Tonight, a major event for young American chess players begins: the North American Youth Championship. The tournament rotates on a three-year cycle between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Held in Morristown, New Jersey, this year, it is local for many Americans and Canadians. Check out the official website for more details.
The official logo. Who did this!???! Just look at the “chessboard”.
The unique prizes
The tournament has 9 rounds and sections by age from Under 8 up to Under 18, both Open and Girls. Though the winners of the lower sections get FIDE titles of FM or CM, the big prize lies in the U16 and U18 sections. The winner of the U16 section gets an IM Norm, while the winner of the U18 section gets the IM title. This is an “easy” and quick way for many kids to get closer to the IM title…
First of all, let me make one thing clear. I am not playing, as I have already fulfilled the requirements to become an IM. Since I’d have a reasonable chance of winning first place in both sections, I’d be the worst enemy of all the players hunting for something that I already have. I’d probably get lynched on day 1… Instead, I’ll be at home watching the action.
The last time the North American Youth was in the US was in 2014. I have good memories of the tournament, as I won the U12 section and got the FM title. I was a newly minted NM at the time, and I didn’t consider playing up to try and get an IM norm/title. Three years later, is this tournament telling me that I’m overqualified!?
That was me three years ago! Now you can laugh…
U16 or U18?
The question that faces a lot of these players is which section to play in: U16 or U18? The U16 section should be easier to win, but on the other hand, the winner of the U18 section gets the IM title. Players who are too old will play in U18, but there aren’t many of those. More people may go play U18, leaving the U16 wide open. However, if everyone thinks like that, the U16 may be stronger than the U18!
Enough philosophical chatter, what would I do?
If I hadn’t crossed the 2400 rating at the NY International, I would have played in U18, as an additional norm would be useless for me.
However, what if I had two norms and the 2400 rating? Or two norms and no 2400 rating? Or no norms with a 2400 rating… there’s no point listing all the scenarios.
If I had no norms, I’d probably go play the U18. Why get 3 IM norms and the rating if all I’d need would be to win a tournament? If I had one norm, I think I’d make the same decision. With two norms and a rating reasonably close to 2400, I’d probably go for U16. I’d rather have a good chance to get my last IM Norm and hopefully gain some rating in the U16 section than risk going home broke in the U18.
Who will win?
Not everyone has registered yet, some people will make the decision last minute.
Historically, the winners of the U18 section have been in the 2350-2450 USCF range. Perhaps not fully IM level, but far from patzers… This year, however, seeing that there are already a few 2400+ players registered, I’d say the winner who gets the IM title will be stronger than usual.
The U16 section should be easier to win, but not by much. The winners have usually been in the 2300-2400 USCF range. Who knows, this year could be different…
What about the girls?
The girls have a similar choice to make, except with WIM titles/norms. However, the US Junior Girls Championship is going on in St. Louis at the same time. It doesn’t really matter for the boys, since most of the players in the US Junior Closed are already IMs or GMs, and many are older than 18 anyway. However, that is not true for the girls. Only half of them hold the WIM title. We’ll see who wins the girls’ sections, but it really is a shame that the dates clash.
I’ll be watching what should be a fun event. I do have my picks, some of whom haven’t registered yet… There will be surprises and upsets, but ultimately, the top seeds should prevail. It would be an interesting experience to play myself, but I couldn’t do that morally. IMs usually don’t play this tournament, and I don’t want to break the custom. Still, I’ll be curious to see which players will get IM norms and which player will become an IM within the next five days.