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Board of Many Colours - Throwback to World Youth 2019

by Avathanshu Bhat - 13/10/2020

The ChessBase India team was present at the World Youth 2019 and covered the tournament extensively. One of the members of the team was 14-year-old Avathanshu Bhat. IM Sagar Shah worked on the articles and the videos, Amruta Mokal on the photographers, Supriya Bhat was at the ChessBase India stall. What was Avathanshu going to do? Strolling around the tournament hall, the young journalist hit upon the idea of "Board of Many Colours" - stories from the lives of players from all across the world. And he interviewed players from Morocco, Brazil, Namibia, Finland, the USA and many more. It's been a year since the World Youth 2019 and we bring you a throwback to those intriguing interviews. 

It has been exactly one year since the World Youth 2019 that took place in the Renaissance Hotel in Mumbai. Players from all over the world naturally gathered to play the event, and the best part is always interacting with people to learn about their countries and culture. I took the opportunity and over the tournament duration from 1st October to the 13th, spoke to people about their lives, stories, and motivation for the Championship. After listening to so many different narrations, it's eye-opening how everyone has their own story to tell. All chess players, no matter where they're from or how different they are from each other, are all the same when on the board. We all have those clutch victories and miserable losses, and our coaches and parents are anxious about whether they did enough right outside the hall. With this in mind, the series 'Board of Many Colours' was born, and sought to bring out these shared emotions from chess players, parents and mentors. Each person is also unique in their own way, and the theme that best describes them is highlighted under each post. Read on for the players' stories, what makes them all so unique, and yet all one in our actions; vasudhaiva kutumbakam 'the world is a family.'

Board of Many Colours 01 - Nassim Zrikem, 2125 Elo from Morocco

Rising Confidence

"The confidence levels are high!"

“I have been playing chess since the last 5 years ever since my dad taught me the game, and I fell in love with it. This is my first time in India, as well as my first World Youth, but I have a good feeling; I think it’s going to be a very promising tournament with a lot of players from different countries! I was sure the cultural barrier would be a problem, but thanks to the organizers and the amazing arrangements, it has been barely noticeable to me. I particularly enjoyed the opening ceremony dance. To be honest, I loved everything about it!”

What do you think about your competition?

“Eh, I’m sure it’s going to be challenging; probably players over 2100 will put me in a spot, but hey! The confidence levels are high! I’m sure this World Youth is going to be a good one. J’adore l’Inde!”


Board of Many Colours 02 - Jonas Hilwerda, Elo 2229 from the Netherlands

Dream Chaser

"I don’t care who is my opponent and how strong they are, as long as I’m focused on the objective.”

"I was told by a teacher at school and by my father that I might become a champion one day. I believed in that dream and worked on chess since I was 6. I never foresaw that I would become the Dutch champion of my country. Little did I know I would soon represent the Dutch team in India!

I would say this is a very significant tournament; being a champion here would be something marvelous, you know? That title on your name will mean that you are more known to the chess world!

I’m not actually sure about the strength of the tournament as I’ve never been here before. First of all its great to be here! You get to witness the opening ceremony and cultural differences; admittedly with a bang! [laughs] We of course are not used to that in the Netherlands.

However, when it comes to my game, I don’t care who is my opponent and how strong they are, as long as I’m focused on the objective.”


Board of Many Colours 03 - Daniial Abdivaliev (Даниял Абдивалиев), head of delegation of Kyrgyzstan

Tensed but positive

"Yes, I am nervous, but I have hope."

"This is my first time in India! Unfortunately, we were a little late so we missed the grand ceremony yesterday and only arrived today. But my first and strongest immediate impression of India was the heat! When we exited the airport, it was hot hot hot!

The results I am expecting to see are good ones, as this championship has strong players so our players can get ratings, improve their skills and maybe make it to top ten. Right now they are in the hall, and waiting outside for their games to finish makes me admittedly nervous; I do not know what must be going on in their game, but more important for me is how they are feeling and how I can help them as much as possible after their game. Yes, I am nervous, but I have hope. Hope that our team can pull this off!"

"What is the story behind your hat?"

"This is our national hat! All the men in our country wear these. Kyrgyzstan has a lot of mountains, big high ones. At the summit there is snow. This signifies our country because it looks like a mountain and that we are people from a high region!”


Board of Many Colours 04 - Tania Tomiello, mother of Lucas and Mateus Tomiello from Brazil

Faith in abilities

"...their preparations are plenty and I also feel confident that they can hold their own."

“My name is Tania, and my kids Lucas and Mateus are both playing in the hall.

It’s a fantastic event and I found it quite interesting! I was honestly surprised by all the arrangements and I have to say: me and my kids quite like it! I don’t think it could have been better; this is our first ever World Youth!

They are both playing inside and I can’t hide the fact: I am very nervous [laughs]! I think I feel more nervous than they are inside! However, their preparations are plenty and I also feel confident that they can hold their own; they even have a teacher who did a splendid job at preparation. They started playing at five years and the time has flown so fast! I feel my contribution to encourage and support them has also played a major role. I think that should be enough in itself for the Tomiello twins!”


Board of Many Colours 05 - Enamul Hossain, GM from Bangladesh and the head of delegation

Happy visions of the future

"If I could change one thing about chess in my country, it would be more sponsorships and visibility for players"

“I have played in many tournaments here in Mumbai and I’ve always found the organizations to be really good! However, I would say Bangladesh is incomparable to India, because there are many facilities and arrangements here which simply don’t exist in Bangladesh. It becomes very difficult for a player to get even things like books for learning chess, coaching and training. Even playing a tournament can be difficult for some players there.

If I could change one thing about chess in my country, it would be more sponsorships and visibility for players. If we just had these sponsorships for truly talented players, I believe Bangladesh would emerge further as a major Chess playing country.”


Board of Many Colours 06 - Pikkie and Penny, players from Namibia

Safe Haven

"Chess is a sport where I know that no-one can disturb me!”

“We are here at the ChessBase India stall because we want to practice and get better at the game, and you know, give the World Youth another shot! Last year we went to Greece and we wanted to make it better than it was last year. Regarding the opening ceremony, it was very nice! Yes, it was loud, but we don’t really have these kinds of ceremonies in Namibia, so we found it very colorful and we loved it! Something quite interesting and fun for a change!”

Why do you love Chess?

“It is like my personal zen, my safe haven, where it gives me a place to think a little bit!”

“Well, I just want to be alone, so Chess is a sport where I know that no-one can disturb me!”


Board of Many Colours 07 - Immanuel Gariseb, coach of Namibian student

Shattering Boundaries

"...there's no limits. That's why I love India!"

"You're just 14, right? Age in India seems irrelevant! Back in Namibia, where I come from, there are age limits which are considered acceptable for an activity. But in India, there's no limits. That's why I love India!"


Board of Many Colours 08 - Ellen Fredericia Nilssen, ELO 2137 from Denmark

Strong and carefree

"I don’t remember exactly who is playing, but why focus on that anyway?"

“One of my FAVOURITE things about the World Youth so far was definitely the opening ceremony. It is my first time in India and yes, I only saw bits of it, but I was enthralled! Quite interesting. This is my first World Youth and it looks very promising indeed. Previously I have played the European Championships and so far, this event seems very organized and the hotel looks pretty good as well.

The last tournament I played was the Sunny Beach Open in Bulgaria and I must admit, this is very reminiscent of that tournament!”

What do you think about the competition for your category?

“I’m in the Under-18 section, so I’m pretty sure there are some very strong players. I don’t remember exactly who is playing, but why focus on that anyway? After all, no matter how this goes, I have World Junior in Delhi to focus on!”


Board of Many Colours 09 - Kanimozhi Sanmugam, mother of Annapoorni Meiyappan from California

Optimistic yet satisfied

"Yes, I think the mother’s support can be game-changing if done well!”

“After coming all the way from California, as well as being in such a good event, the fact that my daughter is playing in the hall in U-14 and I don’t know what is happening makes me tensed to be honest. There is that dreadful suspense factor in play! I simply don’t know! She is playing a lower rated, but you never know, Indians are very strong and can turn tables easily! Amidst all this chess playing and practice, I feel a mother’s role is highly significant. We must keep them cool, calm and relaxed before the game. They shouldn’t be too stressed nor very carefree and casual either. Yes, I think the mother’s support can be game-changing if done well!”

What hopes do you have for your daughter’s performance this World Youth?

“Not too high hopes! For her rating, if Annapoorni comes in top twenty also I will be happy!”


Board of Many Colours 10 - Anuar Ismagambetov, coach of Kazakhstan Team

Spectating Mentor

"My students are all telling me that...they feel confident and ready to play. That’s the one thing a coach loves to hear!"

“I have been to India several times since the last decade, and it never fails to impress! Although one thing that always catches me off guard is the food. It’s so spicy, and I’m still so unused to it that I’m always pleasantly surprised!”

How do you think chess in Kazakhstan will compare with this tournament?

“I am actually very unsure, because each country here has obviously selected the best players and they are playing here, so I can’t say how much of a role Kazakhstan will play. To top that Indian players are very strong. I am the coach of the Kazakhstan team, so I am not sure how it will go, but my students are all telling me that thanks to the wonderful accommodation and food, they feel confident and ready to play. That’s the one thing a coach loves to hear!”


Board of Many Colours 11 - Aryan Joshi, Top visually impaired chess player of India

Shining Light in darkness

“If I could make a change to Blind Chess, I would enable them to travel abroad and experience chess to the fullest.”

“World Youth is happening in Mumbai, which is a great thing. There are many big chess players and prodigies who are playing here. I didn’t play Nationals last year so I couldn’t get the chance to play here, but I really wanted to see their games and meet them. And of course, to see ChessBase India in action! This was my last chance to play the World Youth as I am no longer going to be in Under-18 soon. Oh well, I’m going to try for World Junior next year!”

How long do you think it will take for visually impaired players to dominate the scene as well?

“Yeah, it’s definitely going to take a looooong time! However, there are a lot of organizations that are doing their part to change the scene for us visually impaired players. AICFB, ChessBase India and many more. I’m sure in a few years there will be visually impaired kids actively participating in World Youth and World Junior championships.”

“If I could make a change to Blind Chess, I would enable them to travel abroad and experience chess to the fullest.”


Board of Many Colours 12 - Olexandr Prohorov, IA from Ukraine

Dutiful and playful

"As an IA, I am very happy to see India taking part in such large-scale worldwide chess events."

“This is my first time in India, and I am enjoying this country so much, especially this very special place Mumbai. As an IA, I am very happy to see India taking part in such large-scale worldwide chess events. Such tournaments help to kindle new and young talents by promoting them. The arrangements here very much impress me! I mean, we are getting to stay in a five star hotel which is honestly very good. The Indian food creates such amazing variety. I very much enjoy this food because I can add any vegetables and toppings to my choice. The tournament hall is also very well located because it is perfect without any outside distractions for players.”

What are you going to do for the rest day?

“Oh, probably take a break at the hotel room. But my friends have been telling me a lot about India, so I want to see the country – I want to see the elephants and crocodiles here!”


Board of Many Colours 13 - Peter Long, FM from Malaysia, Secretary of FIDE Trainer's Commission

The past and the future

"...I am very sure the World Youth can take place here once more"

“I’ve been to India multiple times since 1983 and always, every tournament here is world-class. I am very much a foodie, so if I had to comment on the food, I would say it is very good, but Indian street food, or ‘chats’, are exemplary! I come from Malaysia, and around 10% of the population are Indians, so Indian food is everywhere, very common. Mostly south Indian food though, where I have zero complaints!

”What difference do you see between Indian chess back in 1983 and now?

“’83 was the first time I came here, but I spent most of my time in India during the late 80s and early 90s. In those days, I knew all the top 150 players of your country, as I was travelling to all the different places then. I knew Anand when he was 14! There were always talents seeping through Tamil Nadu, mostly the south. Considering this, I am very sure the World Youth can take place here once more, admittedly after the 3 continent rotation!”


Board of Many Colours 14 - Juan Hormazabal, Father of Figueroa Constanza Va Hormazabal from Spain

Deseo de felicidad

"I just want my daughter to be happy when she is playing."

What can you tell me about yourself?

“Hola! I can’t speak English, but I can tell you that I am not a chess player myself. My daughter Figueroa is playing here. Honestly, I don’t care if she wins or loses, I just want her to be happy when she is playing! Because that is what I truly want here to be: feliz, happy.”

~translated from Spanish


Board of Many Colours 15 - Imaan Ismail, Elo 1167 in U-14 from South Africa

Stop not, move on, work hard

“My motto is ‘keep going, don’t stop, and never, ever give up no matter what!'"

“This tournament (World Youth) was okay. Most of my opponents were very tough for me. I faced quite a lot of Indian players and it didn’t really go the best.

How do you cool off after a tough day?

“I like reading chess books to help me improve; I just bought My System, I’m sure it will help! I also went on the rest day to the Gateway of India and the Taj. The thing I like the best, however, are the tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws). They really help me relax and relieve stress.”

“My motto is ‘keep going, don’t stop, and never, ever give up no matter what!'"


Board of Many Colours 16 - Oliver Wartiovaara, Elo 2232 in U-16 from Finland

Down but not out

"...I get disappointed, but I never lose hope."

“It’s been difficult, you know, not quite easy. I have lost quite a few rating points here. My games have been okay, sometimes even pretty good, but sometimes I have overlooked combinations and made blunders which have cost me my game. Of course, I get disappointed but I never lose hope. Hope that one of these next few games will fare better for me. Hope that I will do better and things will improve. And I’m sure that it will happen in another tournament!”


Board of Many Colours 17 - Karimli Zhala, Ayan Allahverdiya, Aytaj Hardarova from Azerbaijan


"I’m sure we will rock it the best we can!”

“This tournament is going so-so for us, apart from Ayan who is playing near the top of her category. It’s quite a difficult tournament, we didn’t realize. To be honest we feel very nervous for the next game, but I’m sure we will rock it the best we can!”

So what is the strategy for the next rounds?

"Can we please talk about that later? We need to checkout these amazing T-Shirts and accessories. They are beautiful! We are taking home lots of them."

"Waiiit a minute. Is this going as a post on your series?"


Addendum - Sunday, October 6th 2019.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is a family.

Hello everyone, Avathanshu Bhat here. It is wonderful to see that so many of you are enjoying the series! There has been quite some positive feedback coming in and I would like to thank you all for that!

Indeed, there are some truly remarkable stories out there. We always see such types of inspiring stories all over social media, but we always wonder: where are all these people? How come we never encounter such people with their incredible tales? I always thought these things myself as well. I would always see a cover of someone with some amazing accomplishments that are just so fascinating! I never actually got to talk to such people in person though, and it would end up with me feeling doubtful towards the story.

Looking back, I realize how wrong that judgement was! In fact, the problem was not with the people, the problem was with me! Now, doing this series, I’m finding and interacting with so many people, all of whom have been through a journey of hardship and one of success. To name but a few, some like Jonas are confident, while others like Tania are nervous. Some like Daniaal are worrying over the games, while others like Nassim are just enjoying the ride! It’s this wonderful contrast, created by such clashing perspectives yet all united by hope and love for the game, is what I see as truly beautiful. They are all here, under this same roof, all experiencing their own moments of joy and of misery. That, I think, is the true meaning behind the Board of Colours.

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