USA Finishes 4th in FIDE Candidates Online Youth Event

Team USA finished in 4th place in the “Go World! Be Chess Smart against COVID-19!” FIDE Candidates Countries Youth Online Chess Tournament held over the weekend of April 18-19. A FIDE representative team and China finished tied at the top of the standings with FIDE taking 1st place on tie-breaks. Six teams competed in the event, with the remaining teams being others Russia, France and the Netherlands. Each team was comprised of five players aged under-16, three boys and two girls, which included some of the top players in the world for their age, including FIDE team members and GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Nihal Sarin, and Vincent Keymar. The USA team consisted of IM Andrew Hong (ranked #3), IM Christopher Yoo (ranked #1) and FM Robert Shlyakhtenko (ranked #8), with WFM Martha Samadashvili (ranked #1) and WIM Rochelle Wu (ranked #5) on the girl’s boards. The national rankings mentioned are based on their FIDE standard ratings, but the US Chess March 2020 ratings were used in terms of the order of invitations for the event and for the board order for the matches. The matches were all played at a rapid time control of 10 minutes +2 seconds per move. All games were played on with some strict anti-cheating measures that involved arbiters being able to view the players and their screens at all times via a Zoom meeting, and everyone had to have the sound turn on so they could listen for anything else untoward happening. Play was scheduled to have three rounds on Saturday and two on Sunday, spaced with a comfortable 30 minute break between games, but due to some technical issues with, rounds 2 and 3 had to be moved into Sunday’s play forcing the rounds to start five minutes apart. However, all the games were eventually played, and some exciting rapid chess was witnessed with the usual frenetic “playing on the increment” endings, situations in which just about anything can happen. US Chess provided live coverage of the event on its Twitch channel with me as the host joined by two players who just missed out on making the teams: 13-year old FM Jason Wang and 12-year old WCM Ruiyang Yan. I will admit to being in awe at both Jason’s and Rui’s level of commentary on the event and thankfully they many times put my suggested bad moves to the sword. In round 1, USA was paired against Russia who were seeded #2 for the event based on FIDE regular ratings. The Russian team included both of the 2019 World Youth Under-16 Champions IM Rudik Makarian (Open) and WGM Leya Garifullina (Girls). The event was formatted in an unusual way. With five players per side, one team would have three whites and two blacks while their opponent would have the opposite in each round. The match pairing reflected the colors on board 1 and these were supposed to alternate down throughout the rest of the match. However, when this match started, since the pairing was officially Russia vs. USA, USA somehow had black on all five boards! This error was quickly brought to the Chief Arbiter’s attention and boards 2 and 4 were restarted after a few minutes with the correct colors. Things started off well for Team USA given that the first games to finish were the three in which we had the black pieces. Andrew scored a victory on board 1 against IM Volodar Murzin, the top Russian under-16 player, quickly followed by the following win by Rochelle on board 5 against Alisa Nir-Mukhametova. Rochelle has provided some comments on the game below.

[pgn] [Event "Candidates FED U16 Online"] [Date "2020.04.18"] [Round "1.5"] [White "Nur-Mukhametova, Alisa"] [Black "Wu, Rochelle"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2262"] [BlackElo "2028"] [Annotator "Rochelle Wu"] [WhiteTeam "RUS"] [BlackTeam "USA"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ {She wanted to avoid the Najdorf} Nd7 4. O-O a6 5. Bxd7+ Bxd7 6. d4 cxd4 7. Qxd4 {and now White's idea is usually connected with the c4 move.} Nf6 8. Bg5 Qc7 (8... h6 $5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nc3 (10. c4 {The Maroczy Bind} Bg7 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Rad1 f5 13. e5 Bc6 14. Qe3 Bxf3 15. gxf3 Bxe5 16. Qxh6 Bg7 17. Qh5 e6 18. Kh1 Qf6 $13 {Ni Hua (2667) - Zhao Jun (2574), Danzhou 2010.}) 10... e6 $14) 9. Nc3 Rc8 $5 {My idea was to trade Queens and control c-file with my rook.} (9... e5 $6 {I did not like structure with e5 pawn, because it makes the d5 square weak.} 10. Qd2 Be7 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. Nd5 $14) 10. Rad1 Qc5 11. Qd2 $6 (11. Qd3 $1 Bg4 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. h3 $14) 11... h6 $6 {too slow!} (11... Bg4 $1 12. Rfe1 (12. Qf4 $6 Bxf3 13. gxf3 (13. Qxf3 $4 Qxg5) 13... e6 $1 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Qxf6 Rg8+ 16. Kh1 Bg7 { [%csl Rh1]}) (12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Nd5 Rg8 $13) 12... Bxf3 13. gxf3 Nd7 $1 $13) 12. Bh4 $6 (12. Bxf6 $1 gxf6 13. Nd5 h5 (13... Rg8 14. Nd4 $16) 14. Nd4 $16) 12... g5 13. Bg3 Bg7 14. e5 dxe5 15. Ne4 $5 ({If} 15. Nxe5 {I would play} Be6 16. Rfe1 O-O { Black is doing well thanks to bishop pair.}) 15... Qb5 {To keep an eye on the bishop :)} 16. Nxf6+ $2 (16. Nc3 $1 Qa5 (16... Qxb2 {Looks risky} 17. Bxe5 $36) 17. Bxe5 Bc6 $13) 16... Bxf6 (16... exf6 $1 17. c4 (17. Rfe1 Be6 18. Qd6 Qc5 $19) 17... Qc6 $19) 17. Bxe5 Bxe5 18. Nxe5 Bf5 19. Qd4 O-O 20. c4 Qc5 21. b3 $6 (21. Qc3 {Keeping Queens on the board was a better option, because black's king looks more exposed.} f6 $13) 21... Bc2 $6 (21... Qxd4 $142 22. Rxd4 Rfd8 23. Rfd1 Rxd4 24. Rxd4 f6 25. Nf3 Kf7 $15) 22. Rd2 $2 (22. Qxc5 $1 Rxc5 23. Nd7 Rc7 24. Nxf8 Bxd1 25. Ne6 $1 fxe6 26. Rxd1 {White has practical chances for win.}) 22... Qxd4 23. Rxd4 Rfd8 24. Nf3 f6 $1 $15 { Including the king in the game!} 25. Rc1 Rxd4 26. Nxd4 Bg6 27. Rd1 Rd8 28. Rd2 Kf7 29. Kf1 e5 30. Nf3 {To exchange or not to exchange? I thought during the game it was good idea because Bishop should be better then Knight, because there are pawns on both wings.} Rxd2 31. Nxd2 Ke6 $6 {It allows Ke2} (31... Bd3+ $1 32. Ke1 f5 $17) 32. Ke2 Kd6 33. Ke3 f5 34. g3 $2 { Golden rule says: Play on the side where you are stronger! I whink White should not touch King side pawns.} (34. Kd3 $132) 34... f4+ 35. gxf4 exf4+ $2 {Time pressure.} (35... gxf4+ $1 $19 { Active King decides the game!}) 36. Kf3 $2 (36. Kd4 $1 $11 { Active King}) 36... Ke5 $19 37. h3 Bf5 38. Kg2 Kd4 39. Nf3+ Kc3 40. Ne5 Be6 41. h4 Kb2 42. hxg5 hxg5 43. Nf3 g4 44. Ng5 Bf5 {Bishop dominates vs Knight, game is over!} 45. b4 Kxa2 46. b5 axb5 47. cxb5 Kb3 48. f3 Kb4 49. Nf7 Kc5 50. Ne5 g3 51. Nf7 Bg6 52. Ng5 Bf5 53. Nf7 b6 54. Kg1 Bh3 55. Ne5 Kxb5 56. Nd3 Kc4 57. Nxf4 Bf5 58. Kg2 b5 59. Ne2 b4 60. Kxg3 b3 0-1 [/pgn]
Robert lost his game to IM Rudik Makarian but that left the USA up 2-1 with both white games still in play. Christopher managed to secure a draw with IM Stefan Pogosyan, the silver medalist at the 2019 World Youth Under-16 Championship, which left one game remaining. Unfortunately Martha lost a 101-move heartbreaker to WGM Leya Garifullina, getting her bishop trapped and allowing black to transition to a won king and pawn ending. This left the match finished tied at 2½-2½ but we considered it at the time a great start to the event given Russia were seeded #2. In other results China pulled off what we considered a major shock at the time, beating FIDE 3½-1½ while France beat Netherlands by the same score. You can replay the US Chess Twitch channel coverage from day 1.

 The round 2 match against France started on-time on Saturday but was cut short after started having server issues. After having the players hang on for quite a while, these games were eventually moved to Sunday since the players from China were staying up very late at night to play and when they did recommence, all the games started again from scratch since there was no way to recreate the positions and times from the original games due to server limitations. USA this time had white on the odd numbered boards and once again we got off to a flying start thanks to Robert convincingly beating FM Boyer Mahel on board 3. The rest of the games all going down to the wire, with every single one of the eight players still playing having less than thirty seconds remaining to finish their respective games. Next to finish was another fine victory by Andrew on board 1, this one against the #1 French under-16 player IM Marc Maurizzi. Here is the game with comments by Andrew.

[pgn] [Event "Candidates FED U16 Online"] [Date "2020.04.19"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Hong, Andrew"] [Black "Maurizzi, Marc Andria"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2444"] [BlackElo "2433"] [Annotator "Andrew Hong"] [WhiteTeam "USA"] [BlackTeam "FRA"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 { Even though I didn't know this well, I decided to avoid the old main lines because I assumed he probably prepared something/knew these lines well, especially after the server collapse yesterday. I knew how generally these positions go as I had seen some Caruana-Carlsen games from the World Championship Match, and I was confident enough in my abilities to try this.} Nxd5 8. exd5 {I expected 8...Nb8 to avoid a forced draw, but he thought for a while and chose 8...Ne7} Ne7 9. c4 Ng6 10. h4 h5 11. Qa4 Bd7 12. Qb4 Bf5 (12... Qb8 {continues the game}) 13. Qa4 {I repeat once just to let him show me his cards, whether he is ok with a draw or wants to continue} (13. Be3 {Caruana played this way, but I thought my opponent would be familiar with this}) 13... Bd7 14. Qb4 Bf5 {Here I briefly considered making a draw, but I thought it made no sense to make a draw so early with White, especially since these games aren't rated.} 15. Bg5 {This move was just to get a game without theory, and at a glance it didn't look too bad to me} Qb8 16. Be2 a6 17. Nc3 Qc7 18. g3 { Everything has been logical so far} Be7 {This move is fine, but it was also interesting to consider 18...e4} (18... e4 $5 {preparing a square on e5 for the knight is a typical idea} 19. O-O-O {other moves are possible, but I was trying to evaluate what happens if White tries to just take the pawn} ({ The engine suggests a nice maneuver:} 19. Qa4+ Qd7 20. Qd1 $1 {[%cal Gd1d4] the queen re-routes itself to the newly-created square on d4. Looks like a good idea to keep in mind in these positions}) 19... Ne5 20. Rd4 {and honestly here I did not see a good way for Black to proceed}) 19. Be3 {I believe my dark-squared bishop is much more important than his blocked-in one, especially since I am trying to prepare play on the queenside} Rc8 $6 ({I expected} 19... Nf8 {improving the knight to d7 where it works against c5 and protects b6} 20. Rc1 Nd7 21. Na4 {though I still prefer White here}) (19... e4 $5 {might have been interesting to try, especially with the short time control. If White does the same} 20. O-O-O $2 {,here this is a much worse version for him after} (20. Bd4 $5) 20... Ne5 21. Rd4 {and with Black already developed, the simplest is} Nd3+ 22. Bxd3 exd3 {and Black is at least now worse}) 20. Rc1 $6 {I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I made a useful move, keeping all my options open and letting his clock run} ({In fact, after} 20. Bb6 $1 Qd7 { which I briefly looked at, I missed the nice idea} (20... Qb8 {is forced, but as in the game, the queen is practically out of the game on b8}) 21. Bd1 $1 { and White simply wins}) (20. Na4 {was possible, though the position becomes unclear after} e4 21. Nb6 Rd8 {[%cal Gg6e5]} 22. Qa4+ Kf8 {Black has his fair share of counterplay}) 20... Bd7 $2 {I could sense my opponent didn't know what to do, and after some thought he decided on preparing f5. But this allows many things for White} (20... e4 $1 {again was best, with a double-edged position coming up}) 21. Bb6 {With a short time control I thought it was important to play quickly and naturally} (21. Na4 $5 {was quite strong as well. If Black takes} Bxa4 22. Qxa4+ Kf8 {White can simply prepare c5 with} 23. b4 { and Black looks busted}) 21... Qb8 22. Ne4 {Again playing what looked most obvious to me} (22. O-O {was also good. After} f5 {White can simply ignore it and build up his position with something like} 23. Rfe1 {White has a considerable advantage} e4 {can always be met with} 24. Bd4 Ne5 25. Na4 { Nb6, c5 are all threats}) 22... f5 {What else? This was Black's plan anyway} 23. Ng5 Bxg5 (23... e4 {can be played, but White still has a large advantage. I don't believe Black can achieve something with such a queen on b8}) 24. hxg5 h4 {Here we were already pretty low on time} 25. Kd2 $2 ({My first instinct was to play} 25. gxh4 {and of course White is crushing, but then I thought there was no harm in playing Kd2 first} Rxh4 (25... Nxh4 26. Kd2) (25... Nf4 26. Kd2) 26. Rxh4 Nxh4 27. Kd2 {Black is not going to survive this}) 25... Kf7 $2 (25... h3 $1 {Of course! To be honest I totally forgot that this move was legal, and I guess my opponent did the same. White is still better here, but in a practical game this would have been an unpleasant surprise}) 26. gxh4 { No second chances!} Nf4 (26... Nxh4 27. c5 {was my idea} dxc5 28. Bxc5 { White is simply winning}) 27. h5 {This looked the cleanest to me} Nxe2 28. Kxe2 f4 29. g6+ (29. f3 {might have been easier}) 29... Kf6 (29... Kg8 30. c5 { should win}) 30. c5 $2 {But not here! We were down to around 20 seconds and I thought this should just win with the king on f6} (30. f3 {wins on the spot. Qe1,c5,Bf2 all are coming and Black is helpless}) 30... Bg4+ 31. f3 $6 { This weakens the king. I played instinctively and thought it shouldn't matter, but it does} (31. Kd2 $1 {was stronger. The difference is after} Bxh5 (31... Bf3 32. cxd6 {wins}) 32. cxd6 Rxc1 33. Rxc1 Qe8 34. Rc7 Qxg6 35. d7 {White crashes through and Black has no counterplay in sight}) 31... Bxh5 32. cxd6 Rxc1 33. Rxc1 Bxg6 $2 {He also had no time and made the decisive mistake. After } (33... Qe8 $1 {it is White who has to be careful.} 34. Rc7 $2 {of course here is a completely different story} Qxg6 35. d7 Bxf3+ $1 {and Black mates}) 34. d7 $18 {The queen on b8 has no way to join the attack. Black has no mate.} Rh2+ 35. Ke1 Rh1+ 36. Kd2 Rh2+ 37. Kc3 Rd2 (37... Rh8 38. Kb3 {preparing Bc7 wins}) 38. d8=Q+ 1-0 [/pgn]
The remaining three games all finished in quick fire succession. Martha lost against the top French under-16 girl Elise Tomasi, while Rochelle continued her winning streak by beating WFM Laura Sumarriva Paulin which secured the match victory for Team USA. Christopher added the icing on the cake by beating FM Timothe Razafindratsima to give USA a 4-1 victory. In the other matches FIDE finally lived up to expectations by beating Netherlands 5-0 while Russia beat China 4-1, a result that had a major effect on the final standings. In round 3, Team USA was paired with black against a struggling Netherlands team. Andrew was once again one of the quicker games to finish as he scored his 3rd straight victory, this time against the top Dutch under-16 player FM Yichen Han. The rest of the games once again came down to the wire in terms of time remaining and Christopher’s game was second to finish. Christopher has provided some comments on his fine victory over FM Onno Elgersma.
[pgn] [Event "Candidates FED U16 Online"] [Date "2020.04.19"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Yoo, Christopher Woojin"] [Black "Elgersma, Onno"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B15"] [WhiteElo "2455"] [BlackElo "2298"] [Annotator "Christopher Yoo"] [WhiteTeam "USA"] [BlackTeam "NED"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. h3 (4. Nf3 $6 Bg4) 4... Bg7 5. Nf3 dxe4 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. Nxf6+ exf6 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Be3 f5 11. c4 Nd7 12. Qc2 {I wanted to play Rad1 in some cases. It is better to have the Queen on c2 for this. It is somewhat awkwardly placed on d2 with the Rook on d1. It is also possible for Black to play Nf6-Ne4 with the Queen on d2. This is why I chose c2.} (12. Qd2 Nf6 13. Rad1 Ne4 $13) 12... Nf6 13. Rad1 {he does not have Ne4 with my Queen on c2. I can also play d5 with more effect because my rook is not blocked by my Queen.} Qc7 14. Rfe1 {I should not worry about f4 much. His pawn would be weak on f4. It can more easily be attacked by my c1-bishop. He does not have a clear plan in this position. I can improve my position much more easily. For this reason; there is no reason to rush for me.} a5 {This move is also perfectly fine. I like the plan of getting the bishop to f7 more though.} (14... f4 $6 15. Bc1 $6 {This was my plan during the game. I should actually choose d2 instead of c1 in this variation. I can play Qc1 with my Bishop on d2.} (15. Bd2 $1 Bd7 16. Qc1 Re4 17. Bf1 Rxe1 18. Rxe1 $16 {White has a very big advantage here. He rightfully avoided this.}) 15... Bf5 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Qxd3 $14 {White has a nice position here, but it is better to exert more pressure on f4 with Bd2-Qc1.}) (14... Be6 {I think this move is the best try for him. His plan is Ne4-f6-Bf7. He is a bit worse, but it is hard to see how I am breaking through.} 15. Qc1 Ne4 16. Bd3 f6 17. Bf4 Qa5 18. a3 Bf7 19. Re2 $14 {White is slightly better, but Black has his counterplay with g5-h5 ideas. His bishop on f7 can go to g6 or h5 in some cases. It is much more pleasantly placed on f7 than c8. Such an idea is hard to find in a Rapid Game.}) 15. Qc1 {I do not have to worry about f4 ideas because my rook on e1 is defending my bishop on e2. This was another idea of Rfe1 from me. It is hard to find a good plan for him. his c8-bishop is his biggest problem. This is why he should get his bishop to f7 at all costs.} Ne4 16. Bf4 Qb6 17. Bd3 {I do not have any decisive threats here, but it is hard for him to make a useful move. I thought it would be annoying to exert more pressure on e4. His c8-bishop is bad due to most of his pawns being on light squares.} a4 (17... Bxd4 $4 18. Nxd4 Qxd4 19. Bxe4 $18) 18. Qc2 {I can play Ne5 or Be5 more easily because I am protecting f2 with my Queen. He also has to worry about his e4- Knight more due to all of my pieces eyeing it.} Bd7 19. Be5 {This is the point. He cannot play Bxe5 successfully anymore. I will give you a variation:} Nf6 ( 19... Bxe5 $6 20. Nxe5 Rxe5 $4 21. dxe5 {My Queen is defending f2 now. This is not the case with the Queen on c1.}) 20. Qc1 $1 {I like this move. It is annoying to deal with ideas such as Qf4-Qh4. It is especially annoying in a Rapid Game. It is not about me having lots of threats; it is more than my opponent has no ideas.} Qb4 21. a3 Qb6 (21... Qa5 {This looks like the lesser evil. His position is still playable. He can play b5 in some cases. He cannot do this with his Queen on b6. It is hard to play such a passive position in a Rapid Game. On the other hand, it is not easy to see how I break through.} 22. Qg5 Qd8 23. Re2 $14) 22. Re2 Rad8 $2 {This is his first mistake. He cannot defend his f6-Knight with Qd8 anymore. His position is very difficult to defend now.} (22... Qd8 {This is his best move. He should literally do nothing here. It is hard to do nothing in a practical game though. It is not easy to see how I can break through. But of the hardest things to do in chess is to do nothing! I have no reason to hurry. I should slowly improve my position and wait for him to create weaknesses. He should play b5 at some point. It it very passive, but solid. It is hard to say if I would have won this position or not. I have decent chances for sure.}) 23. Rde1 c5 $6 {It is often in chess you do not make just one mistake; it comes in pairs. His best move was to move his rook back to a8. That is a very sad move to make. I doubt many players would do that after moving to d8. He is quite a bit worse, but it can be held with best play.} (23... Ra8 24. c5 $1 Qd8 25. Bc4 {There is no reason to play slowly when I can improve the nature of the position immediately.} Nd5 26. Bxg7 (26. Bxd5 cxd5 27. Bxg7 Rxe2 28. Rxe2 Kxg7 29. Re5 $16 {Black is missing his g7-bishop. It is quite ugly to play. I think White has very good winning chances in a practical game. He should probably get his pawn to h6 to put more pressure on his opponent. This is pure torture for Black/}) 26... Rxe2 27. Rxe2 Kxg7) 24. d5 h6 $6 (24... Rc8 {This sad move was preferred here. It is still not easy to win once he gets his Queen to d8. It is very unpleasant and much worse. It will take more technique from my part. He just collapsed in the game.} ) 25. Qf4 {This is a very annoying move to deal with without much time. I am threatening Bc7 with ideas of Qh4. He can prevent both of these threats with Rc8, but it is tempting to get this annoying Queen out of your camp. This creates a lot of weaknesses around your king. I wanted to provoke g5, as his weak squares on the Kingside are like Swiss Cheese.} g5 $2 26. Qc1 {his position is collapsing. I have just been trying to slowly improve my position all game. It is often your opponent creates their own weaknesses. Most of them are not intent with doing nothing. They often create their own weaknesses because of this.} f4 27. Qc3 Nh5 28. Bxg7 $6 {This is a bit hasty. I was getting quite low on time around here. I should have improve my position a bit more before going for this. There is no reason not to; as he has no plan.} (28. Qd2 Nf6 29. Qc2 {This is a very strange situation. He is in zugzwang. He has nothing better to do than moving his rook to a8. I can play Bf5 with decisive effect with my Queen on c2. The game is over.} Qb3 (29... Rc8 30. Bf5 $18) 30. Qb1 $1 $18) 28... Nxg7 $2 (28... Rxe2 $1 {This was his only chance to defend. I am still much better. I still have very good chances to win. These exchanges favor him though. He is less cramped with more exchanges. He should be going for these exchanges.} 29. Rxe2 Nxg7 30. Ne5 $16) 29. Ne5 $1 {He is completely losing now. He has no good plans. I can improve my position all day. He collasped very quickly. We were both quite low on time. It is much easier for me to play as I am completely winning.} Qd6 30. Bc2 {He is in zugzwang here. He has no good plans.} Bf5 $6 31. Bxa4 $6 (31. Bxf5 $1 {I missed this tactic because I was very low on time.} Nxf5 32. Ng6 $1 Kh7 33. Rxe8 $18) 31... Re7 32. Ng4 {He lost on time here. His position is dreadful.} 1-0 [/pgn]
Once again USA was up 2-0 with three games remaining but this time managed to secure the match earlier as Rochelle won against Eline Roebers closely followed by Martha securing her first victory in the event, a solid win against Wendy Huang. Unfortunately, Team USA could not quite pull off a sweep as Robert missed a win in a very complicated position where both players were short on time, and he ended up losing to FM Siem van Dael. The final result was another 4-1 victory for the USA, while in the other matches FIDE beat Russia 4-1 in the big #1 vs. #2 matchup while China swept France 5-0. Round 4 was unfortunately the start of a huge downturn for USA as we were swept 5-0 by the stacked FIDE team. I would like to chalk it up to four of our players being on the west coast and having to be up at 7am to play, or to over confidence from the last couple of matches. However, the brutal truth is the FIDE team had great players and played very good games. After just a few minutes into the games it seemed each USA player was down on time and had a bad position. First to succumb was Martha who had the black pieces against the top ranked under-16 girl in the world, FM Bibisara Assaubayeva from Kazakhstan. This was quickly followed by losses for Christopher against GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan and Rochelle against the #3 ranked under-16 girl in the world, WFM Ineymig Hernandez Gil from Cuba. Andrew then lost against GM Nihal Sarin from India and Robert was the final player to lose after the following tough fight against GM Vincent Keymar from Germany. Robert has provided some comments on this game.
[pgn] [Event "Candidates FED U16 Online"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.04.19"] [Round "4.3"] [White "Keymer, Vincent"] [Black "Shlyakhtenko, Robert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A56"] [WhiteElo "2558"] [BlackElo "2342"] [Annotator "Robert Shlyakhtenko"] [WhiteTeam "FIDE"] [BlackTeam "USA"] {The selection to showcase one of my losses from this event may seem unusual to some, but in my opinion, the quality of a game should not be judged by its result. I was much happier with my play in this game than in any of my wins, as I managed to put up quite serious resistance against one of the world's top young players.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 {Due to its schematic play, the Czech Benoni is an opening particularly well-suited for rapid and blitz games.} 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Nbd7 6. g3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Be3 {An attempt to play as flexibly as possible. If black now castles, white has the possibility of play for on the kingside with the cramping h3-g4, and in some cases, even h2-h4.} a6 9. a4 O-O 10. h3 Nh5 11. Bf3 {Black is now confronted with a serious problem: how to find counterplay? Clearly, he cannot go back to f6 with his knight: after that his position is simply strategically worse. In the game black did not successfully solve this problem.} ({After} 11. Nf3 {black is fine after} Qe8 $1 (11... f5 $2 12. exf5 gxf5 13. Ng5 $1) 12. O-O f5 13. exf5 gxf5 14. Ng5 Ndf6) 11... Qb6 $6 {This queen maneuver does not bring black any serious dividends and only ends up losing time.} ({The best move was} 11... f5 $1 12. exf5 (12. Bxh5 gxh5 13. Qxh5 (13. exf5 Nb6 $1 $13) 13... Nf6 {with counterplay. }) 12... e4 $1 13. Nxe4 (13. Bxh5 $1 gxh5 14. Nxe4 Nf6 15. Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. g4 Qxb2 (16... b5 $5) 17. Rc1 $14) 13... Ne5 14. fxg6 (14. Bxh5 $2 Bxf5 $1 15. Bf3 Nxf3+ 16. Qxf3 Bxb2 17. Ra2 Qe7 18. Nd2 Bc3 {with a very strong initiative.}) 14... Bf5 $1 15. gxh7+ Kh8 16. Nd2 Nxg3 $1 17. fxg3 Qe7 18. Kf1 Nxf3 19. Ngxf3 Qxe3 20. Kg2 {with a complicated position.}) 12. Nge2 Qb4 13. b3 Nhf6 {So black is forced to retreat in any case.} 14. a5 b5 15. O-O bxc4 16. bxc4 h5 ( 16... Qxc4 $2 17. Ra4) 17. Qd3 {With simple moves, white has consolidated his position and black is forced to retreat. Of course, white should have an advantage here, but black's position is very solid.} Qb8 18. Rfb1 Qc7 19. Kh2 ( 19. Na4 $5 {seems more to the point.}) 19... Kh7 {Facilitating the favorable exchange of dark squared bishops with ...Bh6.} 20. Qd2 {Preventing the said exchange, but now black forces it:} Ng8 21. Bg2 Bh6 22. Bxh6 Nxh6 23. Nc1 (23. f4 {would have been punished on the dark squares:} h4 $1 24. g4 exf4 (24... f6) 25. Nxf4 Qd8 $14 (25... Ne5 26. g5 $16)) 23... f5 $5 (23... Rb8 $14) (23... h4 $5) 24. Nd3 (24. exf5 $1 gxf5 {and here there is the clever tactic} 25. Ne4 $1 {, bringing the knight to the g5 square.} Nf7 (25... fxe4 26. Bxe4+ Nf5 27. Qg5 Nb8 28. g4 hxg4 29. hxg4 $16) 26. Ng5+ Nxg5 27. Qxg5 Nf6 28. Rb6 $16) 24... f4 $2 {Objectively black should have played more slowly and completed development with a simple move such as 24...Nf6.} 25. gxf4 exf4 26. Nxf4 $2 (26. e5 $1 f3 ( 26... dxe5 $2 27. d6) 27. Ne4 $1 (27. Bf1 Nxe5 28. Nxe5 Qe7 $3 {Instead of recapturing the knight on e5, black readies his queen for a kingside attack!} 29. Nxg6 ({White cannot retreat the knight on account of} 29. Nd3 Qh4 {with a very strong attack.}) 29... Kxg6 30. Bd3+ Bf5 $13) 27... fxg2 28. exd6 Qd8 29. Ng5+ Kg8 30. Ne6 Ng4+ $1 31. Kxg2 $1 Qh4 32. Nxf8 Nxf8 33. Qf4 $16) 26... Ne5 { Now black gets the counterplay he has long desired.} 27. Nd3 (27. Ne6 $2 Bxe6 28. dxe6 Rxf2 $1 (28... d5 {loses to} 29. f4 Nxc4 30. Qc1) 29. Qxf2 Nhg4+ 30. hxg4 Nxg4+ 31. Kg1 Nxf2 32. Nd5 Qg7 33. Kxf2 $13) 27... Nf3+ (27... Bxh3 28. Nxe5 Bxg2 29. Kxg2 dxe5 30. f3 $14) ({Another interesting option was the pawn sacrifice} 27... Qe7 $5 28. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 29. Kg1 g5 {, with excellent chances on the kingside.}) 28. Bxf3 Rxf3 29. Kg2 Qd7 $5 30. Rh1 ({White gets mated after} 30. Kxf3 Qxh3+ 31. Ke2 Bg4+ 32. f3 Bxf3+ 33. Ke1 Qh1+ 34. Kf2 Qg2+ 35. Ke3 Ng4+ 36. Kf4 Rf8+) 30... Rxh3 31. f3 $11 {A common scenario for rapid chess: both sides make 30 reasonable moves but spend all their time, and the remainder of the game is spent in a time scramble. Here black simply fell apart.} Ra7 $2 { Intending to bring the rook to the kingside, but this is too slow.} 32. Nf4 $2 (32. e5 Qf5 33. Raf1 dxe5 34. Ne4 $16) 32... Rxh1 33. Rxh1 Qg7 34. Nd3 Rf7 ( 34... Qd4 $1) 35. e5 {Here I should have trusted my intuition and played 35... Bf5, but instead there followed the horrible move} dxe5 $4 (35... Bf5 $1 36. e6 (36. exd6 Qd4) 36... Rb7 37. Nf2 Rb3 {and there is still some play left in the position.}) 36. Ne4 $18 {and now black is utterly lost.} Rf8 37. Ndxc5 Nf5 38. Ng5+ Kg8 39. Nce6 Bxe6 40. Nxe6 Qa7 41. Nxf8 Ne3+ 42. Kh2 Kxf8 43. Rg1 Nxc4 44. Qb4+ Kg7 45. Qxc4 Qf2+ 46. Rg2 {The queen on c4 prevents any chances of a perpetual.} 1-0 [/pgn]
In the other results from round 4, Russia beat France 3-2 while China beat Netherlands 4½-½. This left the standings going into the final round as FIDE and China with 6 points, Russia and USA with 5 points, France with 2 points and Netherlands with zero. Given that we were playing China in the final round, we still had everything to play for, but the very strong Chinese team was going to be a tough nut to crack. FIDE was playing France and Russia was playing Netherlands. The first game to finish was Martha who lost to the top ranked Chinese under-16 girl WIM Kaiyu Ning. Martha was a piece up after just 24 moves but in turn blundered it back a few moves later which left her down the exchange and in a hopeless position. Robert gave Team USA some hope, battling back from a worse position to beat Di Zhang while Andrew lost trying to give a perpetual with his lone queen against Renjie Huang’s two queens, eventually being forced to give up when the Huang’s king found sanctuary from the checks behind the opposing pawns. The match victory was secured for China when Christopher was next to lose after being unable to get anything from being a pawn down for most of his game. The last game to finish was Rochelle’s, a very strange ending in which we figured nobody had a chance of winning but somehow her opponent, WIM Yuxin Song, managed to breakthrough on the kingside and should have been able to win. However, she then proceeded to allow a trade to an opposite colored bishop ending and at one stage Rochelle even missed a win with a neat little tactic even though down a pawn, but with both players finishing the game using their increments it eventually finished in a draw. FIDE managed to score yet another sweep in round 5, beating France and Russia managed to beat Netherlands 3½-1½. This left the final standings as: (Crosstable credit: report by Peter Doggers) FIDE took home the gold on game point tie-breaks, those 5-0 victories coming in very useful even though they lost handily to China in round 1 whose well deserved silver exceeded most people’s expectations, at least based on FIDE ratings. Individually, Rochelle finished with the most points from any USA player with 3½/5, which tied the top score for any player on board 5. Andrew finished with 3/5 on board 1, Christopher on 2½/5 on board 2, Robert 2/5 on board 3 and Martha 1/5 on the top girl’s board. GM Nihal Sarin from FIDE and Renjie Huang from China shared top honors on board 1 with 4/5, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov from FIDE top scored on board 2 with 4½/5 while GM Vincent Keymar from FIDE was top of the board 3 players with 4/5. WGM Bibisara Assaubayeva was the top scoring girl, finishing with 4½/5 on board 4 and, as mentioned, Rochelle tied with WFM Ineymig Hernandez Gil from FIDE, Alisa Nur-Mukhametova from Russia and WIM Yuxon Song from China, all scoring 3½/5 on board 5. You can replay the US Chess Twitch channel coverage from day 2.

Many thanks go out to the various people involved in making this event happen and especially from me to the players for showing great patience during the day 1 issues and for getting up bright and early each day to ensure they were on time so I didn’t have to stress about anything team related. My thanks also go to the two alternates we had on standby for the event who eventually turned into part of the commentary team and to all the parents involved in meeting the demands laid on them by the regulations on behalf of the teams. The tournament was organized by the International Chess Federation,, Mass Sport Division of General Administration of Sport of China, Board and Card Games Administrative Center of General Administration of Sport of China, and Henan Sports Bureau; co-organized by Chinese Chess Association, Henan Provincial Social Sports Center; hosted by Zhengzhou Baiguoshu Chess Club and Chengdu “Chao Yue” Chess Club. Thanks to all involved in creating and organizing this great event!

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