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On Chess: World Youth Championships showcase the future of chess on an international stage

Annie Wang at the 2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championships
Spectrum Studios

2016 has been an exciting year for chess and the World Youth Championships are no exception. The World Youth Chess Championship, for children aged 18 and under, has sections for both male and female players who are under 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 and 8. However, with so many sections (12 in all) and with so many players, coaches, parents, arbiters and other officials, the World Chess governing body, FIDE, separated the events based on age.

The older group (under 18, 16 and 14) recently played the 2016 World Youth Chess Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

The event ended Monday, Oct. 3, and the American team saw one medal, a bronze, won by Annie Wang of La Cañada, California, in the girls Under 14 section.

Annie was going for the gold in the last round, but, unfortunately, lost that game. The American team had three coaches, as well as 13 players participating in the event, and winning a bronze medal was quite an accomplishment for a team with so few players and coaches respectively.

The next World Youth event (for players Under 12, 10, and 8) will take place Oct. 18-30 in Batumi, Georgia. The American team normally earns more medals in the younger groups, and this year we expect to have 45-50 players from the United States with seven coaches. In fact, I will be one of the coaches in Georgia, and thus one of my life’s ambitions will be achieved; I leave from Atlanta on my journey and I will fly from Georgia to Georgia!

The World Youth is a great event for youth chess players all over the world. The players get the chance to be coached by Grandmasters, meet other young players from all over the world, and the public gets to see the future stars of chess at a very early age.

If you want to know who will be the world’s best players over the next 10-15 years, look no further than the World Youth Championships. The current top players, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana and others all competed in the World Youth Championships eight-14 years ago.

The United States is on a bit of a roll lately, winning the 2016 Chess Olympiad (the U.S. team’s first Gold since 1976) and currently having three of the world’s top eight players (Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura). We expect to continue our great year in the chess world by winning some medals at the highest stage of Youth Chess.

In Batumi, I expect more than 1,500 children competing for the 18 medals, and the American team hopes to bring back at least one gold and four medals overall.

There is big competition from China, Russia and India. Those countries traditionally have large contingents at World Youth events and very strong players to boot. China, Russia and India often sport strong teams across all levels of chess, which makes the World Youth an interesting testament to see if the Youth will support wins like the U.S. Olympiad team.

With one medal already under the American chess belt, I expect to see outstanding performances and, ultimately, see the future of chess succeed on a world stage yet again.

Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and received his first USCF rating at age 6. GM Finegold’s first major tournament win came in 1989 when he finished in a first-place tie at the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. In 1991 Finegold won his first major, international, Swiss-paired tournament in Antwerp, Belgium at just 21 years old.I n 1993, was awarded the Samford Chess Fellowship. Finegold has secured several GM norms across the U.S. and is a familiar face around the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and a popular name within the Club’s Resident Grandmaster rotation. Finegold has offered outstanding commentary for several of the club’s elite events.

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.