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.

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