathon event.  Zierk started the tournament by winning his first four games in fine style, drawing the next three and winning his final four games with the title on the line.  In all but his first two games, Zierk was out rated.

His coach at the tournament, FST and IM Armen Ambartsoumiam said, "He played great and deserved the first place trophy and gold medal." Zierk joins an elite group of past winners of the U18 open, which makes the title of GM a realistic goal for him.  I personally am very proud of his performance and with the amount of cheers he received at the award ceremony from the US delegation, it is clear he was an inspiration to us all.  










Zierk was not the only US player drawing cheers at the award ceremony.  Both Kayden Troff and Jeffrey Xiong won silver medals in the U12 and U10 respectively.

Kayden started the tournament with 7.5/8 and seemed destined to win the gold with exact and exciting play.  However, he lost round 9 to the eventual U12 winner.  Troff finished strong scoring 1.5 out of his last two rounds, but his round 9 opponent won both of his last two rounds.  With that said Troff put together an amazing tournament run and deserves applause from US chess players.  I expect great things from Kayden; he is not only a great chess player, but also a very smart child with a great supportive family. 

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Jeffrey Xiong
Jeffrey Xiong won the silver medal while tying for first place.  Jeffrey had an interesting road to his silver medal.  He actually defeated eventual tournament winner, Jason Cao of Canada in round 9, but still fell short on tiebreaks. 

Jeffrey also had to play teammates Cameron Wheeler and Tommy He to earn his final position. I should note that Jeffrey's performance was actually one of several great US performances in the U10; including Cameron Wheeler's 5th place performance, Samuel Sevian's 6th place performance, and Vignesh Panchanatham‘s  9th place performance.

 
 
Top 25 results by US Players by section (Place Finished)

    U18 Open
    FM Steven Zierk - 1st Place (9.5/11) (Gold Medal)

    U12 Open
    NM Kayden Troff - 2nd Place (9/11) (Silver Medal)
    NM Justus Williams - 14th Place (7.5/11)
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Justus Williams

    Kapil Chandran - 17th Place (7.5/11)

    U10 Open
    Jeffrey Xiong - 2nd Place (9/11) (Silver Medal)
    Cameron Wheeler - 5th Place (8/11)
    Samuel Sevian - 6th Place (8/11)
    Vignesh Panchanatham - 9th Place (8/11)
    FM Tommy He - 15th Place (7/11)

    U8 Open
    Awonder Liang - 9th Place (8/11)
    Aravind Kumar - 18th Place (7/11)
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Aravind Kumar with his mother


    Praveen Balakrishnan -  21st Place (7/11)
    Rayan Taghizadeh- 22nd Place (7/11)

U14 Girls
WCM Sarah Chiang - 23rd Place (6.5/11)

U12 Girls

Margaret Hua - 10th Place (7.5/11)

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Annie Wang

U8 Girls
    WFM Annie Wang -6th Place (7.5/11)
    Emily Nguyen -9th Place (7.5/11)
    Joanna Liu - 22nd Place (6.5/11)
    Kaavya Ramesh -24th Place (6.5/11)

Of course in any large international chess tournament, there are many stories to be told besides the simple chess ones.  For example, many U.S. Participants took an opportunity to visit Athens before the start of the tournament to see the historic Acropolis (see earlier report). Arriving early helps students fight jet lag and adjust to a new country's culture.  Many players and their families also visited Mt. Athos, Mt. Olympus, and Thessaloniki during the tournament's rest day. 
 
While many Greek citizens speak great English, in small towns such as Marmaras and other towns closer to our playing site, having a Greek phrase book was a must.

On the first day I arrived at Porto Carras I noticed two problems: 1. No Internet, 2. No iron in my room.  As such, I took it upon myself to fix both problems.  I drove into town and asked where I could buy an Iron and buy an internet wireless pre-paid USB stick.  Well let's just say people looked at me and had no idea what I was saying.  Thankfully I had the phrase book----I now can say "iron" in Greek! 

Acquiring internet was a more difficult problem.  The hotel's internet seemed non-existent. As such, I drove to Nikiti, a small town 30 KM away from the hotel, with Kapil Chandran's father, and Jeffrey Xiong's mother to purchase one of the aforementioned USB sticks.  It turned out that they had sold out of the sticks to other guests of the tournament.  We were told we could get them the following day.  By the time I had left the next day I had a list of people willing to buy a USB stick for 50 Euros.  Once the USB sticks were purchased the internet did start to work, albeit very slow (dial-up speed!).

NM Jeffrey Haskel from Florida said his favorite part of the tournament was meeting lots of new people from all over the world. 

I would have to agree with Jeffrey's attitude.  I met many helpful arbiters and members of the tournament's organizing committee (mainly from Greece) throughout the event that helped answer many of my questions and who showed me authentic Greek Culture.  I think all participants would agree that this was a very well run event.  Thanks go to the Greek Chess Federation, Organizer George Mastrokoukos, Chief Arbiter Panagiotis Nikolopoulos, and all other members of the Directing and Organizing teams.  I hope to be back in Greece soon to play in one of the country's open tournaments and enjoy the country's great cuisine.

Meeting many players, coaches, and parents from around the US was also a very special experience for me.  Qualifying and acquiring funding for this large event can be very difficult.  After talking with many parents, I am even more determined to help find corporate sponsors for chess, since for many families getting to this event can be too expensive.  Also, talking about how to improve a student's chess game can lead to interesting discussions.  I would like to take this time to thank everyone that donated to one or more of this year's players getting to this tournament.

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A powerful Under 12 squad: Kayden Troff, Justus Williams, Joshua Colas, Dachey Lin, Kapil Chandran and Christopher Wu

On a personal note, I represented Chess-in-the-Schools at the event. I thank everyone that donated to Chess-in-the-Schools this past year, allowing our student Justus Williams to receive high level coaching from GM Miron Sher and send him to this prestigious event. Because of generous sponsors, Justus has been able to travel abroad, play high level chess and most recently, break Kassa Korley's record for the youngest African-American Master in history at the age of 12. 

I wish everyone good luck in qualifying and getting to Brazil for the 2011 World Youth Chess Championship.
 
Photo Gallery

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Championship coaching squad! Back row: GM Sam Palatnik, FST Michael Khodarkovsky, GM John Fedorowicz, FST Aviv Friedman, Front row: FST and IM Armen Ambartsoumiam and IM Andranik Matikozyan
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Anna Matlin and Attulya Shetty in blitz with Jessica Regam watching


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Praveen Balakrishnan, Awonder Liang and Samritha Palakollu
 
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