Ex-Under-18 Champions, and Correcting the Record

by admin on May 16, 2011

Tomorrow I’m going to record a ChessLecture about Steven Zierk’s impressive victory in the final round of last month’s Far West Open in Reno. By now, the game has been analyzed online not only by me but also (very briefly) by Steven himself at his brand-new blog and by his coach, Melikset Khachiyan at Chess Life Online. However, there are still a few wrinkles that haven’t been mentioned in any of those places … and besides, I just love the game! So that’s why I’m lecturing on it.

Steven is, of course, the current world under-18 champion, and that got me thinking … How are the previous world under-18 champions doing? The answer is, extremely well. They comprise an amazing 8 out of the world’s top 25 players, and 11 out of the top 100. I think you’ll find some names you know in the following list. I give the current world ranking, the name, and the year they won the world under-18 championship in parentheses.

4. Vladimir Kramnik (1991)

9. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2003)

11. Ruslan Ponomariov (1997)

14. Peter Svidler (1994)

17. Dmitry Jakovenko (2001)

23. Francisco Vallejo Pons (2000)

24. Radoslaw Wojtasek (2004)

25. Zoltan Almasi (1993)

46. Ferenc Berkes (2002)

71. Vladimir Akopian (1989)

98. Ildar Khairullin (2005)

By the way, I’d like to congratulate Khairullin (as if he will ever read or hear about this blog …) because May 2011 is his first appearance on the world’s top-100 list. I’m sure that you’ll hear more about him in the future.

Of course, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s success has also been remarkable. In eight years he has surpassed all of the former under-18 champions with the sole exception of Kramnik. Does he also have an “adult” world championship in his future?

Finally, when I perused the list of under-18 champions at Wikipedia, I made a startling discovery. I actually played against the very first world under-18 champion when he was still champion!

Here’s the story. In January 1988 I went to the Continental Open in Rye, New York (a Bill Goichberg tournament) and played in the under-2200 section. I did very well, going 4½-1½, which tied me for second (if I remember correctly) and pushed my rating over 2200 for the very first time. The winner of the section was an UNRATED player named Gustavo Hernandez, who went 5½-½. I had the distinction of being the only person to score a half point against him.

Whenever you see an unrated player at a Bill Goichberg tournament tearing up the wall chart, you have to be suspicious. It’s nothing against Goichberg — it’s just that he runs the biggest-money tournaments in the U.S., and so the sandbaggers and foreign players tend to come out of the woodwork at his tournaments. Of course he’s wise to this and does his best to figure out the correct section to place people in. But I guess in 1988 information was not so easy to come by, and he didn’t realize that Hernandez was the world under-18 champion. He did know that he was the champion of the Dominican Republic, but maybe that didn’t impress him so much.

In any case, putting Hernandez in the under-2200 section was a joke. Nevertheless, I was very proud of the fact that I drew! And now I am grateful to Goichberg for giving me the chance to play against him.

For a long time I have said that I have a 1-0 lifetime record against reigning world champions. In fact, I even put that incorrect claim on my main Web page (www.danamackenzie.com — scroll down to the bottom). I’ll have to correct that now, to 1½-½. Oh well, at least I’m still undefeated …

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marc May 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm

looking forward to the lecture


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