A microcosm full of wonders.

Kids with personal trainers, close to the title of Grand Master, having up to 8 hours of work.

10/11/2018 05:00 H

Magnus Carlsen was just one more name among the list of prodigies sixteen years ago, when Peñíscola held the European Chess Championship of the youngest ones. However, this town in Castellón can now boast about having atended the first steps of the triple world champion, who is now chasing his fourth Crown. And, as for what we are living these days, we might speak of Santiago de Compostela as the place where one of the greatest ones made their debut.

The Cidade da Cultura hosts the World Cadets Chess Championships till next Friday; it is the framework of the categories u-8, u-10 and u-12. In total, 827 children from 86 countries of the five continents, who turn the Gaiás in a miniature Chess Olympiad. A unique environment, hard to see in other sport discipline at this early ages, featuring more than 2.000 accompanying people (relatives and coaches) of all races and cultures.


“I am my own sponsor”, says a father from New Zealand,  a country from which two players, each with their parents, came from. About 20.000 km of travel (back and forth) and 5.000 euros per family. “You cannot be a good player if you do not compete against the best”, he justifies. Meanwhile, a mother from Namibia, in Europe for the very first time, explains that she does not mind paying the costs, even though it is a fairly new sport in her country, for it is a “very special” event for the young ones. “The travel is an investment in human capital”, remarks Gerardo Díaz, from Chile. In South America, they even organise barbeques to finance the tournament.

Parents who leave their jobs

Focusing merely on everything related to chess, the plethora of little ones that

gather around a chessboard serve as a bait to discover one of the stars in miniature: D. Gukesh. An Indian that is about to become a Grand Master – the highest rank – with just 12 years of age. “I began in 2013 as an extracurricular activity. I now train alone with a personal trainer”, tells La Voz. He devotes between 6 and 8 hours a day to chess and, according to the media of his country “he plays with a maturity above his age”. His parents, both physicians, started giving punctual consultations to devote themselves to his son, who has Bobby Fisher and Anand as role models.

Meanwhile, the number two in ranking in Santiago is Christopher Woojin Yoo, from the USA, the most numerous delegation (alongside with Spain) – 180 people, kids and accompanying people alike. “I train between two and four hours a day. I would love to be Grand Master, but I cannot tell when I might be able to become one”, says Yoo cheerfully. His father spent about 5.000 dollars in travel expenses and so forth.

Speaking about promising careers, there is another North American, Xan Meister, whose personal trainer is Varuzhan Akobian, one of the distinguished masters of his country. “There are many talented players here and they have plenty of opportunities in the future. It all starts here”, points out the Grand Master.

Some other remarkable names in the u-12 category are Volodar Murzin (Russia) e Arthur Guo (USA). Meanwhile, in u-10, Javier Habans makes an appearance, a boy from Pamplona that has been awarded with three national prizes in this category and two in u-8. He gets ready by playing against himself in his room or against the computer. “He is quite calm in the matches, he is very ambitious and has a great power of concentration”, appreciates his master, Javier de la Villa. And among the Galician players, we can underline Xulio del Prado, a 11-year-old boy from Vigo who has been standing out for a while on a national level.


The youngest player in the last Olympiad – just 10 years old – among the contestants

Many are used to have sponsors and to give interviews to the media. That is why the self-confidence of Samantha Edithso (Indonesia) is not surprising, who has been the youngest player in the latest Olympiad, held in Georgia some weeks ago. She is one of the favourites under 10. “Right after three months of playing, I was already a champion, and I usually am the youngest player ever since”, she details.

It is not unusual to see these players compete against adults, especially when they are close to 12 years of age. One example of superiority that can be seen in the Gaiás is Miaoyi Lu (China), who is so ahead of the other girls that she plays in the open category, the section that comprises the boys. In fact, she starts as the seventh favourite among 135 competitors.

“A valuable experience”

The president of the Spanish Chess Federation, Javier Ochoa de Echagüen, summarizes, regarding the tournament, that “everyone finds value in the experience of coexisting with so many other kids from so many countries, even if they miss school some days”. “The image we are watching now in in Compostela is awe-inspiring, the effort that we have been making pays off”, he concludes.

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