World Youth Chess Championship 2018

Day 1 – Round 1
[photography by Steph French]

For 10 days the best junior chess players in the world converge on Halkidiki in Greece, with no less than 75 countries being represented. The venue of Porto Carras is well used to hosting chess events. Not only has the World Youth been here several times before, but also those of us who arrived early were lucky enough to rub shoulders with greats of the game such as Magnus Carlsen, Peter Svidler and Ding Liren, who were completing the European Club Cup at the same venue.

Well quite frankly that doesn’t impress me, because at the moment I get a chance to speak with, get to know and report the games of 11 of the best junior chess players in our country. As a sports lover I want to know what makes them tick, what drives them and how their different personalities are reflected in the style of chess that they play. How do they cope with adversity? Are they good front runners? Can they get up tomorrow and fight having suffered a difficult loss. So much of the sport that chess is, is mirrored in life and in our own lives and for me that is its fascination.

Our journeys to the venue were all fairly similar and straightforward. A flight to Thessaloniki and a bus ride to Porto Carras. The one exception I believe was Glenn Flear, who was trapped in the murk somewhere in Germany. That’s what you get for living in France, Glenn! Conversations on the bus and messages on our WhatsApp group soon made it clear that we were to stay in one of two hotels within the resort of Porto Carras. What if we got off at the wrong one? It soon become clear that it didn’t really matter since they were only 5 minutes’ walk apart. The hotels are set a 5-minute walk from the beach amidst lush and rich Mediterranean vegetation and we had blue skies to greet us. Having just caught the end of lunch those of us who arrived the day before the tournament spent the rest of it recovering from an ungodly early morning start. Before long, it was the team meeting in our lovely team room where Christelle, our head of Delegation ran through the logistics and handed out badges to each of our players. This was a time for making new acquaintances and catching up with old friends and a powerful reminder that whilst chess is played individually at the board we are stronger together.

Match Report day 1 – Saturday 20th October

All the matches are set in a large, nearby conference building called the Olympic Centre. Round 1 started a little late at 3.08pm and after the start of the round those watching friends and loved ones on live boards had to wait 30 mins for the games to show on Chess 24. Apparently, a necessary evil as an anti-cheating measure.

It is a testament to our English chess players that not one of them had finished their games prior to 6pm and many were not done by 8pm. That’s 5 hours of solid concentration in a highly pressured environment.

The first to emerge was Nilomi Desai. Nilomi is a highly talented young chess player who exudes confidence and never seems ruffled. She lost today against an opponent who was rated 300 points higher. Analysis with Glenn showed that sacking a pawn was a good practical decision and made for entertaining play creating a ‘messy fighting position’ where both players had chances and all 3 results were possible. With this kind of enterprising play, it won’t be long before the points come.

Ilya Misyura lost as black to an FM rated over 2400. I believe he was doing fine until his opponent managed to get the upper hand in a complex middlegame. The thing that I found interesting, and that perhaps some might find quite off-putting, is that his opponent didn’t look at the board whilst thinking about the position and considering his move. That is the power of many of these players – their ability to visualise the board.

Christopher Tombolis also lost today against his American opponent rated 2310. Christopher made him work hard for the win though with the game lasting 5 nerve wrenching hours for me. Rather you than me, son! Proud of you though! Christopher was out-manoeuvred in an unusual position and did well to create counter play, whilst his opponent did well to keep calm and convert the win.

These 3 players are old hands from the World Cadets in Georgia 2 years ago. They are too strong to be kept down for long. A good night’s sleep required as well as focus and concentration to come back strong in round 2 tomorrow. Christopher is certainly snoring soundly beside me as I write this report this evening.

Leif Hafstad also lost today as Black again against an FM rated over 2300. The air is truly thin at these dizzy heights. I look forward to looking at some high-quality fighting chess from Leif.

Our highest rated player, Koby Kalavannan, had a difficult day today against a very under-rated Greek boy. Koby is a multiple junior British Champion and recently won the Terafinal at the Delancey Chess Challenge. He is a FIDE Master and is pushing on the door of 2370 in terms of rating. I write this having never spoken to Koby, in case he needs reminding how good he is. Koby is an excellent player capable of high quality chess and though he shouldn’t take it for granted against this standard of opposition, he  can put a long string of wins together that will give him a result he is happy with by the end of this tournament. Go for it Koby. As my good friend Rocky Balboa said (please imagine slightly deranged slurred American speech), ‘But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward’ – sorry guys that’s what you get when you make me report writer.

Another marathon match came from Callum Brewer who, I have learned, is as much of a lover of sport as I am. Really a great guy and a talented chess player. Callum lost today as Black against an FM ‘On the way up to’ 2400. By the sounds of it there were similar circumstance to Christopher’s game. Outplayed in the opening taking a little too long on moving, a good fightback in the middlegame only to end up with a slightly inferior position in the endgame that the FM did well to execute the win.  Don’t worry Callum, at least you made him earn it. Speeding up against these FM’s is easier said than done as they are bound to punish inferior moves.

There was a draw today for Max French against his FM opponent – a truly impressive result and a great start to the tournament. I look forward to reviewing some of your games soon Max. It looks as if Max is in good form and so fingers crossed for the games to come.

Anita Sompton drew with her opponent today – a result which I know she was slightly disappointed with. Anita – she was definitely not that rating! That or your opponent was just having the best day of her chess life to date and there’s not much you can do about that! Half a point is a solid result for Anita and a good stepping stone.

Now to the wins! Oh how sweet is victory! ‘Success is counted sweetest, by those who ne’er succeed. To comprehend a nectar requires sorest need’ … sorry just seemed appropriate to google a poem about victory at this point!

Having just been inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson it is never easy to beat another England player and hopefully I won’t have to report on too many more of these. Aditya Munshi beat Teddy Onslow today. Teddy tried to avoid theory and ended up in a bad position and giving Aditya a very powerful bishop. Aditya put the game to bed with a tactic that won Teddy’s queen. Aditya is a really nice chap but really needs to stop growing as he is now almost twice my height! An exaggeration perhaps but it wouldn’t be to say that he is a much more complete and powerful player than he was 2 years ago at the World Cadet’s in Georgia.

Nadia Jaufarally also won today as black against her lower rated opponent. At one point during the post-match analysis her Dad quipped about her getting lucky. She politely pointed out to her Dad that there was no luck involved only skill! She then went on to explain how she paralysed her opponents’ position and won all her pawns! Seriously, don’t mess with Nadia!

The game of the day came from Gautam Jain who basically hacked his FM opponent to pieces as Black – I know Gautam would not describe it in this way, but I’m sure there was no bigger shot of adrenalin after victory! Both Peter Wells and Neil McDonald were having a good chuckle when analysing this game. They were enjoying the power, artistry and tactical prowess exhibited in this game. At one-point Tony said he wished he could win some of his games this way! Today was the first time I had a conversation with Gautam. He comes across as highly intelligent, understated, considered and modest. Sorry to embarrass you Gautam. Also, I don’t think it’s an unkind thing to say, but Gautam sounds exactly like Fabiano Caruana when he is analysing his games. Today he played like Fabiano too.

(7) Pantzar, Milton (2326) – Jain, Gautam (1905) [C55]
WYCC O18 Greece 2018 (1), 20.10.2018

So, a tough day for the England team with 6 losses, 2 draws and 3 wins- 1 of which was totally spectacular. Wow, that was just the first round and there’s 2 more rounds tomorrow- I can hardly breathe. I can’t wait, and I’m dreaming of more exciting chess and wins for England tomorrow.

— Glafcos Tombolis

The World Youth Chess Championship starts on 20th October and runs to 30th October. The event is an 11-round FIDE-rated event, and is for boys and girls in the U14, U16 & U18 age categories. The venue is Porto Carras, Greece and the England delegation is 11 players and 3 coaches. The team can be viewed at … ship-2018/.

The event website is and the pairing and results link for the event (tab across for your chosen age group) is here, with the latest news, photographs etc. via the Twitter feed –

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