1979, I was 16 years old and had the privilege to represent my country for the first time in this same event in Viborg, Denmark. Now, 38 years later I have the privilege of supporting this marvellous group of youngsters as the coach. Will one of them be the coach in a few decades time?
One thing I am certain of, they will remember the event just as I remember my participation. One difference is that we were all unaccompanied, neither by parents or a coach whereas the whole team has a parent along, as well as yours truly. Different times.
One thing remains the same. Whereas most countries (if not all) are supported by their respective countries, Australia still does not recognise Chess as a sport and all our players are self-funded. Definitely not the clever country.
Luckily India, a clever country, sponsors not only their own youngsters but also hosts the teams in a truly luxurious Hotel, the Aloft and is holding the tournament in the prestigious
The Hotel, playing venue, food and organisation are all truly first class.
Opening Ceremonies in India are always attended by the who's who of not only the chess community but local politics and business. They make us and what we do feel really special.
After some light entertainment, the ceremony kicked off with the ceremonial lighting of the lamp. Being chessplayers they did not run around the city with it first :-)
This was followed by a real cultural experience. Several groups of local musicians and dancers showed us the local traditional dances. We were also told the significance of said dances. The first one has to do with fetching water if I understood correctly.
This one, hailing from the indigenous villagers has something to do with the harvest (I think)
Being one of the lower seeds we were immediately thrown into the deep end and had to face the powerful India Red team. We were heavily outgunned on every board, and despite our low ranking, they fielded their top 4 to my surprise.
This meant that Sophie Watkins on board 4 faced a player with more than double her rating! After not playing the best moves in the opening she settled down and played superbly in the early middlegame, even outplaying her opponent to reach a position where at one point she could have assumed the initiative. Unfortunately, one rash move put her back on the defensive and was not allowed back in the game.
On board 3, Gordon Yang outplayed his much higher rated opponent with black to reach a nice edge but one inaccuracy let the white pieces in. A tough fight.
Isaac Zhao on board 2 put us on the board with a vicious kingside attack that ended in a perpetual. The engine confirms that this was a good game from both sides.
The entertainer of the day was Hughston Parle on board 1. As black, he sacrificed a piece, then another to force his opponent into a close quarters slugfest which drew a massive crowd. Both sides ended up queening pawns and the position, in the end, was tantalisingly close to a miracle stalemate. Do play through this game. The king march alone is worth it. All games are on the link below, another testament to the hard work of the Indian organisers.
So tomorrow we are paired with Kenya, a team slightly lower rated than us. Let's see if we can get back to the pack.
Hasta manjana amigoes :-)