After winning the UK Chess Challenge Silver Plate competition last year, I was selected to play in the World Schools Chess Championships in Pattaya, Thailand from 5 to 15 May. I have never been to Thailand before and was excited to play against the world’s best U7 players, as well as enjoying the beaches and warm sunshine. It was a long flight to Bangkok Airport, and on arrival we were greeted by the president of the Thailand Chess Federation and given flower necklaces.
More than 460 kids from 34 different countries played at this year’s tournament. At the start of each round the players would exchange souvenirs from their countries. I gave my opponents London and UK key chains and pens. I got back some lovely gifts in exchange from my opponents, my favourite ones being a gold chess badge from Korea, a gold elephant from Thailand, a fridge magnet from Kazakhstan, and porcelain dolls from China. I think this is a lovely tradition as you get to learn more about other countries and make lots of new friends.
The main competition had nine rounds with games lasting up to 5 hours each. My first couple of games I played quickly, but in the last few rounds I learned to play longer with my last round lasting over 2 hours. My best moments were getting a draw against the world number two from Mongolia, along with a win against a strong player from China. I also had wins against players from South Korea and Thailand, but had losses against some very strong players from India and Kazakhstan as well as a loss against the player from Hong Kong who ended up winning the tournament. There was also a seven round blitz chess tournament where you only have 5 minutes to make all your moves. I again had lots of tough blitz opponents and was very happy to finish in the top 20.
I got to know most of the Korean team. I played lots of friendly chess matches against the Korean teams and we also played in the swimming pools during breaks. We also had an England against Uzbekistan splash battle in the pool in the last day, which England won! Me and my friend Han-Sen also played many battle chess matches and enjoyed the mango sticky rice dishes from the street markets. After more than a week of Thai food we all went to the Pizza Hut which was my favourite after the hotel’s amazing passion fruit sorbet!
Most days consisted of waking up early to get breakfast, going for training sessions with the chess coach, preparing openings against your next round opponent, swimming, lunch, playing your chess match in the big hall, going through my game afterwards with a Mongolian Grand master, and then going for dinner and relax before bed time.
Finally, an unexpected highlight was the talent show that was organised as part of the tournament’s gala dinner and social night. Some of most talented performers from each country got on stage, either playing instruments, singing, dancing, or even dancing with swords! There were cash prizes for the best 5 performances from the Kasparov Asia Chess foundation. Me and my friend Ariella volunteered to sing for the England team, and only had a couple of minutes before dinner to pick a song and practice. We had to perform straight after China who had the whole team singing and dancing and a boy with amazing violin playing. Me and Ariella were then given the microphones and we confidently sang “Let it go” from the movie Frozen in front of more than 800 people. We were the two youngest performers on the night and received a big applause from the audience. At the end of the night we were back on stage when the judges announced that England won 5th place! We were handed the 3000 Bhatt cash prize which me and Ariella shared equally between us.
I came back to the UK with lots of pleasant memories from the world championships. I enjoyed all the chess matches, learned a lot about other cultures and made lots of new friends from all over the world.