Friday, October 16, 2015

World Youth in Greece

In Greece, Naomi takes 16th place on the Chess Olympus! (in the Goddesses Under 12 category)  Plus: Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Acropolis, the Aegean Sea...

At the World Youth Chess Championship on 24 October - 6 November 2015 in Porto Carras, Halkidiki, Greece, Naomi played for the USA in the Girls Under 12 category, and took 16th place out of 120.  

Naomi won 7 games, and lost 4 - leading in 3 of those before endgame time trouble. The good part: she was ahead after almost all openings/middlegames.  Here are our daily updates:

October 21: Flight Seattle-Frankfurt-Thessaloniki.  Photos:

October 22: First evening in Thessaloniki.  From our Andromeda Hotel, we took a seaside walk to the White Tower, with a great historical exhibition inside.  The city's shopping streets are bustling.  Dinner in a Ladadika taverna with a Greek music trio.  Started reading Salonica, City of Ghosts about the city's history.  Photos:  

October 23: Second day in Thessaloniki.  Walked through the lower town main historical attractions.  Highlights: Archaeological Museum and Museum of Byzantine Culture.  Photos:

Looking for the nearby Mount Olympus, from Thessaloniki White Tower

October 24: Third day in Thessaloniki: the upper town and castle,  Arrived at the Porto Carras resort, staying in the Sithonia Hotel.  Games will start in the Meliton Hotel at 3pm on all days except the free day and the last day.  So on most days we would do some sightseeing until 2pm, then have late lunch and see Naomi off for the game.  We would take an obligatory handshake photo, chat with other parents, walk nearby, then wait for Naomi to finish and call us to pick her up.

October 25: In round 1 Naomi defeated Nicola Putter of South Africa.  Before the game we took photos of Naomi in new US team uniform and participated in the team meeting.  During the game we walked around the Porto Carras resort.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "I won in 2h 30m. Time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves then G30 and 30 second increment."

Showing off the new US team uniform, on our Sithonia hotel room balcony

October 26: In round 2 Naomi defeated Majoros Rozsa of Hungary.  Before the game we walked on the beach to Neas Marmaras (30 min x 2), and did some shopping.  Photos:  Naomi played on board 9, so the game was bradcast online, and we followed it.
Naomi quote: "YEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHH BABY!  In case you can't tell, I won. The game was 4 hours :D"

October 27: In round 3 Naomi lost to Nusa Hercog of Slovenia.  Before the game we sunbathed on the SIthonia Hotel beach and swam in the Aegean Sea.  Photos:  Naomi played on board 6, so the game was bradcast online, and we followed it.
Naomi quote: "I lost. At least it was a long game, and I also played relatively well. Not a single one of my friends won the third round. "

Hercog vs Bashkansky, at GU12 playing hall in the Meliton hotel

October 28: In round 4 Naomi lost to Magdalena Harazinska of Poland, after rejecting a draw offer.  Before the game we rented a car for a week (October 28 - November 4) and visited the nearby picturesque Parthenonas and Porto Koufo villages.  During the game we drove to the town of Neas Marmaras.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "Erm... Well fourth round I was never winning but it was an endgame where it was supposed to be either a draw or a win because only I had winning chances. She offered a draw at one point but I declined because I thought I could win. I didn't win; instead, because I was getting into time trouble (low amount of time for me to use on my moves for the game), I made a mistake and lost."

October 29: In round 5 Naomi defeated Asel Lesbekova of Kazakhstan, now she has 3 points out of 5.  In the morning we drove to see the grandiose ruins of Ancient Olynthos (5th century BCE capital of Halkidiki), with the most organized urban planning system.  Also drove through the regional capital Poligiros, to confirm that its Archeological Museum is closed. Photos:

October 30: Free day!  We traveled to the marvelous Petralona Cave and its museum, then to the Kassandra sub-peninsula, where we saw Nea Poteidaia's Canal and Castle ruins, Nea Fokea's Byzantine Tower, Kallithea's Temple of Ammon Zeus (snuck into by jumping the fence!)  and Possidi's Temple of Poseidon.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "Well, I won last round, and then yesterday, the "free day," I went sightseeing Greece. Honestly, it was more like a road trip"

Stalaktites meet stalagmites in the Petralona Cave

October 31: In round 6 Naomi lost to Tamar Esadze of Georgia, after leading in mid game.  We drove to Ouranoupoli, sailed to Mount Athos on a cruise boat, and saw the monasteries from the sea.  Then we drove to Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle, and visited the unexpected hidden gem of Aristoteles Park with its scientific installations and the eponymous statue.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "I, unfortunately, lost... I had an attack and then a better position, but I blundered a pawn. Even after I blundered the pawn, I still had extremely active pieces and was still in the game. It was a very sharp position though, and I made a wrong move and lost a tempo, and she quickly took advantage of that by attacking my king, then checkmating me."

November 1: In round 7 Naomi defeated Katherene Qi of USA, getting 4 points out of 7.  In the morning we drove to the nearby town of Nea Marmaras to walk off Naomi.  Then we drove south to Toroni and sneaked through a hole in the fence to see the ancient ruins of the castle of Likithos.  After the game started, we drove north to Elia and Lagomandra beaches for a seaside walk.  Photos:

November 2: in round 8 Naomi defeated Juliette Sleurs of Belgium, and now has 5 points out of 8.  In the morning we circumnavigated our whole Sithonia peninsula, which is the central "tooth" of the Halkidiki peninsula, which itself juts off the Greek peninsula of the Balkan peninsula of Europe, itself a fractal peninsula of peninsulas of Eurasia.  We stopped at beaches, Nikiti, and views.  Photos:

Sleurs vs Bashkansky

November 3: In round 9 Naomi defeated Liwia Jarocka of Poland, for 6 out of 9 points.  In the morning we found our rented car with a flat tire (from a nail puncture, which let the air out slowly overnight), put on the small spare tire and drove to Neos Marmaras for a quick fix.  Then we were back on track for a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the Sithonia peninsula, a fitting answer to its yesterday's clockwise circumnavigation.  We visited the village of Sikia with its picturesque cemetery, then Sarti with its splendid views of Mt Athos, and got back to Porto Carras in the nick of time for the photo of the players handshake before the game.  After the game started at 3pm, we drove to the Paradisos beach in Neos Marmaras and caught a fantastic sunset.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "I won round 9 :D I finished at 8:15, meaning my game was 5 hours 15 minutes long, making me and my opponent the last people there. What happened: In the middle game, I managed to win a pawn, although it was extremely difficult. In the endgame I played horribly, and it eventually got to a point where she kept on checking me and I had to move my king back and forth to avoid losing a knight or losing 2 pawns (making me down a pawn). I had 10 minutes and she had 25, and she offered a draw. I don't like draws. So, in the time interval of 10 minutes (which is NOTHING), I thought with all my might what the heck I'm going to do. Finally, with only 3 minutes left, I decided to move my king to a square where she had the chance to either win a pawn or keep on checking me. She decided to win a pawn, meaning the game still went on in a difficult to win position (for either side), except I only had 3 minutes, meaning the rest of the time I had for moves came from the 30 second increment per move. 30 seconds a move--not a lot. Either way, I won."

November 4: In the penultimate round 10, Naomi defeated a strong and disciplined player, Govhar Beydullayeva of Azerbaijan, and now has 7 points out of 10.  Having returned the rented car in the morning (after 7 days of intensive use), we spent the time at our hotel's beach.  Photos:
Naomi quote: "Round 10 was 5 hours long. Unlike every single other opponent, she played well in complex positions and only okay more positionally (when there's nothing exciting). I used that to my advantage from move one, and it made my opponent spend a HUGE amount of time finding a plan. She didn't--or at least, not one that made her get a better position. Eventually I did a cool tactic that she didn't have time to see and I won a pawn and if needed, I could do perpetual (attack the king forever and claim a draw), but screw draws. I won my 'toughest opponent yet' as said by my coach."

November 5: In the final round 11 Naomi lost to Esma Duran of Turkey, after almost winning in the end game.  Naomi took 16th place overall.  As the round started at 10am, we boarded a boat to Neos Marmaras and strolled the street market there.  After the round ended, the US team had a photo session near our hotel pool, and then many went for the beach.   Closing ceremony at night.  Photos:

Naomi quote: "I lost round 11, but everyone that watched the game online said that I had a better position, especially straight out of the opening where I had a dream position. I was actually winning at one point--I had a passed pawn on the a-file and I had a bishop for two pawns--but we my king was extremely open and we were both playing on the 30 second increment. I blundered--she sacrificed her queen (for nothing), I was forced to take it with my king, and when I did she promoted a pawn into a queen, and since that pawn was blocking her rook, that rook was now checking my king, while her new queen was attacking my queen. Oh well.  Either way, I did awesomely :D  I got 16th place out of 120 people, and every single one of those people had to be good enough to qualify.  The best place I've gotten before is 13th place, but there were less people there.  All in all, I'd say I played extremely well--every single one of my games I either won or was winning at some point."

US Team at WYCC2015

November 6: Waked up at 3am, rode bus to Thessaloniki airport for the 8:30am flight to Athens, took metro to the city center, ascended to the Acropolis, saw Parthenon (still in ruins, just like 11 years ago), Erechtheion and Propylaea.  Visited the nearby new amazing outstanding extraordinary marvelous out-of-this-world Acropolis Museum, opened 2009.  Had dinner in Plaka, with great moussaka, Greek salad, Greek beer and ouzo!  Almost danced sirtaki breaking plates.  Great day.  Photos:

Erechtheion, with Caryatids

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Oregon Open in Portland

In Portland, weirdness is an industry
The 65th Annual Oregon Open chess tournament was held on September 5-7, 2015 in the Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Portland, Oregon.  As Naomi prepares for the coming World Youth Chess Championship in Halkidiki, Greece in October 2015, this Oregon Open tournament is a good opportunity to hone her battle skills.

At 7 AM in the morning of September 5, we drove 3 hours to Portland, OR.  Naomi played in the Open section (she's too strong for Reserve now).  There were 2 games every day, 6 games overall.  

On the first day Naomi lost the first game to a player with the USCF rating 2222, and won the second one over a 1820. On the second day she drew with a 2039 and won over a 2096!  On the third day she lost to a 2059 and drew with a 1956.  Overall Naomi got 3 points out of 6, and her rating went up from 1848 to 1885 as a result of her great showing.  (And 3 weeks later Naomi's USCF rating reached 1926!)

We've been to Portland before, so this time we mostly mopped up some places we missed on previous occasions.  The most memorable visit was the one to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), which hosted the Ripley's Believe It or Not! exhibition, and the adjacent USS Blueback, an old navy submarine.

Shrunken heads of defeated chess opponents

Take a look at some pretty interesting stuff we've seen there:

We walked a lot along the Portland waterfront on both sides of the Willamette River, including the less-explored eastern one.  We re-visited the Pittock Mansion and the nearby International Rose Test Garden.  Lastly, we went for a very nice guided walking tour of the downtown from the Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Susan Polgar Girls Invitational in St. Louis

Naomi won 1st place under 12, and got $1000 for the World Youth Chess  Championship!
Also, she shared 2nd place in blitz.

Quoting chronologically from, added photos courtesy Paul Truong:

12th annual Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational at Webster University

Saturday, July 25 - Arrival Day
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm Game Analyses with SPICE students
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm Swimming – University Center Indoor Pool
Sunday, July 26
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: Training

Naomi with Susan Polgar:
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm: City Tour
4:00 pm – 4:30 pm: Puzzle Solving Championship
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm Game Analyses with SPICE students
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm: Bughouse Championship
Monday, July 27
9:45 am Campus Tour
1:00 pm Opening Ceremony
2:00 pm Tournament Round 1
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm: Blitz Championship -- Naomi shared 2nd place!
Tuesday, July 28
9:30 am Tournament Round 2
& Friends & Family Event starts
3:00 pm Tournament Round 3
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Swimming – University Center Indoor Pool
Wednesday, July 29
9:30 am Tournament Round 4
3:00 pm Tournament Round 5
Thursday, July 30
9:30 am Tournament Round 6
3:00 pm Closing Ceremony
4:00 pm Departure

Naomi won 1st place in the Under-12 category, and got $1000 for the World Youth Chess  Championship!