Throwback Thursday: Studded 2005 World Youth Delegation Produces Online Stars of Today

2005 World Youth Championship U.S. Delegation


Many happy returns continue from the 2005 World Youth Championships, when the U.S. delegation sent 31 players to Belfort, France and produced several noteworthy performances for a sixth-place team finish out of 81 federations. 

Nearly every U.S. player managed at least an even score in the 11-round event, including at least three players who went on to become Grandmasters and US Chess superstars, and are now currently competing for a spot in next year’s US Chess Championship -- GMs Alex Lenderman, Robert Hess and Daniel Naroditsky. 

None were shining brighter than 15-year-old Lenderman, who stormed the Boys U16 section in Belfort and became the first American World Youth Champion in over a decade. The New Yorker turned in a scorching performance scoring 9/11, an even-more impressive tally considering a slow 2.5/4 start -- and a 6.5/7 closing streak to earn the gold medal.  


Alex Lenderman wins Gold at the 2005 World Youth Championships


Only a FIDE Master at the time, Lenderman picked the right event to be punching way above his belt, including this victory in the penultimate round over then-IM Ian Nepomniachtchi from Russia, who eventually earned the silver medal in 2015 and went on to be today’s No. 4 player in the world.  


[pgn][Event "Belfort WYCC Boys U16"] [Site "?"] [Date "2005.??.??"] [Round "10"] [White "FM Lenderman, Alex (2378) "] [Black "IM Nepomniatchtchi, Ian (2502) "] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2378"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "FM Aviv Friedman"] [PlyCount "105"] 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. Nf3 {This move order was designed to create the illusion that maybe Alex will play the Smith Morra Gambit he sometimes uses.} d6 {[3 ... e5 is bad, not because of: 4 Nxe5?? Qa5+, but rather because of 4 c3! with a great version of the Gambit.]} 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 {Not a surprise, of course.} 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. f3 Be6 9. Qd2 Nbd7 10. O-O-O O-O 11. g4 Nb6 {This is Black's pet line in the Najdorf. We went over some of the main games and the ideas, and so Alex felt quite confident.} 12. h4 Qc7 13. Kb1 Rfc8 {As usual, with castling on opposite sides, each player mobilizes his forces towards the opponent's king.} 14. g5 Nfd7 15. Rh2 {A good move, which both prepares a possible doubling of the rooks and also defends the second rank — specifically, the c2-pawn} Nc4 16. Bxc4 Bxc4 17. Nd5 {Previously, Black had this position against Russian GM Alekseev, where White played: [17 h5 a5 18 Ncl b5 and only then 19 Nd5. That game was drawn, after a short battle.]} Bxd5 18. Qxd5 a5 19. a4 {An unusual measure to prevent both ... a4 and ... b5.} Qc4 {A not-so-obvious mistake. After the game Ian told Alex he had this position before and played 19 ...Qc6. Now Alex jumps on an opportunity:} 20. Qxb7 Qxa4 {For a moment it may seem like Black is doing fine but now comes a shocker:} 21. Nc5 {A nice trick after which White has an advantage.} Nxc5 {[21 ... Rxc5? 22 Bxc5 Nxc5 23 Qxe7 21 ... dxc5 22 Qxd7 Qxd7 23 Rxd7 With complete domination.]} 22. Qxe7 Na6 {Black wants to play ... Nb4, but Alex is well prepared:} 23. b3 Qb5 24. Rhd2 {Not a bad move but 24 g6! might have been even stronger: 24 ... hxg6 P4 ... fxg6 25 Qe6+ Kh8 26 h5 looks strong too.) 25 h5 gxh5 26 Rgl! With a huge attack.} Nb4 25. Qxd6 {With the idea of playing 26 Qd8+!} h5 {25 ... Nc6! was forced here. Although after 26 Qc5 White is much better.} 26. g6 fxg6 {A mistake in a bad position.} 27. Qxg6 {White menaces 28 Rd7, and if a black rook moves from the 8th rank, 28 Rd8+ is curtains.} Nxc2 {A last, desperate try} 28. Qe6+ {An important, in-between move, which holds to the b3-pawn.} Kh8 29. Rxc2 Rxc2 30. Kxc2 Qe2+ 31. Bd2 { All that is left is for Alex to consolidate and not hang anything. The rest is easy:} a4 32. bxa4 Qxf3 33. Qc4 Qg4 34. Bc3 Rc8 35. Qd5 Qg2+ 36. Rd2 Qg3 37. Qd3 Qxh4 38. a5 Qe7 39. Qd6 Qe8 40. Qd7 Qg8 41. Rd5 Qf8 42. Qf5 Rxc3+ 43. Kxc3 Qa3+ 44. Kd2 Qb2+ 45. Ke1 Qc1+ 46. Rd1 Qc3+ 47. Kf1 Qc4+ 48. Kg1 Qc5+ 49. Kh1 Qxa5 50. Qxh5+ Kg8 51. Qg5 Kh7 52. Qh4+ Kg8 53. Qd8+ 1-0 [/pgn]

The October 2005 issue of Chess Life, or specifically the backpage section “School Mates,” which would later become Chess Life for Kids, features a U.S. roster studded with lasting star power, and a great interview of the world champion Lenderman by U.S. delegate coach FM Aviv Friedman. Some juicy reveals by Lenderman includes his not having a regular coach (“It costs a fortune.”) and one of his tournament secrets being long walks to the tournament venue with his grandfather. 

Lenderman also describes his chess work ethic coming from playing many OTB tournaments but, in 2005, he had also started to find benefits from a lot of “on-line blitz” chess. 

“Playing online allows you to try out lines and pick up ideas for openings you could later apply in tournament chess, so it helps,” said Lenderman in 2005. Today, the GM sits a half-point off the lead in the first-ever online qualifier for the US Chess Championship

Lenderman also nails prophecy with a bit of game recognizing game, when Friedman presses the 15-year-old on who to watch from the younger generation: Lenderman picks Ray Robson, who scored 8/11  to finish fifth in the Boys U12 section and is now firmly in the top-100 players in the world; and also picks Daniel Naroditsky, who scored 7/11 in the U10 section for fifth place. Lenderman and Naroditsky are currently tied in the US Championship Online Qualifier, and fought to a draw on Wednesday. 

Also appearing in both the 2005 World Youth delegation and the online qualifier to next year's national championship is GM Hess. Now a popular high-profile commentator on, Hess scored 8/11 in Belgrade and finished fifth place in the boys U14 section.

All three GMs Lenderman, Naroditsky and Hess have since competed in a US Chess national championship event, with Lenderman joining a three-player playoff to decide the champion in 2014.


2005 World Youth Championship Results for Team USA