The Championships was really split into 2 halves with the under 10's and 8's playing the first 3 days, while the under 10's, 12's and 14's played the final 5 days. The girls tournaments played alongside the older kids in the second half of the event, while there were also under 16 and 18 tournaments that covered all 9 days, though we had no players in these sections. So starting with the younger competitors, we had a number of players in both the under 10's and under 8's. The under 8's tournament was very competitive with Harry Phillips near the top all the way through the tournament. In fact Harry would have finished equal third if he hadn't played probably his worst game of the whole tournament in the last round. We can all learn from Harry's experience:
Don't let emotions get in the way of the game. If you start a game too excited, or unhappy, or tired then you will not perform at your best. It is important at a tournament to have some 'down time' where you leave chess behind and relax. When you play your game, you just want to be focussed on doing your best in the game, not thinking things like "where will I come in the tournament", this guy is rated too high for me to beat", or "how will this game affect my rating performance".
Harry Phillips still finished joint 4th in the event where he was joined by Oliver Cordover on 5/9. Just half a point back was Shawn Zillman on 4.5 and Elijah Cordover was another point back on 4 points. Scoring around 50% in these tournaments is a very good effort for these kids.
The under 10's was a very tough tournament with Kevin Willathgamuwa of New South Wales winning the event with a perfect 9/9, then going into the under 14's where he finished second! Still our players accredited themselves excellently. Michael Gershenzon finished in equal 4th just half a point outside the trophies. He was always among the top boards meaning that he was always playing strong players in the event, including the winner of the U12 tournament, Kerry Lin. We thought Michael's attitude was excellent, he never let defeats worry him, nor did he let victories go to his head. He just tried his hardest through every game. Daniel Poberezovsky also finished in the top half on 5/9, but he could have done even better had he started better. Ethan Hooi and Nithin Joshy both scored 4/9 which is respectable, and Oliver Pridmore scored 3, though he also could have done better but became disappointed after losing and didn't play his best chess.
I'll repeat, chess is a mental game, so you have to be in your best frame of mind to play your best chess.
Our competitors in the older age groups and the girls events played during the second half of the Championships. They had slightly more time to work on their game as they played 2 games per day, rather than the 3 games per day that the under 10's played. In the under 14's all our players performed well. Gary Lin played well and finished equal 3rd and had to play a very tough field. Ege Girgin would have finished equal fourth if he'd won his last game against Gary Lin. Ege played naturally and well with white, but struggled with black. A strategy dealing with this needs to be found, and Ege certainly wasn't the only player with this issue. Our other players in the under 14's all played well scoring around the half points mark, Liam Harrison 5 points, Sean Xiong 4.5 and Lachlan Martin 4.
The under 12's was possibly the toughest of all the divisions. Max Phillips raised his game to finish equal 5th, just half a point behind the 4 equal first place getters. Max played evenly throughout the tournament, and set himself a high goal which kept him motivated in every game. Each player in our group set themself a target score which could be adjusted if they were doing better or worse than expected. Setting a target that is hard to achieve, but not unrealistic is what we wanted and I think everyone in my group was within one point of their target if they didn't achieve it. Ryan Kam had to play Max in the final round and had he won, he would have finished in 5th and hit his target. As it was he lost finishing in =12th.
Ryan gets very nervous before tournaments, and feels very bad after losing game. These are natural emotions that need to be used to get the best performance. Everyone gets nerves before a tournament or a big game, but top players turn that into positive adrenalin and it makes them play at their strongest. After losing everyone feel bad, but those bad feelings must disappear before the next game or they will affect your performance. Analysing games, exercise, talking and laughing with friends and family are all things that can change your mood from sad to happy. Ryan still finished high up in the event and can be happy with his performance. Sam Trewin did well in his first major tournament, scoring half points. Again, he did better with white than black, and had a great attitude to his opponent's not fearing anyone but not taking anyone for granted either. Daniel Arzhintar only scored 2.5 but hasn't been a training squad member, had not prepared for the event and still scored more than was expected of him. Daniel also got down on himself when losing, so needs to find a strategy for improving this attitude.
Our girl players did very well, and with Victorian girls generally doing well, Chess Kids players will have a tough time proving themselves above their local rivals. Saying that, our girls have improved the most over the past year and it this continues they will overtake their opposition. Zoe Harrison came 2nd in the under 16 girls tournament. The under 16 girls were merged with the under 18, 14 and 12's. This meant that Zoe had to play a shorter time control than she was used to and to her credit, she just got on with. Rebecca Strickland came 2nd in the under 14 girls division scoring 5.5/9. Rebecca, like Harry Phillips, seemed to falter when she took the lead in the tournament, no doubt nerves and visions of glory got the better of her. Eliza Mapili came 3rd in the under 12 girls with 4.5 with Yuvini Perera just half a point behind her.
Sara Kam played in the under 10 girls finishing with 4.5/9, just half a point away from equal 3rd. Sara, like a number of young players doesn't think she is as good as she is. I think that a lot of players could perform better if they had more self belief. All of the Chess Kids players performed well and should go away from this tournament feeling confident in their ability to perform at the highest level of Australian Junior chess at their age groups.
Of course, to rise above the position you reached this time, and to become stronger than those who beat you, will take work.
All players from this tournament should:
1. Play as much quality chess as possible. Weekend tournaments, club chess, RJ Shields, interschool chess, online etc.
2. Work with a coach who can guide you to becoming a better player. This is much easier than doing this yourself.
3. Work on your weaknesses. For most this is, get a better black opening, work on your tactics, improve your endgame
skills, slow down (for the younger players), look at your opponents threats.