Saturday, November 26, 2011

Round 9 - Tough loss for JM

Hello all – Mr. Burke here again.

The 2011 World Youth Chess Championship is finished. In Round 9, John Michael lost in 3 hours 30 minutes to Tigran Poghosyan of Germany. John Michael took the defeat very hard – he wanted to win this game so badly. After the game, we took some time to decompress from a long and grueling tournament. We didn’t go over the game – John Michael needed a well-deserved break after that game was finished. It has been a mentally, emotionally and physically draining couple of weeks. After hanging out around the hotel, we attended the closing ceremonies, grabbed a late dinner and got back to the hotel room. Tomorrow we leave Caldas Novas at 12:00 PM (9:00 AM EST) to begin the long trek back to NJ. It has been a great two weeks, but we are looking forward to getting home.

I absolutely love John Michael’s fierce desire to win, competitiveness, and unshakeable belief that he is going to win every single time he sits down at the chess board, no matter who he is facing or how big the stakes are. It is those qualities that make him the champion he is, and those same qualities make losing so very hard to take for him. I know this experience has been great for him, and will serve him very well in the future.

9 Games
5 Wins
2 Draws
2 Losses
6 points out of 9
Tied for 4th place (official finish – 21st place out of 121)
383 moves
30 hours 15 minutes of game play
20+ hours of pre-game preparation/post game analysis

This tournament was a huge success for John Michael. The last round defeat will sting for a while, but when you look at the entire 9 game tournament as a whole, the tournament cannot be deemed as anything other than a great success for John Michael. He did a tremendous job!

I am going to remember so many things about this trip – the people we met, the sights we saw, the fun we had as a family. I will never forget the effort John Michael put into this tournament, and the great success he had in the pressure cooker of a World Championship event, battling it out with the best players in the world. He represented himself and his country excellently.

I couldn’t be prouder of John Michael – he is a great champion, an inspiration to me and many others. I love him very much.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Round 8 - JM wins and keeps medal hopes alive

Hello all – Mr. Burke here again.

It’s getting exciting in Caldas Novas! John Michael scored a gutty 82 move, 4 hour 30 minute victory today in Round 8 of the World Youth Chess Championship against Iran’s Nima Fendereski. It was a game he had to win in order to keep his medal hopes alive - a draw would have knocked him out of the running. The game was an exciting one that went back and forth, and John Michael prevailed by playing a very strong endgame. John Michael analyzed the game with GM Joel Benjamin, who again was very impressed by John Michael’s deep thinking and calculating. Just another great effort from John Michael – he now has 6 points out of 8.

We didn’t have too much downtime after the game – it was off to dinner, and then quickly into preparation mode for the final game of the tournament, which is early tomorrow – 10:00 AM Caldas Novas time (7:00 AM EST), 5 hours earlier than our usual start time of 3:00 PM Caldas Novas time (12:00 PM EST). John Michael got into bed at around 10:30 PM (he is still awake as I type this at 11:30 PM) – hopefully he will get a good enough rest and will be refreshed to go to battle one more time tomorrow. John Michael has a tough draw tomorrow – Tigran Poghosyan from Germany (those of you that are chess fans will note the similar name to Tigran Petrosian, a former World Champion). Hopefully the 10 year old Tigran that John Michael is playing tomorrow isn’t quite as strong as the “other” Tigran!

For those of you keeping score at home, here is where things stand. Top three finishers in each section receive gold, silver and bronze medals, just like the Olympics. The top three finishers also get trophies. 4th, 5th and 6th place finishers also receive medals. No awards given for finishing below 7th place.

Here are the current standings after Round 8- you can also find the complete standings here:

1) Yi Zhu (CHN) - 7.0 pts (tiebreaker points 34.5)
2) Ruifeng Li (USA) - 6.5 points (TB 32.5)
3) VS Rathanvel (IND) - 6.5 points (TB 31.5)
4) Zakhar Aleksandrov (RUS) - 6.5 points (TB 31.0)
5) Amin Tabatabaei (IRI) - 6.5 points (TB 29.5)
6) Tianming Xie (USA) - 6.5 points (TB 26.5)
7) Kumar Jena Rakesh (IND) - 6.0 points (TB 30.0)
8) Viachaslau Zarubitaski (BLR) - 6.0 points (TB 27.0)
Tigran Poghosyan (GER) - 6.0 points (TB 27.0)
10) John Michael Burke (USA) - 6.0 points (TB 23.5)

Essentially John Michael is tied for 3rd. Yi Zhu is in sole possession of first place with 7.0 pts. There are 5 players tied for second place with 6.5 points, and there are 4 players (including John Michael) tied for third place with 6.0 points. If you notice, John Michael is officially in 10th place. This is due to the tiebreaker procedures that are used in tournaments of this kind. Without getting into too much of the technical details, ties are broken by using a player’s “progressive score”. Essentially a player’s score after each round is added together to get a “progressive” or “cumulative” score as the tournament progresses. Players are rewarded favorably in tiebreakers by winning early in tournaments, since by winning early and building up strong scores early, they are in turn paired with other players with strong scores as they proceed through the rounds. Thus players that are constantly playing other high scoring players are deemed to have a stronger “strength of schedule”, and theoretically have had a stronger tournament. John Michael lost his Round 1 game and drew his Round 2 game, so he has the lowest tiebreaker score of the top 10 players (look at the numbers under the “TB1” column when you click on the above link), which is why he is officially in 10th place and would lose on tiebreakers to any of the players in the top 10 if he should happen to tie with them. All players below the top 10 have 5.5 points or less, and do not need to be accounted for as we try to project what needs to happen in order for John Michael to win a medal.

All that being said, John Michael has a chance to finish as high as 4th. Here is what needs to happen tomorrow:

1) John Michael has to win his game. A draw or a loss knocks him out of any chance for a medal.
2) He will need help - a few other games on Boards 1-4 have to go his way. A win does not guarantee him a medal – he could finish as high as 4th and as low as 8th if he wins his game tomorrow.

Here are the pairings for tomorrow - you can also find the pairings here:

Board 1: Tianming Xie (6.5) vs, Yi Zhu (7.0)
Board 2: Zakhar Alexsandrov (6.5) vs. Ruifeng Li (6.5)
Board 3: Amin Tabatabaei (6.5) vs. VS Rathanvel (6.5)
Board 4: Kumar Jena Rakesh (6.0) vs. Viachaslau Zarubitski (6.0)
Board 5: John Michael Burke (6.0) vs. Tigran Poghosyan (6.0)

A couple of things need to happen in the other games on Boards 1-4. If John Michael wins his game, he will be at 7 points. Essentially he needs to have as many players as possible finish below 7 points, so he can avoid tiebreakers.

On Board 1, it would be best for John Michael if Yi Zhu won the game, as that would keep Tianming Xie at 6.5 points. Tianming is a United States player, so it is hard to root against him, but the math dictates that John Michael is helped if he loses and stays off the 7.0 point number. Yi Zhu is already at 7.0 points and can't be caught by John Michael, so a win by Yi does not hurt John Michael, but a win by Tianming would hurt John Michael's chances, as Tianming would go from 6.5 points to 7.5 points.

On Board 2 and Board 3, the winner is not important, but avoiding draws is important. All players on Boards 2 and 3 are currently at 6.5 points. A draw on either of those boards would put both players on that board at 7 points, where a decisive victory would keep one player under 7 points. Ruifeng Li is a United States player on Board 2, so we will be rooting for him to win his game.

On Board 4, both players are at 6 points. A draw in this game would be helpful, since neither player would get to 7 points.

I am not 100% sure, but if there are 2 favorable results on Boards 1-4, combined with a John Michael win, I believe that will be enough to get him into the top 6 and receive a medal. The important thing is that John Michael needs to play for a win tomorrow, since a draw knocks him out of medal contention. I am hoping that the players on Boards 1-4 will also be gunning for wins as well, to hopefully generate some sharp play and avoid draws. At the end of the day, the only thing that John Michael can control is his game, and I know he will give it everything he has to get a victory.

This has been one amazing tournament, and I am sure tomorrow will be a day to remember.

Last round is tomorrow (Saturday) at 10:00 AM Caldas Novas time (7:00 AM EST). Thanks again for all your prayers and support, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a final recap.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Round 7 - A fighting draw

Hello all – Mr. Burke here.

Round 7 is in the books at the World Youth Chess Championship. John Michael had a hard fought draw with Mercado Carlos Sandoval from Mexico. The game was a complicated one. John Michael was getting in time trouble due to the complicated nature of the game – he was down to 5 minutes on his clock at move 23 (he only had 5 minutes left to make 17 moves to get to the first time control of 40 moves in 90 minutes). Mercado offered John Michael a draw and John Michael accepted it after a couple of minutes of thought. He felt there was simply too much to analyze in the position and not enough time remaining to do so effectively. Good decision to make – why ruin 3 hours of effort with a sheer gamble if you are not sure of the road you are going down? Tough game – they were at it for 3 hours even though only 23 moves were played. In the team analysis room, GM Joel Benjamin reviewed the game with John Michael and said he “played brilliantly” and that he was “impressed”. John Michael was a little disappointed after the game – GM Benjamin showed him a move that he could have made in a certain situation that might have helped things a little, and John Michael was a little mad at himself for not seeing that move during the game. He is so hard on himself – he poured his heart out for three hours and still was beating himself up for a little while after the game. Sometimes it is easy to forget that these kids are not machines. The fact that they can play grueling games day after day at such a high level is remarkable. We are very proud of John Michael and the all-out effort he is putting into this tournament.

Currently John Michael is in 21st place, with 5 points out of 7. There is one clear leader at this point with 6.5 points, three players at 6 points, four players with 5.5 points, and twelve others tied with John Michael at 5 points. 2 rounds to go.

Tomorrow’s game is with Nima Fendereski from Iran. Can’t find too many recent games for Nima in our database, so the preparation may be a little less extensive for tomorrow’s game, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. There tend to be more opening “surprises” late in tournaments, as players sometimes prepare special openings designed to catch opponents off guard when things get down to crunch time in the last couple of rounds.

The day was also successful outside of the chess arena. Picking up on the “lizard story” from last evening….when we woke up this morning there was no sign of the lizard in the room. I figured he had left the room, although I continued to scan the walls continuously while we got ready for the day. Sure enough, after we got back from breakfast, the lizard had poked his head out from behind the shelf that had apparently acted as his bunker for the evening. Mrs. Burke took control – she ran down the hall to grab one of the housekeepers that was doing room service about 10 doors down. Unable to say in Portuguese, “There is a lizard in my room and my husband is too scared to do anything about it”, she simply grabbed the housekeeper, and marched arm in arm with her down to our room. As I hid in the corner behind the curtains, Mrs. Burke pointed out the lizard to her. Our 80-pound housekeeper saved the day by grabbing some toilet paper, nimbly hopping up on a stool, and aggressively grabbing at the lizard just like John Michael aggressively attacks his opponents on the chess board. The lizard ran, but he couldn’t get away from our hero – she nabbed him, and took him out of the room. The whole thing took about 30 seconds, and our room was lizard free. We will all sleep better tonight!

Round 8 is tomorrow at 3:00 PM Caldas Novas time (12:00 PM EST). See you tomorrow night with another update.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Round 6 - JM wins 4th in a row

Hello all – Mr. Burke here.

The train keeps rolling – John Michael scored a big victory today in Round 6 of the World Youth Chess Championship. His opponent was Viktor Gazik from Slovakia. Viktor and John Michael had a fairly equal position out of the opening, and it looked like this one was going to be a JM 4 hour special, given the caliber of his opponent and the position on the board. Unfortunately for Viktor, he blundered a piece in a fairly innocent position, and you simply don’t blunder a piece to John Michael and live to tell about it. John Michael pounced on the gift, and swiftly put Viktor away in 25 moves/2.5 hours. Great technique by John Michael to put the game away.

Currently John Michael has 4.5 points out of 6, and is officially tied for 16th. In John Michael’s section, there is one player alone at the top with 6 points out of 6, seven players with 5 points, and eight other players tied at 4.5 points with John Michael. There will definitely be shifts in the standings among the leaders over the next 3 rounds as they all face off against each other. Too early to try to project how things will turn out – we are going with the Al Davis motto of “Just Win, Baby” and simply taking one game at a time and focusing only on the next opponent. Tomorrow’s opponent is Mercado Carlos Sandoval from Mexico. Mercado played in the same Pan American Championship in July as John Michael’s 3rd, 4th and 5th round opponents. For some reason the luck of the draw has paired John Michael with four players from that tournament.

There is a good article about the tournament on the USCF website written by Andi Rosen (we traveled from Atlanta with Andi, her husband Brad, and their son Eric – great people). John Michael and I are even quoted in the article – you can check it out here:

A couple of funny stories from today. When John Michael got to his board for his game, his opponent (Viktor Gazik) had already arrived. Viktor was not seated at the time John Michael got to the board, but a lot of his stuff was there. In particular, he had 2 mice (not real mice, stuffed animal mice) with their jaws perched on his rooks. He also had some sort of Slovakian-looking high powered energy drink and a candy bar. I had a feeling that Viktor was going to be a character, and we were not disappointed. When Viktor sat down, he immediately started chatting nonstop in Slovakian. At least I presume it was Slovakian (is that actually a language?) because we couldn’t understand a thing he was saying. That didn’t stop ol’ Viktor – he talked with passion and vigor and didn’t seem to mind or care that he wasn’t getting much of a response. Sitting at the next board across from John Michael, directly next to Viktor, was Albert Lu (John Michael’s opponent from Round 2 – “The Thrilla in Brazilla”). Albert is a really cool kid. On the encouragement of his dad, Albert started talking to Viktor in Chinese. John Michael chimed in with English, and the three of them had a heck of a conversation in three different languages for a few minutes before the round. John Michael and Albert had a good time with it, and it was good to see them laugh and relieve some of the tension before the round began.

The second funny story occurred when we got back to our room. One thing we haven’t mentioned so far is the amount of bugs there are in Brazil. Lots and lots of bugs. All kinds of ugly bugs, flying things, creeping things – you name the bug, it is here, sometimes in your room. The Burkes don’t like bugs, so this is not good. Tonight when we got back to our hotel room, there was what looked like a little baby lizard on the wall directly above one of the beds. Needless to say, quite a spectacle was caused by the Burkes: “Get it Daddy!”, “Don’t kill it!”, followed by me banging the wall wth my shoe (for what reason I am not sure) and watching the lizard scurry across the wall and disappear behind the hanging clothes in the corner of the room. I am typing with one eye on the computer and the other scanning the room for this foul creature. I have no idea how I am going to sleep tonight knowing that thing is in the room. I am shocked that Mrs. Burke and John Michael are actually sleeping as I type this. Maybe I can sleep in the waiting area while John Michael plays tomorrow………

Round 7 is tomorrow at 3:00 PM Caldas Novas time (12:00 EST). I’ll be back with a recap of the game tomorrow night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Round 5 - Another win for JM

Hello all -

Mr. Burke here again. John Michael won his Round 5 game today against Rodriguez Aldo Joaquim Diaz from Peru, giving him 3 nice victories in a row and getting him back in the medal hunt (top 3 players receive gold, silver and bronze medals). John Michael played a very strong opening, was able to gain an advantage through some nice tactics, and converted his advantage into victory in a tidy 29 move, 2 hour 30 minute game. It was a game where John Michael was in control from the start, and was never in any danger. Games like this don’t happen too often in tournaments of this caliber – you take these kind of victories any chance you can. John Michael currently has 3.5 points out of 5, which puts him in 26th place out of 121 in his section. There are two players that are tied for first with 5 points, three players with 4.5 points, ten players with 4 points, and ten other players tied with John Michael with 3.5 points.

From here on out, the competition is going to be much tougher. For those that are not familiar with how matchups are generated in chess tournaments, it is fairly simple. Players are paired against each other based on how many points they have in the tournament. For example in Round 6 the two players that have 5 points are facing off against each other, the two that have 4.5 are playing each other, and so on. The only exception is that you can’t play the same player twice. As tournaments progress, the players in contention will be playing stronger and stronger competition, because they are going to be facing off against players that have similar results. You can see the pairings for the section here: The player John Michael is facing tomorrow is actually the player that was the #6 seed in the section going into this tournament, rated 1978 FIDE. Definitely looks like a step up in class from his last 3 opponents - should be quite a battle!

John Michael was happy to get the win, and was very happy that it only took two and a half hours! We were able to get to dinner right when the dining hall opened at 7:00 PM, got in a couple quick games of billiards next to the pool bar (where there was a game of Portuguese Bingo taking place), and got back to the room at a reasonable hour. Trying to make sure John Michael gets as much sleep as possible, but it is tough. He is still full of adrenaline hours after his game, and I am sure it is tough to just shut things down and go to bed – it takes him a while to fall asleep at night (he probably is playing the day’s game again in his head!).

We are past the halfway point of the tournament – 5 games down, 4 left to play. Round 6 is tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3:00 PM Caldas Novas time. Will be back tomorrow night with result.

Thoughts from JMB's Mom

Hi Everyone – JMB’s Mom here (one of my better titles)

I wanted to give my half time thoughts on my experience thus far….

I am amazed at these kids…all of them! There are kids from all over the world, from ages 6-18 and they are fabulous!! My husband and I sit in the waiting area for hours each game. As we sit and wait for JMB to get done what we came to do, I watch the faces of all the kids walk through the door from the convention center after their game…some of them beaming, some of them crying, some of them with straight poker faces on. The little ones who just lost, are so heartbreaking…you want to scoop them up and hug them and tell them it is only a game- BUT IT IS NOT ONLY A GAME. It is not only a game to them. They play each game with such heart. I can only hope that they use this intensity with all they do in life. To the people like me who thought it was kind of cool that my kid was good enough at something to be invited – I totally missed what this means to these kids. They all came here to win and I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster that they feel game to game.

As a parent, we want to protect them from any hurt or disappointments. As a parent, we know that we cannot. We know that our children have to feel disappointment to learn how to pick themself up… straighten themself up, and look at each experience as a lesson well learned. Will they learn that today….probably not….not while they are emotionally immersed.

I had doubts about this adventure, for a lot of reasons. Now, I am glad we did it. It may turn out to be a time in my son’s life that he will later pinpoint as pivotal. It may turn out to be nothing in my son’s life…no big moment, nothing changed in him, I really don’t know yet how and if he will be affected in his soul – but I am different from this. I remember what it is like to love doing something so much that it is not work to you. I remember what it is like to love something so much you want to be the best in it. I remember what it is like to want to engage with people that are the best in my trade…come head to head with them and win….succeed in a goal or vision that you set before yourself.

Thank you to all the kids – the best of the best – all ages – all of the participating 70+ Countries – for reminding me what it is like to want to be my best!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some info from JMB

Hi, this is John Michael. Here is some interesting info thus far.

· The first kid I played, from India, spoke good English, thankfully.
· The second kid was from the US, so no problems there.
· The 3rd and 4th were from Columbia and Peru, and they spoke no English at all. I had a hard time understanding what they were saying, but I got through.
· I will upload all my games when I get home, it might take a long time, maybe a week after we return.
· The food’s good, they have chicken, rice, and pasta every day (but different types).
· They call French fries “potato chip.”
· For breakfast, they have a bunch of breads and cakes and stuff.
· The bathrooms and water fountain are in the playing room, thankfully.
· If your opponent fails to show up after 15 minutes, you win the game.
· After every move you make and you hit the clock, 30 seconds gets added to your time (called increment).
· No one speaks English here.
· The 5th round game will be against another Peruvian.
· I am sitting on the bed right now.
· You start out with 1 hour and 30 minutes at the beginning of the game. You have to make 40 moves without running out of time. After you do this, an extra 30 minutes gets added to your time.
· My favorite part of the trip is all the people I’m meeting.

Chess Pictures

John Michael analyzing Round 4 game with GM Joel Benjamin.

John Michael preparing opening lines to play against his opponent.

Tournament hall.

The United States team room is always busy as players finish their games and come to meet with their coaches to analyze the games that were just completed.

John Michael analyzing Round 3 game with GM John Fedorowicz.

Entering tournament hall before Round 3.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Water park pictures

There is a water park right across the street from our hotel - here are some pictures.

Rounds 3 and 4 - JM starting to roll

Hello all – Mr. Burke here again.

John Michael had a great day today, scoring wins in both of his games. After 4 rounds John Michael has 2.5 points out of 4. Currently he is in 45th place, out of 121 players. For those that are interested, you can follow the standings here:

In Round 3. John Michael had white against Brayan Arley Polanco from Colombia. Brayan had no FIDE rating, but we assumed he was a talented player, as he scored 7.5 points out of 9 at the Pan American Youth Championships in Colombia in July, according to what we were able to research in Chessbase. As we suspected, Brayan played the Sicilian Dragon opening, and John Michael was able to win a pawn early, and then took advantage of a mistake by his opponent to get ahead by a rook. From there, John Michael cruised to an easy victory in a little under two hours. A nice workmanlike victory to start the day. It was good for John Michael to get a quick victory on a day where he had 2 games to play. We had several hours to kick back and relax before his Round 4 game at 5:00 PM.

In Round 4, John Michael had black against Curse Flavio Gonzales from Peru. Curse was rated 1715 FIDE, and had also played in the Pan American Youth Championships in July. We only had about an hour to research this opponent, but it was time well spent. From reviewing his opponent’s games, John Michael saw that he liked to play a lot of wild gambits in the opening, which was extremely valuable information to know. It is such a difference to know well ahead of time who your opponent is – much different than any of the tournaments John Michael has played thus far. True to form, Curse played a new gambit in the opening that John Michael had not faced previously. John Michael was able to dodge all the tricks that Curse was throwing his way, and then took control in the middlegame. John Michael played well and won his game fairly easily in about 3 hours.

Much different scene entering the tournament hall today. Parents were allowed into the hall to seat their children, which made things go much smoother. It appears that the organizers of this event are making favorable adjustments day by day to help things go smoother.

Overall it was a solid day for John Michael. 2 wins in 2 games to get him back in the hunt. Still a long way to go – 5 games left to play, with Monday a rest day and Round 5 starting on Tuesday at 3:00 PM Caldas Novas time. Looking forward to a rest day tomorrow – probably going to sleep in and lounge around the hotel. A trip to town or the water park may be in order. Will be back on Tuesday evening with results from Round 5.

Mr. Burke

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Pictures

"Welcome to the World Chess Championship" sign in front of hotel.

Mrs. Burke and John Michael in front of hotel.

Great action shot of John Michael flying out of water slide.

Ping-pong is always a good diversion from chess.

John Michael on the camera - he takes pretty good pictures!

"I am in Brazil and out of school for 2 weeks!"

"I hope the ice cream in Brazil tastes as good as it does in the United States."

The room we are staying in is small, but functional.

One of the many pools at Thermas DiRoma hotel.

Round 2 - The Thrilla in Brazilla

Mr. Burke here again.

All I can say is – wow.

In an epic battle that lasted 99 moves and 5 hours and 30 minutes, John Michael played Albert Lu, the #2 seed (out of 121) in his section, to a draw. It truly was an incredible game. There was a little bit of everything in this game: time pressure for both players, interesting tactics, and a long endgame where John Michael had a rook and 2 pawns against Albert’s 2 bishops and 2 pawns. Albert had all the winning chances, and John Michael had to fend off Albert for about 50 moves in a very tricky endgame where one slight mistake could have cost him the game. John Michael showed me the game when we got back to the hotel room, and it was remarkable. To withstand that sort of pressure against the #2 player in his section is quite a feat. John Michael was tired but happy after the game was finished. Out of 550 or so games that take place in each round, his was the last one to finish! Great to see him get on the board with half a point – he earned it! It is always good to get your first points on the board in the tournament.

It was a little different entering the tournament hall for Round 2. Parents were not able to enter the hall to seat their children at their boards. Not a big deal for us, as we arrived 30 minutes early at the hall, and John Michael had no issues getting in and finding his board. Some other folks were not so lucky. There was a huge logjam at the door starting at about 15 minutes before the round, as there was no notification given to the delegations that players would have to enter without parents. Lot of confusion as parents were being turned away. Definitely going to have to get there very early before each round to avoid any issues.

Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the most grueling day of the tournament. It is the only day where there are 2 games. Round 3 is at 10:00 AM Caldas Novas time, and Round 4 is at 5:00 PM. Going to be a long and late day! No games on Monday, so we can sleep in as late as we want. Will report back tomorrow night with results from Round 3 and 4.

Thank you for all your emails – I have read them all, but haven’t had too much of a chance to reply. Will reply to everyone when we get back.

Mr. Burke

Round 1 Pictures

John Michael in United States uniform.

Waiting area for parents.

Entering tournament hall.

Mr. Burke staring down John Michael's opponent, looking for signs of weakness (only kidding - I am always very nice to John Michael's opponents).

Isn't the guy on the far right a little too old to be playing in the U10 section?

John Michael filling in scoresheet before the game.

View of the tournament hall from the balcony.

Ceremonial pre-game handshake with Nadar Anand from India.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Round 1

Hello all –

This is John Michael’s Dad again. It is 11:23 PM Caldas Novas time, and Day 1 of the 2011 World Youth Chess Championship is in the books. John Michael played his Round 1 game today against Nadar Anand from India. It was a 3 hour 45 minute struggle, and unfortunately John Michael came up short in this game. John Michael's coach said that he played a great game and didn't make any errors at all, but his opponent happened to play a great game as well and fended off all of John Michael's attacks. John Michael fought on to the bitter end like he always does – he has the heart of a champion and never gives in, but his opponent played well and secured the victory. I believe that John Michael is planning on posting his games on this blog when we get back home from the tournament. Round 2 is tomorrow at 3:00 PM Brazil time. In Round 2, John Michael is playing Albert Lu from the United States, a talented player from California. There are 11 United States players out of the 121 in John Michael’s section, so it is inevitable that United States players will face each other at some point.

The tournament hall is huge – it was fairly hectic getting to John Michael’s board when we got to the playing area, but things went well – no problems. The hall is air conditioned, but the waiting area is not – very hot. The tournament seemed to run smoothly today. The United States coaches are great – they really spend a lot of time with each player reviewing their games, which can only help them all improve. Going to try to get some sleep and get ready for another big day tomorrow!

I will try to get some more pictures up soon. Internet is really slow. Pairings just came out for tomorrow, so undoubtedly there are a ton of people accessing the Internet and doing research. I just tried to upload some pictures, but the connection froze. Technology is not the strong suit of Caldas Novas - we even had the power go out in our hotel twice (only for a few minutes each time).

P.S. – John Michael is going to be very busy for the remainder of the trip, so most likely I will be doing most of the posting. Monday is a free day (no games), so I am going to see if John Michael can put up a post then and share his thoughts on the trip.

Mr. Burke

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tournament starts on Friday

Hello all -

This is John Michael's Dad again. It is 12:44 AM Friday morning in Caldas Novas, Brazil. I have been wrestling with computer and Internet issues for the last 2 hours in an attempt to get online, so I will not be able to upload pictures on this post. Will try to get more pictures up tomorrow morning (technical issues permitting).

Wednesday and Thursday were relaxing days - hanging out by the pool, going on water slides, playing ping-pong, visiting the water park across the street from our hotel, and just generally relaxing. Good weather - 88 and sunny yesterday and today, and just one quick rain shower yesterday. We are definitely starting to shift into tournament mode. The teams have been arriving at our hotel from countries far and wide over the last few days - some teams even arrived as late as 7:00 PM tonight. We have seen teams from South Africa, China, Bolivia, Peru, and several other countries that escape memory right now. The United States coaches held a team meeting for the entire delegation this evening to go over the rules/procedures of the tournament. There are some differences between United States USCF tournaments and international FIDE tournaments. The coaches are great - 10 in all. The coaches have divided the players up - each coach is going to work with 6 players. The coaches will be holding individual preperation sessions for 30 minutes each day with each player to prepare them for their game that day. At this level of chess, there is a fair amount of time spent preparing for each individual opponent. The coaches will look up their opponents games from the past and help the players devise particular openings based on what their opponent is most likely to play. Pretty high tech stuff - lot of computer analysis involved in preparing for games each day. After each game, the players will do a "post mortem" with one of the U.S. coaches. The coach will review the game they just played, analyzing areas that can be improved for the next game. The coaches are going to be very busy, and the players are going to be working with very accomplished Grandmasters.

John Michael was very excited to find out tonight that his coach will be GM Joel Benjamin during this tournament! For those of you that follow chess, Joel needs no introduction. Among his many accomplishments, Joel is a 3 time U.S. Chess Champion, and was hired as the official Grandmaster consultant by IBM to help with the Deep Blue chess computer that defeated World Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It is kind of like a Little League baseball player playing in the Little League World Series where his individual coach is Derek Jeter, and he has the ability to consult with 9 other Yankees players that are coaching the rest of his team! It is such a fantastic opportunity for John Michael to be able to spend this amount of time with Joel and the rest of the United States coaches. He will literally be getting counsel over the next 9 days from some of the most accomplished chess players in the world!

The competition is definitely going to be fierce. From meeting other parents from the United States and from other countries, it is clear that chess is much more of a huge deal in most (if not all) of these other countries. Some countries offer large cash prizes to players that win their division (up to $20,000 in some cases we have heard). A player from another country that wins this tournament can literally launch a career out of this event, and improve their families social status (entry to private schools, luxury housing for the family, etc.). In other countries, Grandmasters are superstars - every bit as popular as sports figures and entertainers are in the United States.

John Michael is ready to do battle - not intimidated in the least. He is very relaxed and confident - looking forward to seeing him battle with the best in the world!

Opening ceremony is Friday at 3:00 PM Brazil time (3 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast) - first round is scheduled to start at 4:00 PM. Will hopefully be able to post results after each round, although the Internet has been very slow since the influx of all the teams.

Talk to you all soon!

Mr. Burke

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Arrived safely in Brazil

Hello all -

This is John Michael's Dad. We arrived safely in Brazil on Monday morning. Long journey to get here. Flight Sunday afternoon from Newark to Atlanta, followed by a 2 hour layover in Atlanta. Flight Sunday evening/Monday morning from Atlanta to Brasilia International Airport (8 hour flight). Arrived in Brasilia 9:00 AM local time Monday morning (3 hours ahead of the East Coast), and then took a harrowing 4 hour van ride from the airport to our hotel. Michele and I think that our van driver was trying out for the Nascar circuit! We are literally in the middle of nowhere - we drove for 4 hours through a very deserted part of Brazil. Lot of poverty outside of the major cities in Brazil. The main road we took to Brazil was the only paved road in sight - we found out that only 6% of the roads are actually paved in Brazil (compared to 59% in the United States). The hotel is nice - lots of pools and water slides. Room is small but functional. No American TV stations. No English of any kind here - we literally cannot communicate with 95% of the people that are here. Some hotel workers speak limited English, but not very many. We traveled with 2 other families from Atlanta - great people. They both have sons playing in the tournament - one is playing in the U18 section, and one is playing in the U12 section. Weather is nice - mid 80s, with stretches of rain each day for a couple of hours in the afternoon. John Michael has been having a great time - he has been playing chess with the boys he met, and played ping-pong this morning with some Brazilian kids! Food has been good - lots of meat, rice and fruit. Going to take a trip to state park with a waterfall on Wednesday. Met a couple of the United States coaches today (there are 10 U.S. coaches in total that will be here). Getting settled in and having fun before John Michael's tournament begins on Friday! Some pictures below. Will post again in a couple of days. Thanks for all your prayers and support!

Mr. Burke

Here are some pictures:

John Michael and Eric Rosen (fellow US team member) reading "Portuguese for Dummies" at the Atlanta airport.

John Michael and Eric getting in a game of blitz while waiting to board plane in Atlanta.

The Burkes in the middle of 4 hour van ride to hotel - we stopped for lunch.

This is what it looked like for the majority of our van ride to the hotel.

John Michael and Eric playing ping pong with a couple of Brazilian kids.

John Michael and Eric playing "blindfold chess" while the adults shopped in a local town mall. Blindfold chess is when you play a game of chess without a board and pieces - you just say the moves to each other. They actually played 4 entire games while we walked back and forth to town and did some shopping. Pretty amazing to watch!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Leaving for Brazil!

Update, it's Sunday morning, and I'm getting ready to leave for the World Youth in Brazil. Throughout the following 2 weeks, I'll be giving updates, posting pictures, and every day, I'll post my tournament game from that day along with my annotations. First game is on Friday, Nov. 17. If you're interested in following the tournament online, you can visit the tournament website at If you click on "tournament information", you will be able to see standings and results.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The History of Chess, part 2

After LaBourdonnais and McDonnell died, the best were now Howard Staunton and Pierre Charles de Saint-Amant. A match in 1843 formed between them in 1843, which Saint-Amant won with 3 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw. Staunton was winning by 1 going into the final 2 games, but then miracles occurred.

Disheartened, Staunton was blown off the board as white in the next game and thus lost this very tough match.

Of course, Staunton challenged Saint-Amant to a rematch, which was accepted. 6 months later, it took place. The conditions were:the first to win 11 games. After 8 games he had 7 wins and only 1 draw! He had won many pretty games on the way.

The 2 players alternated wins in the next 6 games, and Staunton was a win away with the score 10-3. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Saint-Amant won 3 of the next 5 games (the other 2 were draws)! Here is an example, the 20th game.

Staunton's fans were getting nervous, as the score was now 10-6. Luckily, Staunton saved the best game of his career for a good time, the 21st game.

Thus Staunton won the match and left no doubt that he was #1.

That's it for part 2! Part 3 coming soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The History of Chess, part 1

I'm going to be writing a few articles about the history of chess, here is part 1.

Back in the 1600s, people played like you probably played when you were a novice. You brought out the queen immediately, always liked to give checks, etc. This was known as the "Italian School". It was all inspired by Gioacchino Greco (1600-1634), who was the leading attacking of those days. Here is a sample of his play.

At this time, no one was able to defend and the attacker always won, leading people to believe that this was the correct way to play. This changed only in the mid - 1700s, when Francois - Andre Danican Philidor (1726-1795) took up the game. He beat the leading player Stamma in a match in 1747, and was known as the world #1.

He went on to publish a manual, which contained certain, general principles to play by. He was the first to do this. He was the first to make a positional plan based on pawns. He said to put pawns in front, and pieces in back, giving this position as an example.

He countered the Italian School by saying that you should never start an attack until the pawns are supported. This was a significant step in chess understanding, but no one else could understand Philidor, as he was simply too far ahead of his time. Because of this, people kept playing in the Italian style.

Philidor died in 1795, and there was no world #1 for a while. In the 1820s, the candidates were Alexander Louis Deschapelles and William Lewis. Their students, Louis Charles de la Bourdonnais and Alexander McDonnell, were then the leaders after the other 2 passed their prime. They played a series of 6 matches, which was won by a combined score by La Bourdonnais with 45 wins, 27 draws, and 13 draws. The 16th game was the most famous of the match.

An amazing finish! La Bourdonnais showed that he was clearly the strongest player in the world. Unfortunately, both players died within 6 years after the match, so yet again there was no strongest player in the world.

That's it for part 1! Part 2 coming out soon!