Alejandro on the Race for Medals in Greece

GM Alejandro Ramirez reports on the progress of Team USA in Porto Carras, Greece as the medal race intensifies. RaceforMedals1
Round nine has just finished here at the World Youth in Greece, and it is a good time to look back at what has gone right, what needs to be changed, and how the USA delegation is doing as we approach the final two rounds of the tournament.
Let me start by saying that the tournament organization has been, at least from my viewpoint, extremely satisfactory. For such a large tournament, everything is smooth: the pairings come out quickly, the rounds start on time and without hassles, and most playing conditions are good – the few that have received complaints have been fixed.
From our own camp things have also run smoothly. Co-heads of delegation Aviv Friedman and Mikhail Khodarkovsky have managed to take care of even the smallest problems that have affected our players.
Our hotel, Sithonia at Porto Carras is a nice place to stay in. The walk to the playing hall is only a few minutes, and you have the option of going the quick way by taking a few roads, or taking the scenic route by the beach. Even though we are far from summer temperatures, a few people seem to enjoy going for a swim in the ocean. The food options are starting to get repetitive, but that is to be expected on a stay that is over two weeks long: the food is after all rather tasty, even if the variety isn't amazing. The internet isn't the strongest in the hotel during peak hours, but it is sufficient (to send this report for instance).
The rest day was scheduled after only five rounds. The players and parents did a variety of things. Some went to the nearest major city, Thessaloniki, while others were more adventurous and took a long bus ride all the way to legendary Mount Olympus. Most of us, however, decided to simply explore the area around the hotel. For 2.50 euros a nice ferry takes you to the nearest village, called Neos Marmaras, a picturesque town with souvenir shops, excellent restaurants and cafes, and most importantly a change of scenery.
The rounds after the rest day are quite decisive. They weed out the players that will have real chances for medals, and in general set the pace for how the tournament will unfold. After nine rounds we have had some major ups and downs, some big disappointments but also some lucky breaks.
Carissa Yip, Maya Behura and Sanjana Vittal sporting Two Sigma uniforms at the World Youth
Starting with the girls sections, we are currently having a very strong showing in the u12. Despite losing a heart breaker on round seven, Carissa Yip is still in excellent medal contention, with 7.5/9 and currently in second place in the tournament. She recovered from her loss nicely with the following win:
[White "Berdnyk, Mariia"]
[Black "Yip, Carissa"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E81"]
[PlyCount "58"]1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. Qd2
a6 9. g4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Be6 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. g5 Nd7 13. Bh3 Nde5 14. Bxe6+ Kh8
15. O-O-O Nxf3 16. Qg2 Nfd4 17. Bg4 b5 18. h4 b4 19. Ne2 Nxe2+ 20. Qxe2 Qa5 21.
Kb1 Qe5 22. Qg2 b3 23. a3 e6 24. h5 Kg8 25. hxg6 hxg6 26. Qh2 Qxe4+ 27. Ka1 Rf7
28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Rhf1 Bxb2+ 0-1
Also with good medal chances and with 7.0/9 is Martha Samadashvili. She is in a do-or-die situation tomorrow if she wants to reach the podium, as she faces Saina Salonika from Indian, one of the girls that has 0.5 points more than her.
In the u16 girls, Agata Bykovtsev is our best chance. She has not drawn a single game, and is currently on a three-game winning streak after defeating Qiyu Zhou from Canada, the reigning u14 World Champion. Agata has 7.0/9 and two wins in the final two rounds might even give her a gold medal.
[White "Bykovtsev, Agata"]
[Black "Zhou, Qiyu"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B70"]
[PlyCount "103"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 g6 6. Bc4 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8.
Bb3 Nc6 9. Re1 Nd7 10. Nf3 a6 11. Bg5 b5 12. Rb1 Bb7 13. Nd5 Nc5 14. Qd2 Nxb3
15. axb3 Re8 16. Qf4 f6 17. Bh6 e6 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Ne3 Qe7 20. Rbd1 Red8 21.
h4 Ne5 22. Nd4 Kh8 23. Rd2 Rd7 24. c4 b4 25. f3 Rad8 26. Ng4 Kg7 27. h5 Nxg4
28. Qxg4 Re8 29. f4 Kf7 30. hxg6+ hxg6 31. Rd3 Rg8 32. Rh3 Rg7 33. Rg3 Rc7 34.
f5 Bc8 35. fxg6+ Kg8 36. Qh4 Rc5 37. Rh3 Kf8 38. Rf1 f5 39. Qh6 Qf6 40. Qh8+
Ke7 41. Rh7 Rxh7 42. Qxh7+ Kf8 43. Ne2 Qg7 44. Qh2 Re5 45. Qh4 Ke8 46. exf5
exf5 47. Nf4 Re4 48. Rd1 Qe5 49. Qh5 Kf8 50. Qh7 Qg7 51. Nh5 Qb7 52. g7+ 1-0[/pgn]
Not all of the players that have had a strong showing for us are necessarily in medal contention. For example, Alice Dong in the u18 section started ranked 61/80, but after winning her last three games in a row she is ranked 24th and is winning a massive 141,6 rating points. A win against the top seed tomorrow will give her a WIM norm.
The u8 open section has several players showing excellent chess. My own student, Aghilan Nachiappan, started with a dashing 6.5/8. Unfortunately he had to learn his lesson about king activity in the endgame the hard way today, and now sits in a still very strong 6.5/9. Also on this score are Americans Lucas Foerster-Yialamas, Adi Murgescu and Surya Vishnu Vanapallii. In an unusual pairing, the Americans will be playing each other, which is unfortunate, but at least our chances of having two people with 7.5/10 is rather high!
The u10 suffered a significant setback for us today. Justin Wang has had a fantastic tournament, and today he had the tournament in his hands as he was crushing the top seed in his section. Unfortunately a big blunder not only cost him the advantage, but the game, and although Justin still has good medal chances, he will have to recover psychologically from the loss.
The u12 is where some of our best medal chances lie. Andrew Hong is currently tied for the lead with 7.5/9, and close behind him are David Peng and Hans Neimann with 7.0/9. Tomorrow will be a crucial round for our players in this section. Andrew could even have had better chances had he found the killer blow in his game against top seed Abdusattorov:
[White "Hong, Andrew Z"]
[Black "Abdusattorov, Nodirbek"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C97"]
[PlyCount "117"]
[SourceDate "2015.11.12"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3
O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. d5 Nc4 13. b3 Nb6 14. a4 bxa4 15. bxa4
a5 16. Na3 Ba6 17. Rb1 Rfb8 18. Bg5 Ne8 19. Be3 Qd7 20. Nd2 f5 21. exf5 Nxd5
22. Bb3 Nec7 23. Ne4 Qc6 24. c4 Nxe3 25. Rxe3 Rf8 26. Nb5 Bb7 27. Qg4 Bc8 28.
Rg3 Ne8 29. Bc2 Bxf5 30. Nf6+ Rxf6 31. Bxf5 Rd8 32. Nc3 Rh6 33. Nd5 Bf6 34. Rb6
Qa8 35. Bd7 Bh4 36. Bxe8 Bxg3 37. Bc6 Bxf2+ 38. Kxf2 Rf8+ 39. Kg1 Qd8 40. Rb7
Rf7 41. Bd7 Rg6 42. Be6 Rxg4 43. Rxf7 Rxg2+ 44. Kxg2 Kh8 45. Re7 Qb8 46. Rf7 h5
47. h4 Qe8 48. Ne7 Kh7 49. Bd5 Kh6 50. Nf5+ Kg6 51. Nxd6 Qxa4 52. Rf8 Kh7 53.
Be4+ g6 54. Bd5 Qd1 55. Rf7+ Kh6 56. Rf3 Qd4 57. Ne4 a4 58. Rf8 a3 59. Rh8+
The tournament has been long. Many important lessons have been learned, and many great experiences have been had. We gear up here in camp USA, in the Purple Bar of the Sithonia Hotel in Porto Carras, as we try to bring home the medals.
You can find out more about the tournament on the official website, where you can find live games and also follow along on
The World Youth squad is sponsored by Two Sigma. Read more about the uniforms Two Sigma is generously providing our delegation with, in the announcement and arrival PR. 

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