By Bobby Cheng

Having moved from New Zealand only two years ago, I never thought I would bring Australia a world chess champion title in such a short space of time. However, it has happened: in Kemer, Antalya, Turkey, on 23rd November 2009.

The World Youth Chess Championships (WYCC) is held every year, with participants from over 90 countries. My previous results have been: 61st – France in 2005, 4th – Turkey in 2007, and 15th- Vietnam in 2008, all three times representing New Zealand.

The tournament officially started with the opening ceremony, but I didn’t see the fireworks as I was too tired from the flights and jet lag! I had to go back to my room to sleep.

The next day I found out I was playing an 1800 player, national u12 champion of Belarus. I knew there would be no easy games. With juniors, an unrated player could be very dangerous.

The playing venue was at a 5 star hotel, which was also where we stayed. The whole Australian team was there. The hotel was huge and had plenty of facilities which the players were free to use.

I managed to win my first round quite comfortably after my opponent made a blunder in the opening, but in the second round I was held to a draw by an Austrian player rated around 1950. I won my next two rounds and I made it to the digital boards (top 3) and was playing a German player, rated 2057. I didn’t play the opening well and started an attack that never had any real prospects. I later sacrificed a piece but didn’t get enough compensation, and I eventually lost the resulting endgame. At the end, when I was dead lost, my opponent couldn’t help smiling from ear to ear.

This was a big setback for me, knowing now that another loss – just one more mistake – could see me dropping like a stone through the rankings, nowhere near the top.

My next round was also very tough, eventually winning a drawn endgame against a 2100 Iranian, who only made one mistake during the whole game. Chess can be cruel…

The next day was a break day, so all the players got to relax and explore Antalya. I am not a huge fan of sightseeing or tours, and in the past I had always stayed in the hotel. This year my dad insisted we do something different, so we joined some members of the Australian team to “The Ruins of Termessos”, which is claimed to be the best archaeological site in Turkey.

We took many photos, and witnessed the ancient remains of a city from 500BC. I spent most of the day talking to friend Eugene Schon about nothing in particular, yet he claimed to ‘know everything’. I met Eugene when I was 8 in the Queenstown Chess Classic. He and his mum Kerry have welcomed us to Melbourne since we first came to Australia.

The guide couldn’t speak English but we still had a wonderful time on break day. It was a nice break from the usual routine, and also a great chance to explore Turkey.

Fresh from the trip, I played a 2012 rated player from traditional power Russia, which sent 16(!) players to the U12 category. The game was around equal until he made a big oversight, blundering a rook.

I was on 5.5/7, behind 3 players on 6 and the sole leader on 6.5. Of course, tiebreak scores were important to the final rankings as well.

In round 8, I was playing last year’s U10 champion, Jan-Krzysztof Duda from Poland, who was completely winning our game until I swindled him a rook down for two pawns. He eventually played rook vs. knight for about 30 moves until I claimed 4-fold repetition. The game lasted 5.5 hours.

Throughout the tournament, I was coached by Georgian GM David Arutinian, who helped prepare my openings for an hour every morning. I would then revise the lines until lunch, which was usually very salty food. The games started at 3:00pm.

In round nine I was playing an American 2000 player, and the final few minutes were filled with time-trouble mistakes. Well, my opponent made a strange blunder and I ended up winning in a tight time-scramble. There was also some irony before the game when my opponent gave me a New Jersey flag pin which had a sticker on it saying ‘made in China’. :O

In round 10, I was playing Mikhail Antipov, who ranked ahead of me in both 2007 and 2008. According to his dad, he has a top of the world coach in Moscow, and all his chess coaching and tournaments are fully funded by the government. He was leading the tournament up until now so he was probably expecting to win it. I prepared a rarely played line and practised it with my former coach in NZ, Ewen Green, on ICC. The game turned out to be very unbalanced when I was down a piece for two pawns but had compensation.

We eventually progressed to an unclear endgame, where he got too ambitious and tried to win instead of taking the draw.

I was thrilled at this victory but I knew I had to keep concentration for the crucial last round. The following morning I found out I was playing top seed Suri Vaibhav, the highest rated U12 player in the world. I was considering playing for a draw but David said to me “you will not get this opportunity many times so you should play for a win even if it is risky”.

During the game, I sacrificed a knight on move 17 (possibly unsoundly) and my opponent panicked, simply giving it back, after which I had a clearly better position. I finished the game off with a nice combination.

This meant I had to wait for the second board result until I would find out whether I came first or second. If either player won, they would overtake me on tiebreak, but alas, after two and a half hours of anxious waiting, the game was drawn! I had come first! (or, as I say, last from the bottom, which is much more positive).

After 4 WYCC tournaments in 5 years, my dad could finally see me standing on the podium. He always believed that I was capable of reaching the top and I am glad that I have made him proud.

There are many people who I would like to thank, both from Australia and New Zealand, for their support, encouragement, and their faith in me. This victory is not only mine- it belongs to them as well.

During the rest of the day, I played blitz, table tennis, and just relaxed until the closing ceremony, when I collected my prize – a trophy and a laptop. At dinner I and some of the Australian team created a waiter’s nightmare… ok no need to go into details.

Here is one of my games from the tournament.

[pgn][Event “World Youth U/12 2009”]
[Site “Turkey”]
[Date “2009.11.12”]
[Round “1.4”]
[White “Terzi, Alexei”]
[Black “Cheng, Bobby”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “C02”]
[WhiteElo “1831”]
[BlackElo “2202”]
[Annotator “Cheng,Bobby”]
[PlyCount “36”]
[EventDate “2009.11.30”]
[SourceDate “2009.11.30”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. a3 {
To play 7.b4 and free the c1 bishop of defending the b pawn} Nh6 7. b4 cxd4 8.
cxd4 (8. Bxh6 gxh6 9. cxd4 Bg7 {is another line, where black plays for …f6})
8… Nf5 9. Be3 (9. Bb2 perhaps) 9… Bd7 10. Nc3 Nxe3 11. fxe3 Nxb4 $5 {
Sacrificing a knight to attack.} 12. axb4 Bxb4 13. Qb3 Rc8 14. Rc1 Qa5 15. Kd2
O-O {
The threat is Rxc3 Rxc3 Rc8, when white cannot defend the knight any further}
16. Ne1 $2 (16. Bd3 Rc7 17. Ng1 $1 (17. Rc2 Ba4 {winning the house}) 17… Ba4
(17… Rfc8 18. Nge2 {is the idea}) 18. Qb2 Bb5 19. Bxb5 Qxb5 {
is unclear but white must defend very carefully}) 16… Ba4 17. Qb2 Rxc3 18.
Rxc3 Rc8 {
2 pawns down, undeveloped pieces and a terribly open king, white resigned.} 0-1