The recent World Youth Championships in Halkidiki, Greece, featured 1693 players in 12 divisions, ranging from U/18 to U/8 yet was dominated by players from a single chess school in India.
The record field which assembled at the resort hotel of Porto Carras included representatives from almost 100 countries, though China, India and the USA had fifth of the players between them. (The massive 130 entries from the US was, admittedly, representative of the USCF’s relaxed qualifying standards rather than any surge in strength.)
Australia’s nine-strong delegation was missing NSW stand-outs Anton Smirnov and Kristine Quek but included Australia’s top two overseas based juniors: Indian resident Rishi Sardana and Justin Tan, formerly of Melbourne, who has been completing the final years of his secondary education in England due to the superior opportunities for chess development in Europe.
Tan and Sardana both tied for fourth place in the U/18 division, Australia’s best result in an older age group in the modern era. Tan defeated Grandmaster Kiril Aleeksenko in the final round – yes, there are GMs in junior tournaments! – destroying any hope the Russian second seed had for the gold medal.
However it was India which dominated the competition in Greece, winning five gold medals, three silver and three bronze. No other country won more than one gold medal and chess powerhouses Russia, China and the USA went home without a single gold medal between them. India’s success covered every age group except U/16 and was particularly strong in the girls’ divisions.
Even more remarkably, the five Indian winners were all from one city, Anand’s home of Chennai, and all attended Chess Gurukul, a school run by Indian Grandmaster Ramachandran Ramesh and his WGM wife Aarthie Ramaswamy.
Ramesh and Ramaswamy are well known in Australia, having competed in the 2015 Doeberl Cup in Canberra. (Ramesh was running second after 6 rounds but a poor finish pushed him down the prize list.)
Ramesh, as captain/coach, also led India to their first ever team bronze medal at the 2014 Tromso Olympiad, though his main job nowadays is coaching the top students at Chess Gurukul.
Ramesh was particularly pleased with the following game, which wrapped up the gold medal in the U/18 Girls division for lowly ranked Mahalakshmi. “Played under title pressure, she chose a pragmatic approach, employing the principle of two weaknesses,” explained Ramesh.
Porto Carras 2015
Opening: Ragozin Defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4!? 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 c5 6.e3 Ne7!?
Potentially more flexible than 6…Nf6.
7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 c4 9.Bc2 Bf5 10.Ne2 0-0 11.0-0 Nbc6 12.Ng3 Bxc2 13.Qxc2 Qd6 14.a4 Qg6 15.Qxg6 hxg6
This endgame should be fine for Black.
16.Ba3 Rfd8 17.f3 Nc8 18.e4 Nb6 19.Bc1 Na5! 20.e5 Nb3 21.Ra2 Nc8 22.f4 f5!? 23.h4! Nxc1?
This merely helps White to open up a new front.
24.Rxc1 Kf7 25.Nf1! Ne7 26.Ne3 Nc6?! 27.h5 Ne7 28.hxg6+ Kxg6 29.Rb1 Rab8 30.Rab2 Rd7
Black is reluctant to play …b6 but now is terribly tied up.
31.Kf2 Kf7 32.Kf3 Ke6 33.Rh1!
Now g4 is a winning threat.
33…Rdd8 34.g4 Rf8 35.Rh7 Rf7?!
35…fxg4+ 36.Kxg4 g6 was the last hope.
36.gxf5+ Nxf5 37.Nxf5 Kxf5 38.Rg2 a6 39.Rg5+! Ke6 40.Rgxg7 Rxg7 41.Rxg7 b5 42.Kg4! 1-0
Open U/18 (11 rounds, 116 players)
=2.Alekseenko(RUS), Yuffa(RUS) 8.5;
=4.Sardana(AUS), Tan(Vic), Marek(CZE) 8…
Girls U/18 (11 rounds, 80 players)
=3.Blagojevic(MNE), Uuriintuya(MGL), Heinemann(GER) 8.
Open U/16 (11 rounds,154 players)
=2.Moroni(ITA), Martirosyan(ARM), Kantor(HUN) 8.5…
=69. M.Chew Lee(Vic) 5.5.
Girls U/16 (11 rounds, 95 players)
2.Gazikova (SVK) 8.5
=3.Bykovtsev (USA), Sieber(GER),Kiolbasa(POL), Avramidou(GRE), Yao(CHN), Dimitrova(RUS) 8…
=68.A.Chew Lee(Vic) 4.5.
Open U/14 (11 rounds, 185 players)
=1.Vokhidov (UZB),Esipenko (RUS) 9;
=3.Gholami (IRI), Gazik(SVK) 8.5…
Girls U/14 (11 rounds, 124 players)
=3.Vantika(IND), Obolentseva(RUUS), Shuvalova(RUS), Antova(BUL), Maltevskaya(RUS) 8.
Open U/12 (11 rounds, 202 players)
=1. Muradli(AZE), Nihal(IND), Peng(USA) 9.
Girls U/12 (11 rounds, 120 players)
=1. Salimova(BUL), Yip(USA) 9.5;
3. Salonika(IND) 8.5…
=39. Ca.Lim(Vic) 6.
Open U/10 (11 rounds, 185 players)
=1.Praggnanandhaa(IND), Makoveev(RUS) 9;
=3.Wang(USA), Sadhwani(IND), Suleymanli(Aze) 8.5..
Girls U/10 (11 rounds, 111 players)
=1.Rakshitta(IND), Song(CHN) 9;
3.Divya (IND) 8.5.
Open U/8 (11 rounds, 134 players)
=3.Fiszer(POL), Murgescu(USA) 8.5…
=76. Baillieu(Vic) 5.
Girls U/8 (11 rounds, 87 players)
=1.Nguyen (VIE), Gaal(HUN) 9;
=3.Ivanova (BUL), Wei(Chn) 8.5.